AU - School Days
Disclaimer: Not mine never were, never will be.
Note: This is the second fic in this AU, the other is called Just Another Morning.
I'm awake, why am I awake? It's 3 a.m.! Damn! I have to be up in 4 hours. There's a knock at the door - that's why I'm awake. I tell them, the boys - 'If you need me in the night, knock once, loudly, then wait and knock again' - the first one will wake me up but I won't know why, the second one will actually get me to the door.
"I'm coming," I call, getting up and pulling on my robe.
I was expecting one of the little ones, probably JD, sometimes he can't sleep, he gets homesick. But no it was Raphael; he's one of the ninth-graders. Before I could even open my mouth.
"Chris is being sick," he announces.
"Where?" I ask, praying he's going to say bathroom.
Poor Chris, he was kneeling on his bed, vomit everywhere, the bed, the floor, him. He looked as sick as a dog and mortified with shame at one and the same time. Give them credit, two of the other three boys in the room rallied round and helped. Buck helped me clean up the room; Raphael turned on a shower for Chris and found him some clean night things. The other boy is Guy Royal - I shouldn't say this but that boy is very hard to like. He's a bully, thats why he's in this room. None of the other three like him, but he can't bully them. Guy did not help. In fact he got up, grabbed his quilt and left, saying something about the smell. I didn't have time to find out where he went, but when Nathan appeared a few moments later I knew he'd gone to the next room down - there's a spare bed in there.
"Need some help?" he asked. He's a good boy, Nathan.
Ten minutes later Chris was clean and most of the evidence was gone. The carpet will need steam cleaning in the morning, and the mattress that Buck and I carried down to the yard will most likely need to be replaced.
"Come on," I said to Chris. " sick bay for you."
Very discreetly Buck hands me Bit. The younger ones, like JD, don't mind who knows about their special toy, their friend. Some of the older ones don't mind either - Buck has a bear, dull peach coloured, it wears a sort of track suit and is somewhat thread bare, but he loves it and he doesn't mind who knows he's got it. Nathan has a carved wooden elephant. It's small, fits in the palm of his hand and I suspect it originally came from a Noah's ark set he keeps on the locker beside the bed. Vin doesnt have much, but he has this tiny little blue bear called Blue. He's not very blue anymore and he's a bit worn down, but that just makes him well loved. Vin keeps him tucked beside the mattress, by his pillow, and heaven help us if we can't find Blue come bedtime. Now Ezra, well Ezra would die of embarrassment if anyone found out, but under his pillow is a scrap of blue satin. I don't know why it is important, but I know enough to make sure it's always there and to wash it and return it during the day so he's never without it at night. Bit is a rabbit - which I suspect is where it got it's name - it's about 5 inches long and is mostly head. I dont think it was new when Chris got it, because the head has been darned over at least twice. Chris, like Ezra, keeps Bit very secret. Before Adam died, he had almost consigned Bit to his footlocker, but ever since the crash, Bit has been back under the pillow.
By mutual but unspoken consensus 'special friends' are sacrosanct, you don't tease someone about them and you don't use one in a game unless the owner uses it first. Of course there are those who don't care about this unwritten rule - Royal for one.
Sick bay isn't bad - regular beds, soft lighting, music system, radio, TV and video. I set him up with a jug of water and a bowl, then stepped across the corridor to enter all the nights events in the logbook. But I was back in there moments later when I head him retching again. Poor boy had terrible cramps and dry heaves for an hour before he drifted off to sleep. All the time he had Bit clutched in his hand. Chris hates being ill, he hates people seeing him when he's ill, he hates being in bed. And he's going to hate not having anything to eat tomorrow - today - whatever, God it's late.
Saturday. This is a full boarding school so they have lessons on Saturday morning and sport all afternoon. Saturday is when they play matches. Chris plays football, though he's better at baseball. Missing the game is another reason he's going to be unhappy. I checked him in the morning, on the way down to breakfast, he was fast asleep.
You know I knew it was gonna be one of those days when Josiah Sanchez fell off the stage, even before I had finished eating. I still don't know what he was doing there - something to do with the stage curtain and the headmaster's wife - she teaches drama. One of the children came running in saying Mr Sanchez had broken his leg. By the time I got there he was on his feet and hobbling towards the door. Children love to over-dramatise, especially in the drama hall. I'm fairly sure it's just a sprain. I got the big guy back to his own room, propped his foot up on a pillow as he sat on the bed, put ice on it and strapped it. Once I had given him some ibuprofen and put some juice and chips where he could reach them, I went back to check on Chris - who was now awake and claiming he was fine - yeah, right, I've seen his 'fine'.
"But I'm hungry," he pointed out, looking distinctly sulky.
"I don't doubt it, but all you're getting today is clear fluids, water this morning, if that stays down you can have some flat Seven Up this afternoon."
"Flat!" He looks horrified.
"Flat," I confirm, "your stomachs not up to bubbles yet, but you need the sugar. Now try and get some more sleep and you can watch videos or TV this afternoon."
It started out quietly enough. Chris went back to sleep, Josiah stayed in his room with his foot up, a constant parade of kids came to see him and press hastily-made cards into his hand, wishing him a speedy recovery. Then just before eleven there was the most God-awful commotion at the bottom of the stairs. I have learned, after may years bitter experience, to let trouble come to me, and not, to go seeking it out. Eventually the commotion mounted the steps - Ezra, bleeding, everywhere. He had a nose bleed, a real humdinger of a nosebleed. Seems someone opened the classroom door in his face. He was in pain, he was slightly shocked, but that paled into insignificance next to the fact that his white linen mix Armani shirt was soaked in blood. He was trying to climb the stairs, Nathan was trying to help but was being batted away by Ezra, who was also catching the blood in a wad of toilet tissue and taking off his shirt, all at the same time.
"Quick get it in some water, please," he begs me.
"Well let's just see about you first." He really was bleeding quite profusely.
"But my new shirt " I had forgotten it was new. His mother sent it to him. It's totally impractical for school - we recommend a polyester cotton mix, they cost about $6.50 at Wal*Mart. But no, Mrs Standish has to go and send him linen, designer linen at that. It is the only time she seems to be interested in him, when he gives her an excuse to shop, so he hangs on to what she sends him desperately, as, I suppose, the only sign she cares about him, the only time she seems to notice him.
"Don't worry, I'll put it in soak as soon as we have you sorted out, it'll be alright." Even if I have to soak it in bleach, I say to myself. Thank God it wasn't his blue silk one. I sent Nathan to the dorm to find a fresh shirt and an undershirt, since the blood had soaked through to that as well - it's Calvin Klein, naturally. While he applies pressure to the side where all the blood is coming from, I apply an ice pack to the bridge of his nose, the toilet tissue has been replaced with some Kleenex. It took nearly fifteen minutes before it stopped - he is going to have one hell of a shiner! It was only then, with the bleeding stopped and his soiled shirt off that he realised his hands, face and chest were covered in blood. Ezra doesnt usually let anyone help him, but he was so desperate to get rid of the blood he let me clean his face and chest before he washed his hands.
"There," I said, as he pulled the shirt Nathan had found for him on. " now you look less like a mass murderer."
He gave me a small smile and a 'thank you' then he looked back at the bloodied heap of material on the floor.
"Will it really be alright?" he asked nervously.
I sighed; I always try to be honest with the boys, if I can. "Well I can't guarantee it, but there is a very good chance it will be fine, leave it with me." He was trying to pretend he wasn't that bothered, just curious. He's quite good at it, but not perfect. I could see how upset he was. That woman does not deserve a child, much less a bright, intelligent, witty boy like Ezra.
Chris drank some of the flat Seven Up and that seemed to stay put. He was still scowling mind you, but I offered him my new James Bond video to watch, that at least got rid of the scowl. I noted that Bit was nowhere to be seen, no doubt hidden under the pillow.
After lunch there is a short recess then sport. Buck's team, the one Chris should have been on, have a home game. That's good, all the boys not in a match of their own will watch, limited chances to get hurt, just watch - you would think!
I was standing in the doorway of the sick bay, watching James Bond with Chris when Mr Thompson and another boy come up the stairs with Vin between them. Vin doesnt play in a football team, he does long jump and triple jump on the track team, gymnastics, and swimming, but he's not much of a ball player, so he should have been watching the game. I didn't need to ask what was wrong with him - I could see and hear all too easily. Vin's asthma is quite bad but we have it well managed, peak flow readings morning and night, preventer morning and night, reliever before sport, one inhaler in his pocket, one in his sports locker, one in the coachs pocket. It took a few months when he first arrived to get him stable, but - touch wood - he's been fine, enjoying his sport. I did have to ban him from cross country, it brought on an attack every time, and running more then one lap of the track in one go, but other than that he can do anything.
This was a bad one; he was wheezing, gasping in air but unable to expel properly, his lips were even turning blue. When it's this bad he has trouble using the inhaler, he can't co-ordinate actuating the inhaler and inhaling the medication.
"Sit him at the desk," I tell the others.
Grabbing a spacer and a spare inhaler I hold it in front of him as he leans on the desktop.
"Come on Vin," I coach softly, kneeling beside him. "you know what to do." I send a dose into the spacer. "Breath deep," He does his best. "and another." As he was taking the medication I asked the others what had happened, but they didn't know. Suddenly Chris was in the office, kneeling on the floor on the other side of Vin.
"Hey buddy, you getting some of the good stuff?" he asked, running a hand over his friends bony back.
Vin nodded, as I send another dose into the plastic bubble for him to suck in. It took four doses plus the four Mr Thompson reckoned he had had before he reached me, though how much of them he actually got is debatable. Once he was breathing better and his lips were no longer blue, I sent the others away. Then Chris and I got him into the bed next to Chris, who to his credit instantly turned off the video. Asthma attacks are tiring and scary. We have found that after one Vin just needs to rest, usually he sleeps for a couple of hours. I propped him up on a mountain of pillows and checked his peak flow, which was down on his norm but not drastically so. Just before he drifted of to sleep I ask him what happened.
He looked very guilty as he mumbled "'Dknow."
He's a terrible liar. "Vin, tell me what you were doing."
"It was a bet," he finally admitted.
"'T see if I could run up and down the bleachers five times in a minute."
Oh Lord save us! No wonder he had an attack. "Was Ezra there?"
"Um yes "
"I might have known. You wait till I find him!"
"No it wasn't him bet me, it was Royal, he said a lame lungs like me don't deserve to be on the track team, 'cause I ain't a real athlete 'cause I can't run loads of laps."
Royal - typical! Mind you if Ezra was there, he was no doubt running a book on the outcome as well.
"Bet ya did it though," Chris said from the other bed.
Vin grinned, "Sure did, 57.5 seconds, no sweat."
"Well 'till I had an attack," he admitted with a yawn.
"Come on you, lay back, close your eyes."
After that it was relatively quiet for a while, I got Josiah some more anti inflammatory drugs and made him a coffee, checked on Vin who was asleep and Chris who was playing on his Game Boy with the sound turned down. I was just about to take a couple of hours off, handing over to the headmasters wife, Mrs Hare, when I heard the unmistakable sound of cleats coming up the stairs, so someone in a football match was on their way up. I looked over the banister - there is just no mistaking that hair.
"Buck, what did you do to yourself this time?" I asked with due trepidation.
He reached the top and it was clear, as he stood there, covered in mud and cradling his right arm.
"I didn't do it, some big bast "
" guy stamped on my wrist." We got his boots off and the shirt and shoulder pads and sat him down on the examination couch. His wrist was already swollen; he hissed and tried to pull it away when I touched it. Buck doesnt make a fuss ever - so if he is 'flinching and guarding' there is something seriously wrong.
Mrs. Hare arrived at the door. "Oh dear, whats happened?" she asked.
Buck told her while I put a sling on his arm and gave him an ice pack, though he couldn't put it directly on to the injured area.
"I'm afraid we are going to have it x-rayed," I explained.
"No," Buck pleaded.
"Sorry, has to be done. You stay here I'll go find you a shirt and a pair of sneakers."
We went to Heathwood Community Hospital. Its further away than Laxham Park, but it only has a minor injury department, not a full ER. So you don't find yourself pushed to the bottom of the queue every time an ambulance comes in and if they can't help you, a letter of referral and a set of x-rays sure speeds you through Lexham faster.
Once we got there it was less than half an hour before I was sitting outside the x-ray room waiting for him to come out. It didn't take long, by now he was looking very miserable and pale.
"Did she pull it about a bit?" I asked.
He just nodded. We only had to wait a few minuets before the technician brought the pictures out. On the walk back to the minor injuries department I pulled them out and held it up to a light.
"Is it broke," he asked.
Well I'm no doctor, I'm not even a nurse, but it didn't look good to me. "I think it could be, yes."
"But I don't want it to be, I'll miss the rest of the season, how am I gonna write?" he sounded so miserable and defeated, not like Buck at all.
"Let's not worry about it yet. Come on, once we know what the result is we'll call your mom, okay?" That at least made him smile. I never call parents before we know what the problem is, unless they are close enough to meet us at the hospital. Why have them worrying themselves sick for hours and it turns out to be a mild muscle pull or indigestion, not a broken ankle or appendicitis?
His wrist was broken. What was worse, it was nearly twenty degrees out of alignment, which means a minor operation to re-align it. Buck was heart-broken, I think he had convinced himself it was just bruised. They wanted to operate on Sunday. We went outside and called his mom.
"Ms Wilmington?" I know she wants me to call her Cindy, but it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime.
I told her what happened and where we were, she said she could be there in five or six hours. Then I handed the cell phone to Buck so he could chat with his mom. I didn't listen in but he was much more cheerful with her then me. That boy will do anything to please his mother.
The hospital said that since he had a temporary splint and it was only five, I could take him for a meal so long as it was over by seven thirty. We had pizza. Once we got back to his room the nurse said he should have one last big drink of water, because he wouldn't be getting anymore until after surgery. He finished the pitcher and brushed his teeth. The school had sent an overnight bag in a taxi, so at least he didn't have to wear the dreaded hospital gown. He was in the bathroom a long time; finally he came out looking very embarrassed and still dressed.
"I can't get my pants off," he admitted.
I had almost forgotten he was still in his football pants and they were laced up. I can do things for them, and see things they won't let anyone else see or do - and that sometimes includes their mothers - don't know why, just is so.
"Let me," I say casually as I undo the laces enough to let him push them off one handed. "Anything else?"
"Um, the socks," he admits.
Finally he was in bed. The nurse came by to take his blood pressure and temperature, then it was just us and the TV and the rather sterile room, the second bed was empty. My Buck was looking very glum.
"You ever had an operation?" He shook his head. "It's a very short operation, you know? They're not even going to cut you, just move your hand around until it's in the right position, then put a cast on, you even get the chance to pick the colour."
"Yeah I know, I'm gonna have a dark blue one, not that horrid green colour Nate had last year. Dark colours are more cool."
"Girls love a wounded hero you know?" I offered.
"Yeah, I guess " He looked up finally, having been studying the bedclothes until now. "Yeah, that's true," he suddenly looked more cheerful, "actually I'll need a pale cast, otherwise no one can sign it - damn!"
"Or you could have the blue one and carry a corrector pen," I suggested.
Satisfied he was looking on the positive we settled down to watch TV. I know he wanted to wait for his mom, but only half way through the movie we were watching he dozed off. Ms Wilmington arrived about an hour after that, slipping into the darkened room quietly.
"Is he alright?" she whispered.
"He's fine. Reckons the girls will love it."
She smiled; I can see his smile in hers. "Thats my boy."
I got back around eleven; everyone was asleep of course. I can't just switch off and go to bed, I have to wind down, so I opened a can of Seven Up, checked my e-mail, answered some, deleted most. I was just about to check the news before I went to bed when the doorbell rang.
"ComequickJDrippedistoeoff!" Vin gabbled out before running back down the corridor. Good grief how did he rip his toe off - if that is what he said? I took off after him.
JD was sitting on the floor by the bathroom door, Nate was kneeling in front of him, I could hear him.
"Please JD, let me see it, I'm sorry, please."
"Okay, let me see." Nate sat back, looking totally devastated.
JD had his hands cupped over the big toe on his left foot; there was blood on the floor. He wasn't crying, but he was rocking back and forth - thats not a good sign.
"JD," I call softly, "let me see."
"I won't touch it, I promise, I just want to see it, please "
"O O Okay." He very slowly moved his hands apart; I really didn't know what to expect. His toenail was sticking up at ninety degrees to his toe, there was a lot of blood but his toe was very firmly connected to his foot, thank God. I could see another trip to ER coming on.
"What happened?" I asked Nathan.
"He was coming out of the bathroom and I was coming in, I opened the door too fast and it ran over his toe, I didn't mean to hurt him, I "
Nathan rarely shows much emotion, but he sounded ready to cry. "It's alright, it was just an accident, he should have had something on his feet." I turned back to JD. "JD I think we need to take you to the hospital and have them look at your foot." He looked up at me, I could see he wanted to say no, but he was fighting it. His mother is in hospital right now; he wants to be brave, for her.
"What are they gonna do?" he asked.
"I don't know for sure, but I know they will give you medicine so it won't hurt, Buck's there."
JD looked alarmed, Buck is his hero. "Is his arm broken?" he asked, I could see the other two waiting for information as well.
"Yup and he is gonna need a small operation in the morning so it will heal straight. Don't worry, Buck will be fine, his mom is with him." Damn! I shouldn't have said that. His mom can't come and be with him. "Come on, let's get you off the floor and ready to travel."
"Let me." Nathan stepped forward and lifted JD into his arms. It was lovely to see how JD trusts Nathan, instantly wrapping his arms around his neck. Vin was despatched to get JD some clothes.
I managed to make a sort of tent dressing to cover JD's toe, then we set out for the hospital - again. It was late now and there were more people waiting for treatment. It annoys me that people come to hospital with such trivial injures. There was a man there who told the triage nurse he had a sprained ankle - didn't stop him walking outside for a smoke, with only the slightest hint of a limp! JD fell asleep almost as soon as we arrived, his head on my lap, his little feet dangling off the chair, blood soaked dressing waving slightly as he breathed. We waited about an hour before being called through. Guess I was tired too because when they called "John Dunne" I almost didn't react.
JD woke up as soon as I lifted him; he didn't seem worried or distressed, mostly curious. He sat up on the table, watching the doctor examine his toe.
"Well, young man, that's a bit of a mess isn't it?" he asked.
JD just beamed, as if he was proud of his injury, and nodded.
"We are going to give you a couple of shots and then your toe will go to sleep. That way when I tidy up the mess it won't hurt - okay?"
Suddenly JD didn't look so happy, his eyes darted to me, and I knew exactly what was wrong. I took his hand. "You have to have the shots, but that's the worst part, and don't worry, your toe will wake up again, okay?"
When he had the shots at the base of his toe he was so brave, he clutched my hand and turned away, but he didn't cry. Then the doctor left us alone for five minutes to let the anaesthetic work. It was a nurse who came back to actually trim his nail and dress the wound.
"Can I have it?" JD asked.
"What's that dear?" she asked.
"My nail, can I have it?"
She looked a little disgusted, but then shrugged. "Okay, if you want."
"I'll just clean it up."
"No!" JD squealed.
"I think the blood is part of the appeal," I explained, " war trophy."
"Ah, okay." She dropped it into an empty blood vial, screwed up the lid and handed it over.
JD held the glass tube up to the light, examining the contents closely.
"Do you think Mr Kelly will let me look at it under a microscope?" he asked me.
Mr Kelly is the science teacher; he's Irish and a good sport.
"If you ask him nicely, at an appropriate moment, possibly."
JD was so interested in the gruesome contents of the vial; he didn't even seem to notice his toe being bandaged up.
"Right young man, you are all done. Don't forget, keep it dry for at least 5 days."
Worried eyes shot past the nurse to me. JD you see, likes swimming and baths - a lot! "Don't worry you can still have a bath, you'll just have to hang your leg over the side, but no swimming," I explained.
The smile of relief that he could bathe disappeared in a pout of annoyance.
"Sorry little'n just the way it is."
"Can we see Buck now?" he asked, changing the subject suddenly.
I tried to tell him his friend was asleep but he was insistent. So we 'borrowed' a wheel chair and headed upstairs to find Buck's room. As silently as I could I pushed the door open so he could see the thirteen-year-old, illuminated by the blue nightlight, fast asleep and sleeping on top of the empty second bed in the room, his mother.
"That's Buck's mom," JD told me in a less then quite whisper.
"I know sweetie," I replied.
"She's real nice. She took me an' Buck out for Sunday lunch last week, an' we went to a real fancy place, not like MacDonalds, I had a chocolate fudge Sundae and I ate it all and the waitress said she didn't believe I did it on my own and I said I could show her if I had another one, but Ms Wilmington said 'no' - but I could have, honest."
I've seen JD eat ice cream and I believe him, and I told him so. I was still imagining JD and the chocolate fudge sundae and I was not paying attention, before I knew it he was up and limping into the room. He moved to stand beside Buck and gazed at his splinted arm.
"Come back here!" I hissed, beckoning to him.
Reluctantly he returned to the wheel chair in the doorway.
"Is he really alright?" he asked, twisting and craning his neck so he could look at me while I wheeled him back to the car.
"He'll be fine JD, and so will you."
He was asleep when we got back. Vin sat up as I carried JD in and lay him on the bed. He didn't say anything; he just smiled sleepily and lay back down.
I think I had been in bed for three hours when the doorbell rang. It was Raphael.
"Yeah?" I inquired sleepily.
"Nathan's been sick."
Great! Here we go again.
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