Alternate Universe RNLI
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: For Sue, and betaed by Sue. A little topical tale of woe.
"Well I could send off a swab for a test but in all honesty I don't think there is much point, I'm confident he's got it," Nathan told Buck.
The tall publican ran a hand through his thick hair. "I sorta figured that out."
"We can have him over at our place; I've just had my jab, Rain too, since she helps out with meals on wheels."
Buck, who had been problem solving in his head, wasn't really listening. "What was that?" he asked.
"We'll have him at our place, so he doesn't infect you or Inez."
Buck looked at Nathan as if he'd grown a second head. "I'm not kicking him out of his home 'cause he's sick."
"Buck you have a business to run, you're the deputy coxswain, you can't afford to get sick."
"Oh come on, I'm not gonna get sick, you know me, I've got the immune system of a sewer rat!"
That much was probably true, food poisoning notwithstanding, Buck almost never got sick, and considering how often he'd been injured, he rarely picked up any infection.
"What about Inez?" Nathan asked.
"I'll ban her from the flat."
"She won't like that."
"Too bad, I'm the boss."
"Very well, but if you need help, you ask for it deal?"
"Deal. So what's the drill rest, fluids, painkillers, food when he's ready for it?"
"Yup, that about covers it. Keep him cool, take his temperature twice daily, if he spikes over 40, call me, if it doesn't go back to normal by Saturday, call me if you're concerned, call me. I'll check in from time to time. And he needs to take these," Nathan handed over a box of Tamiflu. "One, twice a day, preferably with food, though that's not absolutely necessary. Okay?"
Buck nodded. "Okay, thanks."
"As his primary caregiver you're entitled to a prophylactic course, if you want them." Nathan held up a second box.
"Prophylactic?" Buck asked.
"Preventative, one a day."
Buck looked at the second box, but then shook his head. "Nope, I'll be fine." Nathan gave him a look. "Honestly, I'll be fine, I just feel it."
"Okay, your choice, but promise me, if you start to feel unwell, in any way, in the next three weeks, you let me know, no messing about, no trying to be a hero."
Now it was Buck giving Nathan a look. "Would I?"
"Yes, and it's not fair to others if you're sick and spread to everyone else."
"Point taken, I promise to report even the smallest sniffle."
"See that you do. All things being equal, I'd expect him to show some improvement in a couple of days, you know how to get hold of me if you need me."
After tapping lightly on the door, Buck let himself into JD's room. The teen was huddled in the bed under his duvet and a blanket.
"Come on, now, I know Nathan told you not to do that," Buck chided softly as he pulled back the duvet and the blanket, replacing them with a thin cotton counterpane. "We have to keep you cool, until your temp goes down." He checked that the window Nathan had opened hadn't been shut, it hadn't. That didn't surprise him; JD was in no state to get out of bed.
"Please, I'm cold," JD protested.
"No you just think you are, actually you've got a high temperature."
"Is it...?" JD asked miserably.
"Oh yes, it's official, you are Four Corners first case of Swine Flu."
"Urrrg," JD moaned miserably into his pillow. "Dave's party."
"I would think so, yes."
One of JD's friends from university lived in Devon and had thrown a huge 21st birthday party a week ago. JD had been away all weekend, sleeping on the floor of Dave's parents' house. Since no one else in town was sick, this was the most likely point of infection.
"So the question is, do you want to stay here, or do you want me to set you up on the sofa in front of the TV?" Buck asked.
"Okay, for now I'll take these." Buck picked up the duvet and blanket. "And bring you a jug of something cool to drink, what do you fancy?"
"Well you have to drink, so?"
Ten minutes later, Buck returned with a jug of blackcurrant cordial with plenty of ice in it, a glass and a couple of straws.
"Right, you're all set, I've got to go and get ready for lunch, by the time I get back I want all that drunk, and I'll bring you some more pain killers."
"Mmm, drugs are good," JD muttered as he closed his eyes.
As Buck left the room, Mac, his greyhound, tried to go in. "Oh no you don't, he doesn't need a furnace like you snuggling up to him, come on, downstairs, there must be someone there you haven't hit on for a sausage yet."
Inez practically jumped on Buck as he came into the kitchen demanding to know what was going on.
"I will not get sick, there is no reason to keep me away from him," she protested, after he gave her the low down.
"Sorry, Nathan's orders.
Still angry she took a moment to look at the man she loved, he looked exhausted. "When did you last sleep?" she asked.
"I slept last night," he assured.
"Enough, I'm just worried, that's all."
That morning, JD had been feeling ill since he woke up, his head pounded; it was bad enough to make him take some paracetamol when he brushed his teeth. The tablets worked for a while, most of the morning he felt ok, sort of, then mid morning he started to feel bad again, not only did his head pound, but his joints seemed to ache. His response was to take more tablets and they worked, just not as well as the first ones. It was a quiet day in the pub and he was able to get by, but by mid afternoon he was feeling so ill, he went upstairs to take more pills. When he got there, he just couldn't resist lying down on the sofa for a little nap.
Two hours later, that was where Buck found him, having come to look for him when he didn't return to work. He could feel the heat radiating off his flat mate before he even touched him. Nonetheless he put his hand on the fevered brow, just to be sure.
"What?" JD asked as he came awake.
"Why didn't you tell me you were sick?" Buck asked.
"I'm okay," JD protested.
"Like hell you are. Come on, bed, now."
JD was feeling too tired and sick to argue. He hauled himself to his feet and wished he hadn't, his body hurt, all of it, all over.
"I'm going to call Nathan," Buck announced.
"No, don't bother him, it's just a bug," JD insisted. "I just need some sleep, maybe some more drugs."
"More drugs?" Buck asked in alarm.
"Just paracetamol, came up to take some more and sort of fell asleep on the sofa, sorry."
"Don't apologise. How many did you take?"
"Not too many, I'm not an idiot."
Against Buck's better judgment he agreed not to call the doctor, provided JD didn't get any worse. This was why he hadn't slept much, since he kept sneaking into JD's room to check on him. Come the next morning even JD couldn't claim he was getting better, or even holding his own, he just felt so crap.
JD had drifted off to sleep again, a blissful place, where the pain stopped and he wasn't cold. Suddenly someone was shaking him, pain slowly crept back into his joints and the cold shivers returned.
"Come on, time to get you up," Buck's voice was soft but firm.
"No," JD protested.
"Come on, you need more pills, you have to drink some more and I need to change the bed, you've been sweating like a pig." A large firm hand under his arm helped him to sit up. "God you poor kid, you look like shit."
JD managed a half smile. "Feel like shit too."
"Come on, this way." Buck helped him into the bathroom, where the bath was full of water and bubbles. "Lavender and camomile," Buck explained. "Inez gave it to me for you. Nathan won't let anyone in here but me, him and Rain."
JD nodded vaguely.
"Can you get in on your own?" Buck asked.
JD just stood there, not really able to think at all.
"Clearly not." With great care, tenderness, consideration and no hint of embarrassment, Buck stripped JD of his pyjamas and helped him into the water. "You rest there; I'll go and get the bed sorted."
JD must have drifted off in the warm water, lulled by the soothing aroma. The next thing he knew, he was being half helped, half lifted out of the water. Buck was talking, but he couldn't seem to work out what he was saying, he felt the soft warmth of a towel on his body and then he was helped into a fresh pair of shorts and a tee shirt. Before he knew it, he was in bed, with crisp fresh sheets and a light blanket. Sleep beckoned him back.
"No you don't, you take these and drink this first." Buck handed him two tablets and a glass with a straw, containing more iced Ribena. "Come on, all of it," he commanded as JD began to drink.
Once JD was asleep, Buck headed downstairs to see what was going on. The pub was running smoothly with Vin behind the bar.
"What are you doing Taffy?" he asked.
"Well you've got your hands full, so me and Ez."
"Ez-Ra! Oh what's the point," an exasperated Standish complained from the kitchen.
"Me and Ez and Chris," Vin continued, "Decided to split your job between us."
"Why is Ez in the kitchen? I don't cook, Inez and Gloria cook."
"I am washing up and don't think I'd do this for just anyone," Ezra announced, appearing at the door, in a very fetching pair of yellow marigold gloves.
"I have a dishwasher, two in fact," Buck pointed out.
"I know that, but the plates still need to be scraped and rinsed first, don't they? This is, I believe, one of Mr Dunne's duties?"
"True, thanks guys."
"Oh, and Chris took you off the boat, for now," Vin told him.
Buck was about to protest, but it made sense; JD needed someone to take care of him 24/7 at the moment.
"How is the patient?" Ezra asked.
"Sick as a dog. All he does is sleep, drink and pee."
"A simple life, though not one I envy him."
Having slept all day, JD woke in the night, still feeling terrible, but unable to get back to sleep. Eventually all the fluids he'd taken on, insisted he get up and shuffle his way to the bathroom. As he stood in front of the toilet bowl, he found he was staring as a large A3 sheet of paper taped to the tiles in front of him.
'JD there is a bell on the side of the bath, ring it if you need help and can't get to my door. You had drugs at 9.30 so look at the clock, if it's past 1.30 you can have some more. Buck'
He looked at the bath, there, sure enough, was the Alpine cowbell Buck had picked up years ago on a trip to Austria. On the windowsill behind the sink two paracetamol had been taken out of their blister pack and beside them, Buck's travelling alarm clock. He had to squint to focus, but was sure it said 2.15, so he took the tablets and shuffled back to bed. Eventually the dulling of pain let him drift back to sleep.
Buck, who had been checking on JD every few hours throughout the night, eventually found him awake just after 9.00 and was pleased to find his temperature had dropped to 38.
"Still not normal, but a least it's not 39.5, like it was yesterday."
JD just groaned.
"Feel like eating?"
"Think you could try? Maybe something simple?"
JD thought a moment. "Weatabix, with ..."
"Sugar and half a pint of milk, I know. Now you go and get freshened up, I put clean PJs in the bathroom for you, I'll change the bed."
JD looked at Buck. "Didn't we do this already?"
"Yes we did, and now we are going to do it again. Can you get undressed on your own?"
"Yes," JD replied, as if it was a stupid question.
"Okay, just asking," Buck told him, with no hint that the question had any more significance. "Time to take some more drugs."
Nathan came to call at lunchtime and 'persuaded' JD to take some soup and bread. The argument was finally won, when Inez assured him, through Buck, that she wouldn't be offended it was tinned tomato soup and not her home made soup.
"When one is sick, one needs familiar food," she agreed.
"Nate how long am I gonna be sick?" JD asked, clearly already fed up with being ill.
"It hasn't been two days yet," the doctor reminded.
"I know but it totally sucks."
"I know, sorry, if you're lucky, a week or so, but some people have been out for three weeks and more."
"Yeah but they had complications or were already sick, right. I'm not like that."
Nathan looked sympathetic. "Sorry, most of the people who've been that sick were just like you. This thing loves you youngsters."
JD looked crestfallen.
"Don't worry too much, it's a small percentage and you've already improved a lot since yesterday. Today I want you sitting up most of the day, lying down all the time is like asking to get pneumonia, okay?"
In the afternoon, having moved to the living room and not the sofa, but the big recliner, so he could sit up, as instructed, and sleep, JD was woken by a knock at the door. Buck didn't knock and Nathan had already been to see him, so he was curious to know who it was tentatively pushing the door open.
"Oh sweetie," Rain sympathised. "You look washed out."
"That's how I feel," he admitted.
"Here, I brought you this." She pulled a pillow, in a crisp white cotton oxford pillowcase, out of the carrier bag she had. "It's a lavender pillow."
She crossed the room and tucked it behind his head. "It'll help you relax and sleep," she explained.
The pillow worked like a charm. The next time he woke up, it was around six, he knew that because he'd fallen asleep watching a movie and now the news was on. But it wasn't the TV that woke him; it was Buck coming in with a tray of food.
"Scrambled eggs on toast, chocolate mousse, Ribena and more drugs okay?"
Buck put the tray down. "Oh and these." He handed over a small carrier bag. "Vin sent it, not sure what it is."
JD peeked inside.
"New DS games, he only got these last week."
"Well there you go, something to do when you can stay awake. Chris sent this."
From his back pocket he pulled out a small tuft of black hair, tied into a bundle with a bit of orange bailing twine.
"Apparently it's hair from Mexico's mane."
JD had taken a real shine to the pinto polo pony at Chris' stables, and now never rode any other horse. If he could have afforded him, and Chris would sell, he'd have bought him.
JD placed the tuft of hair under his nose and smiled. "Smells like him."
"Imagine that," Buck commented with good natured sarcasm.
Sometime around ten Buck was back to help him get ready for bed and make sure he took some more paracetamol. "Josiah sent this over." He handed over a small red jar.
JD took it and scrutinised it. "What is it?"
"Tiger Balm, you rub into your temples when you have a headache, but it's too soon for more drugs. Josiah swears by it."
"That was nice of him," JD muttered absentmindedly.
Buck chuckled. "Oh you are so ready for bed."
JD was in the pub ringing up an order on the till and it was telling him he'd made an error and no matter how hard he tried, it wouldn't let him clear it. He wasn't sure where the dream ended and he worked out that the till's persistent error message was actually his pager. Acting purely on instinct he jumped as best he could out of bed and, without bothering to pull on clothes blundered to the door.
"Where are you going?" Buck asked him after he'd all but bounced off him in the doorway.
"Boat, beeper?" he muttered.
"Oh, yeah, bugger."
"Yeah, come on, back to bed."
"No, I can do it, you'll be late."
"Not to worry, I'm not on the rotation at the moment," Buck assured.
"Why?" JD asked, even as Buck was all but pushing him back into the bed.
"Never mind, come on, back to bed."
"It's because of me isn't it?"
"What are you on about?" Buck chided good naturedly. "Come on, relax, go back to sleep."
"You can't go on the shout because you have to look after me, I'm sorry, you could have gone I'd be okay."
"Hush, stop talking, it's fine, there are more than enough guys to cover the boat. You need someone here to take care of you."
"Will you stop saying that? I'm happy to do it, I like doing it. Kid you are as important to me as any brother. I mean, I never had a brother or even a sister, but if I had I can't see how I'd feel any differently about them as I do you. So stop worrying about nothing and concentrate on getting better so we can both be back on the boat, where we belong."
JD blinked at him owlishly, he wasn't even sure the kid was really hearing what he was saying, which was a shame, because he meant every word of it.
"Promise me, you'll tell me," JD said softly, already half asleep.
"Tell you what?"
"When they get back, when they're safe, promise me."
"Okay, I promise."
The shout proved to be a long one, long but uneventful and somewhat boring. A trawler with a dead engine, needed a long slow tow back to harbour. Buck, who had found it impossible to sleep, did what he always did on those rare occasions he was struck by insomnia, he cleaned. By the time the crew got back, looking for their traditional post shout breakfast, the pub kitchen looked as if it had just been installed. Stainless steel being notoriously difficult to keep shiny, had responded to his own secret cleaning product cheap baby shampoo.
Once he and Inez had the breakfast started he headed upstairs to tell JD the guys were safe. The trouble was, JD was fast asleep and he looked so peaceful Buck didn't have the heart to wake him, so he returned downstairs. Two hours later, he rechecked on JD, this time he did wake him, the boy needed medication, his temperature needed checking and he needed food.
"Are they back?" JD asked.
"Come on, come and see for yourself." Buck helped JD to stand and hovered by him as he shuffled through to the living room and, as instructed by Buck, over to the windows, which looked out onto the town square. There on the road, in what he hoped was water based paint, in huge white letters, were the words.
GET WELL SOON JD
WE'RE LOST WITHOUT YOU!
"The guys wanted you to know they missed you," Buck explained when JD didn't say anything. "I mean I guess Ezra can interpret a GPS read out as well as anyone, but apparently it's not the same as you doing it and no one can work out the tides in their head like you."
JD rested his head on the cool glass, slightly overcome by this very public display of support. Just then the pub doors opened and both the boat and the shore crew spilled out, ready to head back to their homes and everyday jobs. Vin, with that sixth sense of his, turned and looked up at the window, and seeing JD, waved and smiled. One by one the others did the same.
The impromptu road sign alerted all kinds of people to JD's fate and by the evening his room was filled with get well cards, small gifts and home baking. They came from any number of teenage girls who had a crush on him, people who knew him, like Gloria, Mary, Nettie and of course his girlfriend Casey, who we furious with her boss Chris for not telling her he was sick. Then there were the numerous people in the town whose computer woes JD had solved, usually for free. Discovering, that, like his team mates, he really was a member of the community, who people cared about, not some upstart outsider, somehow made being so miserably ill, easier to bear.
As Nathan has predicted, he did begin to improve and by the third day was able to stay awake and watch a movie all the way to the end. Although it would take almost ten days before he was fully over it, he did make a relatively fast recovery, aided by the acupuncture and massage sessions Ezra paid for. His first day back at work in the pub, there was a ceremonial handing over of the Marigolds, a cheer from the regulars and a blatant attempt to elicit food from Mac, and with that, JD knew he was back where he belonged.
39.5' Celsius = 103.1' Fahrenheit, 40' Celsius = 104' Fahrenheit
Paracetamol = Tylenol (acetaminophen)
A3 paper = Twice the size of A4, which is standard printer size (A3 = 14.3"x 20.3")