Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: FOTD - Wellaway; Fudge Ripple #4 - Despair
Toppings: Whipped Cream (Alex is 14)
Word Count: 1,259
Summary: Alex is under the care of the medic, and has maybe found a new role model. Even if his advice is somewhat suspect... as is his bedside manner.
Notes: Got away from me again. I kinda like this medic... And apparently this is my 50th piece in this universe? That spiralled out of control...
The medic had given him a disapproving look when he announced that six hours was more than long enough to spend doing nothing, but said nothing as he slid from the bed and got dressed. He didn’t even say anything when Alex only got as far as the door before the panic attack drove him to his knees in a trembling, hyperventilating heap. He just picked him up like he weighed nothing—and that was a feat in itself: Alex knew just how much he weighed and muscle mass meant it was far more than any fourteen-year-old had a right to—and dropped him unceremoniously back into bed, then hit him in the face with a paper bag. “Breathe into that.”
Alex complied, wondering how he’d qualified as a doctor at all with a bedside manner like that.
“You should go and see one of the psychiatrists.”
“I’m fine.” He lowered the bag to his lap and smoothed the creases from it.
“Oh yes.” The medic’s voice was far louder than it needed to be; Alex winced. “Clearly you are fine. Clearly it’s perfectly normal to freak the fuck out at the thought of rejoining your classmates. No, don’t you dare speak,” he pointed directly at Alex, who closed his mouth again, “and if you even think about getting off that bed again I will kneecap you. Do you understand me?”
Alex looked away, scowling.
A hand clamped around his chin and dragged his head back around to face the medic. “Do you understand me?”
He nodded, swallowing.
“Right. Good.” The clothes he’d been in when he’d woken, a soft white T-shirt and matching tracksuit bottoms, landed on his head. “Put these back on. I need to go talk to someone. You’re sure you don’t want me to fetch a psychiatrist?”
He tugged the tee from his head and nodded again, not meeting the man’s furious brown eyes. The last thing he needed now was an assessment. After everything that had happened they might finally get an accurate result or, worse, they’d decide straight away that he was no longer functional and return him to his department. He could just imagine how well that’d go; he’d really prefer not to imagine it at all.
The door clattered open then slammed shut again, leaving Alex alone to get changed. Now would be the time to make his way back to his dorm— if he didn’t suspect the medic would come after him and drag him back kicking and screaming. Looking over at the door handle, memories of the last time he’d touched it came flooding back: the unreasoning terror, the sensation of drowning without being anywhere near water, the pain... Maybe he really wasn’t functional any more. Maybe he really was only good for running experiments on until even that use was exhausted.
With a sigh, he began to unbutton his shirt again.
Two days, the medic told him as he dropped a stack of books and an A4 notepad on Alex’s lap. Two days isolated bed rest with absolutely no psychological assessment; he suspected that one had been hard fought for: the medic’s voice was hoarse, softer than before.
Isolation wasn’t as difficult as he’d expected either. The medic, who’d informed him tersely that since they were stuck with each other his name was Josh, sat in silence working on God only knew what at his desk, or attended in an adjoining room to various injured kids. With just his books and notepad for company, he got on with his assigned classwork and let it take his mind off everything else.
He could swear though, that it was all chosen specifically to needle him. An instruction to read about Ophelia’s death in Hamlet—how unsubtle could they get?—and a poem with heavy reference to rivers. If this was what being consigned to a bed did, perhaps he should have struggled through the panic attack after all.
He knew how it’d be described. Character-building.
A cruel joke.
He sighed down at the sheets, then leaned back against the raised head section of the bed and covered his eyes with his arm. “Wellaway, wellaway... And I know who to keep well away from.”
“Feel like telling me the name yet?”
Alex shook his head without moving his arm. “You already know.”
“Tall for his age, blond, attitude problem? Yeah. I already know. Something more than suspicion would be good to go on though. Like a verbal accusation.”
He dropped the arm from his face and stared across at the medic— Josh; hard habit to get into. “No.” The creeping suspicion that the only reason he’d escaped a psych eval was because he was being assessed in situ settled into the back of his mind and refused to leave again. “I’ve already got this,” he slapped his palm down on the papers, “I don’t need it to get worse.”
“You’re going to let the bastard win?”
“Bullshit.” Josh snorted. “You’re scared.”
Alex took great pleasure in the way Josh’s eyes widened as he only just missed being hit by the flying pad. “Yes I’m scared!” He gripped the sheet and took a deep, unsteady breath which did absolutely nothing to calm his sudden shaking. “He tried to drown me! He knew and he still tried to drown me!”
“‘Knew’?” Josh’s brow furrowed as he reached down to snag the pad. Tossing it onto the bed again, aimed directly at Alex’s feet, he turned and started tapping at his keyboard. His eyes widened. “Oh.” A pause. “How did he know?”
Frowning and gnawing on his lower lip, Alex looked away again.
“You told him?” Josh raised an eyebrow.
“No!” For one second he hefted a textbook, then closed his eyes and lowered it again. Concussing the only person inclined to help right now wouldn’t solve anything, satisfying though it might be. “No, I didn’t. He found out by himself.”
“Found out? No, don’t tell me.” He ignored Alex’s why would I tell you anyway? scowl. “However he did it, it wouldn’t have been against the rules. Very little is.”
“So what’re you going to do about it?”
Alex draped his arm over his eyes again and tried to suppress the sudden urge to be kicked out, sent home where everything had rules and everything made sense. “Nothing. I don’t know. Keep my head down and get on with it.” Just the thought of it made his stomach twist.
“You could do that, but even the idea of it is killing you, isn’t it? Your strategic retreat is just running away.” Josh’s chair squeaked; Alex raised his arm enough to see him spin around once, tapping a pen on his chin with a thoughtful expression. “So don’t give in. You’re not stupid. Stop playing by rules that only exist in your head. Carry on like nothing has happened, don’t let him see he got to you and wait for the moment to stick the knife in. Literally, if you have to. Sound good?”
The sad thing was, it did. It sounded a lot like something to cling to, a way to get through the days until he could turn those fantasies he’d had in class into a reality. A way to kill the version of himself that still cared for approval he was never going to receive once and for all. Alex scrubbed his hand over his face. “How the hell did you ever end up in a position of trust...”
Josh shrugged and grinned. “Beats me.”