He can hear the faint beeping of machines. He frowns and it creases his brow. They sound like heart monitors and blood pressure cuffs being inflated. His eyes move behind his eyelids and someone gasps. And then he hears a body hit the floor and someone else screams, "Cait!" His frown deepens as he struggles to open his eyes. He feels groggy and unbalanced. Something is wrong. Something is off. He groans and there's someone next to him, sliding their hand into his and squeezing it. "That's it, Coop, wake up." He blinks once, twice, three times and then squints against the bright lights of the hospital room. He recognizes the blurry shape in front of him as belonging to Alex. But a moment later he's gone and the blond holding his hand comes into clearer focus. Rosie is her name, he remembers that much.
"W'happened," he slurs. Her husky voice is soothing and melodic and he feels almost as if he could drift back to sleep. "Where's Jake?" He's suddenly panicking, eyes flying open as he struggles to sit upright. A nurse arrives, though, and pushes him back down on the bed. "Where is he? Where's my son?" Alex is back, looking sympathetic as he breaks the news, "You don't have a son, Coop. You were dreaming." His first instinct is to reject what Alex says as a lie, but he's not sure why he'd lie to him. But the more time that passes, the more he realizes that it was just a dream. As real as it felt, it was just a dream. A profound sadness settled like a fifty pound weight in his chest and he felt hot tears burning his eyes.
Rosie squeezes his hand again, but she's distracted by the nurses lifting Caitlin onto a hospital bed and wheeling her out of the room. "Wait," he says, sitting up again. This time, he's not in a panic and the nurses don't seem to be worried about him trying to get out of bed just yet. "What's going on? What happened?" His eyes are on Cait as she's wheeled away around a corner and glances around the room. It's definitely a hospital room and it looks like his roommate is May. She's struggling to come around, too, and he watches her with concern.
It's explained to him. The same thing that happened to Alex happened to him. Fell asleep and couldn't be roused. Not for forty-eight hours. Two days. For two days he'd lived in an alternate reality where he never moved to Boston, never finished college, became a farmer, a husband, a father and a widower. It had felt so real. He could practically feel the silken strands of his son's dark hair slipping through his fingers. He struggles to maintain his composure but the loss, imagined or not, gnaws at his heart.
Rosie leaves to see how Cait is faring and a nurse brings a tray of food in. He hasn't eaten in two days and he's famished, but the food and his melancholy have taken away his appetite. All he can do is push the macaroni and cheese around on the tray before they come and take it away. It takes a few more hours before he is given a clean bill of health and discharged, but he is worried about Caitlin, and he can't help but wonder if she is also going to be living in a very vivid dreamworld for the next two days.
In the next few hours, he calls his parents and tells them not to worry and to apologize for going silent. He makes up an excuse about his phone falling into the ocean and having to buy a new one. Then he secures his laptop and sends an email to his boss. He apologizes for going missing and explains that there has been an emergency and he will need to take the rest of the week but not to worry, he'll be back on Monday with a very interesting story. After that, he sends a text to Bea, apologizing for not being around Monday like he promised and telling her the vacation he was on has been extended but he'll see her when he's back in Boston.
He is sitting in Cait's room, surrounded by the rest of their vacation party, while he writes down exactly what he lived through the previous two days. He records every detail he can remember before it is pulled from his memory the way dreams have a tendency to do. Although he was adopted as a child, he has never truly known loss. His parents are still alive and his friends haven't been reckless enough to die just yet. He thinks that's why it's hitting him as hard as it is and why he's finally understanding how truly fragile life can be. Dreams and lives can be shattered in an instant and he knows now that wants more out of life than what he's settled for.