Roads: Chapter 41

Title: Roads
Chapter: 41 of 43
Author: Sheryl
Rating: R
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt:God, my head hurts.” Zac stared at the call bell, rubbing it between his fingers. “That was dumb, she’s mad at me, now she’ll never come back in. Why’d I say that anyway?” He wanted her to come back. “I can’t call her. Not after I yelled at her like that…” He felt tears again, and swore softly at himself. “What’s wrong with me? God, I’m so useless…
He curled up, call bell in hand, wishing he dared ring it, wondering if he thought at her hard enough, she’d hear him and come back.
Sighing, he shifted a little, and caught sight, for the first time, of the hospital gown he’d thrown on, jumping out of the tub.
Oh my God, WHAT am I wearing?” He gazed in horror at the baby deer, baby rabbits, baby skunks, frolicking across the face of the gown.
Bambi. I can’t believe I’m wearing Bambi. This is just…” Sighing, he weighed it in his mind. His head was killing him, his stomach was queasy, he was seconds away from bawling like a baby, and he was wearing Bambi. And alone, he couldn’t do a darn thing about any of them.

Chapter 41

Zac had just about had it. Calling and calling and calling, even resorting to calling Jason’s house, and what did he get? Busy, busy, busy. Call the pagers? Nothing. Nada. Zip. He was mad. “Karen.”
“Hmmm?” Karen was checking his vitals, frowning. “Hush up a minute, Zac.” She was concerned. This was taking too much out of him. His temp had climbed back up a degree, whether a normal evening increase, or all the adrenaline she didn’t know. Pulse, respirations, blood pressure, all sky high. He was one giant ball of anxiety. His color was bad, and his sentences were broken by frequent bursts of coughing. He’d had his meds, he’d had his bath, and more than anything now, he needed to sleep, but there was no way that was going to happen.
“Oh, sorry sweetie, what?”
“I don’t care if they call back. Heck with them.”
“Zac, you don’t mean that.”
“Yes I do! If they even cared where I was, they’d have called back by now.” Sighing, she watched him drop the receiver, non too gently, into its cradle, and fix his eyes, resolutely, on the TV screen. Snorting a little, at his temper, Karen nudged him a little. “How you feeling, anyway?”

He thought about it. He felt pretty darned lousy. Everything he’d woken up with had suddenly worsened, and he felt almost as bad as he had hiking along after Jason. He kept coughing up all kinds of nasty junk, he was grossing himself out. He wanted to talk to his mom, he wanted to know what was going on. He wanted to go home! He ticked these off for Karen, for once not appreciating the sympathy. He was just edgy. It was making him crazy, not being able to reach anyone. What could be wrong there? He shook his head, irritable. “How come I feel so much worse than I did earlier?” His stomach was starting to give him grief, and he made a face, swallowing.
“I’m starting to feel like I’m gonna throw up. I haven’t even eaten anything, how can I feel like that?”
“Just comes with the territory, hon. Things tend to get a little worse at night.”
He turned over, onto his stomach, hoping it would help, and sighed a little when he felt her rubbing his back. Felt good. He was so sleepy. Couldn’t relax though. Too nervous. “Karen, why don’t they call?”
“I don’t know, sweetie.” He turned back over, looked into her eyes, and she had the disconcerting sensation of being read. “Would you tell me if they did?” Startled at the astuteness of the question, she hesitated for a moment. Would she? She sat down on the edge of the bed, thinking it over. “Well, Zac, I suppose it would depend.”
He nodded, listening carefully. “On what?”
“Well, I guess on what would be best for you. But Zac…” Her face was deadly serious, “I honestly, honestly, have absolutely no idea about any of this. None whatsoever.” He stared into her eyes a moment longer, finally sighing and looking away, back toward the TV. His headache was worse now, and it almost hurt to look at it. He stared listlessly, not really caring what was on. His stomach had started doing flips, and the ironic thought. “Man, it’s the only part of me that’s not tired,” flickered through his head. It was really bad, though. He felt sweat starting to break out on his face, and his mouth started to water. Tapping Karen’s hand, he swallowed hard, and whispered “Oh, I really am gonna be sick…” She handed him a basin, and reached to push his hair back. “Look at me, Zac” His eyes found hers, and she nodded. “Take a breath,” he did as she asked. “Breathe it out. Good boy. You keep doing that. And keep swallowing.” His eyes never left hers, as he followed her even, steady breathing. He could feel a tickle in his throat, and fought it. If he started coughing, it was all over and he knew it. “God, it’s working…” He was amazed, but the nausea was really beginning to back off.
Karen saw some color begin to come back into his face, and smiled. “Better?” He nodded a little, and she squeezed his hand. “Just do that if it comes back. No guarantees that it’ll work every time, though…” He smiled. “I know.” Suddenly feeling like he loved this woman more than anyone he’d ever met, he sat up, and slipped an arm around her neck, resting his head on her shoulder. Warm contentment began to slip in. He wanted his mother, but he loved Karen, and he felt safe. Her arms around him felt genuine, he knew she really liked him. Sighing a little, he’d started to doze, when motion outside the window that opened onto the corridor, caught his eye.
Karen felt him tense up, and moved him away from her slightly. “Zac, what is it?” He didn’t answer. His smile had vanished, eyes gone blank and far away. “Zac?”

Zac didn’t hear her. Zac didn’t hear anything.
Taylor, outside the window, outlined starkly against the brilliantly lit corridor. Taylor, blood streaming from his eyes, face twisted in pain.
A sudden flash, the vision imprinted against his retinas like a sudden bolt of lightening, and his brother was gone. His eyes held the image, glowing blue, as he turned back to Karen. White as paper, trembling, he flung his arms around her, hiding his face against her neck, feeling tears start. God, he couldn’t get that out of his eyes!

“Sweetie what is it?!” Baffled, Karen held him, feeling him shake. “What is it, honey tell me.” She pushed him away a little, and looked into his eyes. “Tell me what just happened.” His voice shook as violently as his body was, as he pulled her in close again. “Tay, I saw Tay… I saw Tay, and he was bleeding…”
She sighed, knowing it was all anxiety. Poor thing, he was just scared to death. “Karen, there’s something wrong.” His voice was tight, strained. “I know there is, there’s something wrong with him. Something’s happened to him, that’s why they’re not picking up, or calling back. You don’t understand!” He shoved her away, suddenly, irrationally angry with her for not understanding. “I have to find out, and nobody’s helping me! Just get out, go somewhere! Just leave me alone!” He was furious, close to tears, and he wanted her out of there. “You think you know so much, and you don’t know anything!!”
He was shouting now, the unperturbed look on her face making him even angrier. How could she just stand there and look at him like that? He sat up suddenly, eyes flashing.
“Everyone thinks they know what’s going on, and they’re all wrong, and nobody even…” He broke off abruptly. Whatever it was, the anger, the shouting, the sudden movement, some combination, the nausea had suddenly surged back, and he sat back quickly, swallowing hard, refusing to meet her eyes. “Just go, okay? Just go!”
She stayed put, for the moment, watching him.”Yeah Zac, you’re right. I don’t understand the whole situation. But I think I know how you feel, it’s been a long, hard day, and it’s scary to be alone, and not able to find anyone.”
He snorted, and waved her out. “I’m not scared, I just want you to go!”
She nodded. “Yeah, okay. You need down time, all you had to do is say the word.” She gave him a tired smile as she left the room, wondering as she went when the headache would hit. Both his and hers.
“Coffee. I need coffee. With a good stiff shot of bourbon in it…” Muttering to herself, eyeing the clock, wondering how long to give him, she bumped into Christie, her charge nurse. Christie was frowning.
“What’s all the yelling?” Karen grimaced, and pointed her thumb behind her.
“Just Zac, throwing a fit. He’s a tiny bit stressed at the moment. Got an Iburprofen on ya?” Christie laughed, and slid behind the desk to get her purse.
“Take two, they’re small. Maybe even three. You doin’ okay?”
“Yeah.” Karen sighed. “It’s just frustrating, he’s been trying to call home forever, and can’t get through. He’s flat convinced there’s something wrong. He just blew up.”
“I didn’t ask if he was okay. I asked if you were.”
Karen looked up, surprised. “Oh, well sure. I’m fine.”
“How long you givin’ him?”
Karen smiled. “Maybe ten minutes. We’ll see.”

God, my head hurts.” Zac stared at the call bell, rubbing it between his fingers. “That was dumb, she’s mad at me, now she’ll never come back in. Why’d I say that anyway?” He wanted her to come back. “I can’t call her. Not after I yelled at her like that…” He felt tears again, and swore softly at himself. “What’s wrong with me? God, I’m so useless…
He curled up, call bell in hand, wishing he dared ring it, wondering if he thought at her hard enough, she’d hear him and come back.
Sighing, he shifted a little, and caught sight, for the first time, of the hospital gown he’d thrown on, jumping out of the tub.
Oh my God, WHAT am I wearing?” He gazed in horror at the baby deer, baby rabbits, baby skunks, frolicking across the face of the gown.
Bambi. I can’t believe I’m wearing Bambi. This is just…” Sighing, he weighed it in his mind. His head was killing him, his stomach was queasy, he was seconds away from bawling like a baby, and he was wearing Bambi. And alone, he couldn’t do a darn thing about any of them.
Sighing, he picked up the bell again. “Okay Karen, please come back, and please don’t hit me…”
“Why would I hit you?” Her voice came from just beside him, and he jumped, yelping. “How long’ve you been there?”
“Couple minutes. Here.” She handed him a paper cup of water, and two more Tylenol. “Figured you could use these.”
She sat down next to him, watched him swallow the pills, and took the cup back, noting his refusal to meet her eyes. “So, tiger, wanna talk about it?”
He hugged her quickly, and she smiled at his whisper “sorry” in her ear.
“That’s okay sweetie, I understand. It’s scary not being able to do anything about anything. But we’re going to find them.”
He nodded against her neck, and his whisper came again.
“Think we could do something about Bambi, here?”
She smiled, and gently disengaged him. “I think I can find you something.


Isaac was ready to throw the phone. It’d been in use too long, the little low battery light glowing obnoxiously in his face. Every time he tried to dial, the call cut off before it could even ring. He’d moved in as close to the base as he could, but it still wasn’t working. Damn it. What could he do? His mind, numb, shocked, and too tired to connect, refused to give him the solution, and he sat, frustration mounting, staring at the phone on its base, hoping it would hurry up and charge.
Behind him, in the living room, he could hear Taylor. Poor kid had practically no voice at all, and every word sounded as if it were choking him. “Aw Tay… the thought, guilt ridden. “What’d we do to you?” He rested his head on his arms for a moment, guilt and regret burning in his heart.
“Nothing, you did, it had nothing to do with you.” He jumped up, eyes huge. That was Taylor’s voice, clear as a bell, faintly disgusted.
“Shit.” Isaac cursed softly, as he sat down. “I’m hearing things.”
“Right, now use the other phone. Don’t be a moron, Ike.” He jumped again.
“Damn it I heard that!” He stepped into the living room, taking in the scene instantly. There was no way Taylor had spoken to him. He was lying on the couch, eyes closed, Isaac thought he was holding his father’s hand, he really wasn’t sure. Sighing, he shrugged, and went back into the kitchen.
“Okay, so I’m crazy. It’s at least a helpful kind of crazy, since the voices in my head seem to be thinking of things I’m not.” He plucked the phone from the wall, and dialed the number. It went right through.


Karen had just started out of the room, when the phone rang, freezing her in her tracks. One ring, two… she glanced at Zac, who’s eyebrows had raised somewhere up above his head. Hand resting on the receiver, he raised his eyes heavenward “God, please don’t let it be an aluminum siding salesman…” The humor was forced, his screeching nerves showing through. He picked up the phone, eyes closed.

Ike heard the faint, trembling “Hello…” and shouted, unable to help himself. “Yes!! Zac!!”
Zac’s eyes filled with tears, and his face light in an enormous smile, all at once. “Oh, Ike, oh God…” His words dissolved into tears for a moment, then came back strong. “Ike, Oh God, why weren’t you answering?! Is Tay okay?!” Isaac’s voice was just as shaky as his.
“Oh, Zac, I’m so sorry, it’s been so insane here, where are you?!”
Zac shook his head, unmindful of the fact that his brother couldn’t see him.
“I don’t know, I have no… Karen!!”
“Where am I?!” She laughed, shaking her head.
“Of all things… you’re in Sandy Springs, honey.”
Zac repeated the name of the town back to Isaac, and his brow furrowed.
“Ike, I’m fine, tell me what’s going on with Tay.” Isaac hesitated. It didn’t surprise him that Zac knew something was up, but he wasn’t sure how much to tell him. Finally, deciding to stay on the side of caution, he hedged his answer. “Tay’s okay, I’m gonna get mom, okay? Hold on!!”
“Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.” Zac’s voice was annoyed. He knew Isaac was running out on the question. “IKE!”
“What?! Zac, just hold on for mom, it might take me a second, it’s a zoo here.” Sighing, knowing he wasn’t going to get anything out of him, he agreed.
“Yeah, okay Ike, I’m holdin…” He raised his eyes to Karen. “He won’t tell me about Tay, he’s gettin’ my mom. I don’t like it.”
She sat next to him, and he reached for her hand. “Did he sound like something was wrong?” Zac shook his head.
“No, he just sounded excited, but…” Sighing, he leaned against her. “I’m tired, Karen.”
“I know, hon.”


“MOM!” Isaac’s shout caused Diana to jump nearly a foot, and she turned, flashing him a sour look. She had Jason in front of her, and Ike noted the poor child looked as if he’d been set upon by demons.
“Ike, shut up, alright?!” She turned back to Jason, fully intending to keep grilling him about Zac.
“MOM!! For God sake, listen to me, it’s ZAC!!”
“He doesn’t know where Zac is, Ike…” Her voice was peeved, and exhaustion had fogged her mind to the point where nothing was making any sense. What the hell did he want, anyway? She turned back to Jason, gasping suddenly as hands grabbed her, hard, and spun her around.
“MOM!!!” He shook her slightly, and saw fury well up in her eyes, as her hand came up. “Holy God she’s gonna hit me…” He grabbed her hand, hard, and shook her again. “Snap out of it and listen! Zac is on the phone!! Now go talk to him!”
“Zac is what?” Isaac rolled his eyes, trying to be patient. He wasn’t much better off than she was, after all. “Zac, your son…” Giddiness suddenly welled up in him, and he felt himself starting to laugh “the one we’ve been looking for ALL this time, is ON THE PHONE! So leave poor Jay alone…” Jason shot him a grateful look… “and go talk to him before he explodes waiting for you!”
Infuriatingly she stood there, her gaze moving from Jason, to Isaac, back to Jason. “Zac’s where?”
“Oh hell…” He grabbed her arm and pulled. “Just come on…”
It was too crazy out there, she couldn’t connect. He knew how she felt. Better to just put the phone in her hand. He yanked her into the kitchen, grabbed the receiver and threw it at her. “He’s on the phone! ZAC!”
Frowning, she picked it up, eyes questioning. Isaac nodded, grinning, and she put it to her ear. “Zac?”

Zac waited impatiently, fingers tapping. “God, Karen, it sounds like a zoo over there…” She smiled faintly.
“It certainly does, I can hear it over here.”
“Well, my family is all insane anyway, but something’s…” He stopped suddenly, caught his breath, and she saw his eyes fill up again… For a moment, he was silent, and then he found his voice, barely, a whisper, “Mom? Oh…” and the last of his control went. Completely. Utterly. Struggling to speak even another word, he could only shake his head… Dropping the phone, his hands covered his face as he cried.
“Oh sweetie…” She reached to pick up the phone he’d dropped, and slid an arm around him. Putting the phone to her ear, she spoke quickly. “Mrs. Hanson? My name’s Karen. We’re so glad we finally got through, we’ve been trying to reach you for hours…”


Taylor finally caved in to the voices of reason all around him, and stopped trying to talk. It hurt too much, it made him cough, and most of all, the drugs he’d been given made it too hard to link his thoughts into any sort of order. In short, he didn’t know what he was talking about. Assured constantly by his father, and CC, that they wouldn’t go anywhere, and would be right there, ready to listen to him as soon as he was able to talk to them, he’d finally relaxed a little, letting his eyes close. God he was tired. He wasn’t sure what had happened, and was far too sedated to really think about it. A pleasant sort of drift had taken him over, and he was nearly asleep, when Isaac burst into the room, shouting.
“Zac’s on the phone! Zac is ON THE PHONE!!” He was giddy, laughing, and quite unthinking as he picked up Taylor’s feet and flopped down on the end of the couch. “Tay, wake up, Zac’s on the phone!”
Taylor, already awake, heard a chorus of scolding voices wash over him, as everyone in the room jumped on Isaac for disturbing him. “Yeah, give I’m hell…” the thought made him smile. He was stoned out of his mind, yet still feeling slightly superior. He’d heard what Isaac had said, they hadn’t. Cracking his eyes open, he kicked his brother lightly. “Is he okay?” God, it hurt to talk.
Ike smiled, and rested his arm congenially on his brother’s leg.
“Yep, he is. He said he was in Sandy Springs. First thing he did was ask about you.”
“Y’nt tell’m didya?” Ike shook his head, his smile fading.
“I told him you were okay. Mom’s talking to him now.” Nodding, smiling faintly, Taylor’s eyes closed again. “D’tell I’m.”
“No, I didn’t.” The boys conversation had finally impressed itself upon the others in the room. “Zac’s on the phone?!”
Taylor smiled again, shaking his head. They were so slow. Ike grinned. “Yeah, he’s talking to mom. He’s okay, he’s in Sandy Springs.”
Walker was flabbergasted “How, in the name of all that’s holy, did he end up there?!”
“I don’t know. Go ask him.” Walker nodded, glanced at CC, who waved him away. “Go, go, we’re fine here.” Taylor’s voice, a slurred whisper, drifted out then. “Y’go. S’all good.”
Walker’s “Hmmpf” followed him out the door.


“Karen, gimme the phone.”
Karen frowned, waving Zac off for the umpteenth time. Explaining to Diana exactly what was going on, was being made difficult by Zac’s persistent dancing around on the bed, tugging at her arm, grabbing at the phone, and insistent pleading. “Karen, I wanna talk to my mom, gimme the phone!” His tears of relief had come and gone, and he was ready to talk now. Right now.
“Zac, can you wait just a minute? I know you want to talk to her, but…”
“No!! Gimme the phone!!” His voice had taken on a grating whine, and Diana, on her end of the call, laughed. “He sounds like he’s feeling pretty good.”
Karen sighed, thinking, not for the first time, that Zac, as sweet as he was, might be just the tiniest bit spoiled.
“I’d say so, he’s all but jumping on my head.”
Diana’s tone turned sympathetic. “You sound pretty Zacced out. Why don’t you put him on, once he’s calmed down we’ll be able to talk.”
Karen sighed, thinking that more than anything, she needed a break.
“Tell you what. Talk to him, and then call back, and ask for ext. 326. The charge nurse’s name is Christie, she’ll fill you in on all you need to know. I’m going to give you Zac now, before he detonates.” Her voice, weary though it was, held a smile, and Diana heard it. “Thanks, so much.”
“Oh you’re welcome. Here he is…”
Zac stuck his tongue out agreeably, and grinned, reaching for the phone.
“Hey, don’t get smart Bambi boy, the fate of your attire rests in my hands.”
He groaned at the idea of having to wear Bambi one second longer, and took the phone from her. Karen smiled, and gave him a little wave. She’d run and get him some scrubs, and he could talk to his mom privately.


Tiffany’s gaze took in Taylor, moonlight a pale blue wash against his face. He looked peaceful, finally, in sleep. It’d been so long since she’d seen him this way. Funny, the thought, sinking down onto the floor, to lean back against the couch, he used to be this way all the time. Her mind went back, images of Taylor trying valiantly to teach her to skateboard, laughing at her clumsiness, images of days at the camp, hanging from trees, jumping into the lake, sunlight on sparkling wet hair, nights sleeping deeply under the stars. Hours in the treehouse, talking about everything and nothing. Smiling, drifting toward sleep, she remembered the night they’d gone to the fair, and she’d bet him she could ride the Gravitron more times than he could. Cold, hard cash had been riding on that bet, and she’d ridden it six times in a row. She’d gotten so sick after ride six that he’d had to actually hold her up to keep her from going down in a big heap at his feet. He hadn’t laughed at her though, not then, and he hadn’t gloated on the fact that he’d ridden it eight times, and was still doing just fine. He’d just walked her home, steering her around any obstacles her dizzy head tried to walk her into. He’d held his laughter, and his teasing, until she was feeling better, laughingly brushing off her comment that he was sweet, with “Yeah, no way, I just didn’t want you to shove me in front of a truck.” Laughing a little at the memory, she looked at his face now. So much had happened. Had she really seen him, pinned to the ground and screaming? It seemed so less real than what she knew was Taylor. Had he lost his mind? When he woke up, would he talk to her, as himself? Or would she hear other voices coming from his mouth, other emotions reflecting from eyes gone dark, and savage. How could that be him? She laid her head on his chest, gently, she didn’t want to wake him, twisting a strand of his hair between her fingers, watching the moonlight glinting on it. “Should’ve done something about this, Tay…” Her eyes filled with tears, and she swiped impatiently at them, angry with herself. She hated to cry. “Should’ve known something was wrong, how could I let you suffer like that? Haven’t you always been there for me? Guess I really blew it this time, just watching you come apart, and not even knowing it.”

Steady thump, thump of his heart in her ear suddenly sped up, she felt his hand in her hair, and his voice, a sleepy, breathy whisper.
“N’ Tiff. S’not you’r fault…” His hand stroked her hair, and she felt something inside her finally, irrevocably, let go. Her eyes filled with tears then, tears that overflowed, soaking into his shirt, shaking her body. His other arm went around her then, and she heard his voice again, a little stronger. “N’don’t cry. Tiffy, it wasn’t you.” He kissed the top of her head then, and pulled her even closer. “Wasn’t you, y’ couldn’t have done anything. Y’didnt even know.”
Tears gave way to anger, for a moment, and she pulled away from him.
“I know, Taylor, why didn’t I know? Why didn’t you tell someone? You should have told me.”He shook his head, waking up a little more.
“No, you’re being silly. You weren’t even there.” His throat burned abominably, and he grimaced. “Tiffy, lemme up, I need to get a drink.”
She stood up, gesturing to him to stay there. “I’ll get it.”
He sat up, ignoring her, sitting for a moment, head in hands. “N, I gotta go to the bathroom anyway. And you’re all crying, you’d get tears, or boogers or something in my water.”
“That’s not funny.” It was though, and she giggled a little, relieved to hear him joking. After today, she’d thought it entirely possible that he was gone for good. Amazed, she took the hand he reached up to her, and helped him stand up.
He nodded, affirming to himself that he could actually stand, and set a hand on her shoulder. “Think I could lean on you some? I feel a lot like I’m gonna tip over.” She nodded, annoyed that he’d even ask.
“Yeah, of course you can Taylor, No, I’m gonna just watch you fall on your face.” He smiled again. That was better, that sounded like his Tiffany. She hated to cry, what was she doing sitting here crying over him anyway? Stepping over a sleeping CC, they made their way out of the room.


“Zac, you okay in there?”
“Yeah, Karen…” She chuckled at the boys annoyed tone. “I been doing this on my own for a long time now.”
“Well get testy why don’t you? I was talking more about you getting into those PJs”
“Oh! Yeah, I’m doing okay. I’ll be out in a couple minutes.”
“Don’t try the top, you’ll rip you’re IV out!”
“I know.” She heard him humming around a little, and smiled. He’d been a lot happier since hanging up the phone, with the news that his mom and brother were on their way. She gazed out the window, appreciating the moonlight on the fountain. Pretty.
“Hey Karen!”
“Yeah Zac.”
“How come I’m getting all sweaty just putting on pajamas?”
She shook her head. “I dunno Zac, your sick.”
“Well, yeah but I’m not doing anything.”
“Sick people get all sticky and slimy for no real reason, all the time. Don’t worry about it. Do you always feel you have to yell to people on the other side of a closed door?”
“Yup! So that’s it huh? I’m not like, dying or anything?”
“Nope. You feel like you’re dying?”
She heard his laugh then, “No, just kind of slimy.”
“That’s pleasant, Zac. You about done?”
“Yeah. I’ll let you know.” Rolling her eyes, she trotted out to the linen cart, grabbed a washcloth and a hand towel. If he thought he was slimy, chances were, she’d want to do something about it. Absently refolding the towel as she walked in, she’d almost run into Zac before she saw him. “Zac! Didn’t I tell you to wait for me?” He smiled, but she noticed he looked a little out of breath.
“Yeah, but I figured, I could make it from the bathroom to the bed. And see, I managed to dress myself.”
“Don’t figure. Now just stand there and don’t move.” She put the cloth and towel down, took his arm, and led him over to the bed. “Stand right there, if you feel okay with it.”
“I’m okay… why though? Can we get this Bambi thing off me now?”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing. Do this…” He raised his arm the way she wanted him too, craning around to see exactly what she was doing. “What’re you… whoa, Karen…” He staggered suddenly, and she caught him quickly.
“You okay?” He nodded, holding on to her arm.
“Yeah, dizzy. I guess I turned wrong. I’m okay, you can let go now.”
She shook her head. “Nope. If you’re dizzy, you get back in bed. We can debambify just as easily there.” She let go of his arm for a moment, “Hold on to the siderail here, sweetie,” moving the top of the scrubs she’d brought him out of the way, and lowering the bed slightly.
She heard a whimper from him, and turned, catching him swiftly as his legs went out from under him. “Karen…” His voice was choked, and she saw his color drain away. Knowing what was coming, she grabbed for the basin with her free hand. Too late, he started to gag before she had even focused on it, and her arm went back around him. The attack was violent, and she could feel him starting to panic. “Zac, it’s okay sweetie, I’ve got you…” He caught a quick breath and she heard his muttered ‘sorry’ before it started up again. “That’s okay hon, just hush now.”

It seemed to Zac that it went on forever, long after there was nothing left in him. “Karen…” He tried to get the words out, to tell her it wouldn’t stop, he couldn’t breathe, but it wouldn’t ease up long enough. Nausea hit in waves, unrelieved, and he began to see sparkles in the corners of his eyes. Just when he thought he would simply pass out, the attack stopped, and he drew in a gasping breath, then another, panting…”Oh God, Oh God, Karen…”
She pulled him in closer. “I know sweetie, that was bad. C’mon, lets get you into bed.” He shook his head, gesturing down at himself, surprised to hear her laugh. “Oh, hon, you’re fine, Bambi has seen better days, but your PJ are fine.” She quickly finished removing the hated hospital gown, and helped him into bed. Flipping the siderail up, she smiled quickly. “I’ll be back in two seconds.”
She flew out to the linen cart, grabbed a gown and tossed it on over her uniform, threw a towel over the mess on the floor, and headed back to the sink with a washcloth and a cup. Seconds later she handed the water to him.
“Here hon, rinse out your mouth. Don’t drink any of it right now.” He shook his head, and did as she asked, then shut his eyes as she gently washed his face.
“I’m really sorry, Karen.” She brushed his hair out of his face, and smiled.
“That’s okay Zac, I hate this uniform anyway.” He shook his head. He didn’t think it was funny, and his stomach was still flipping and sloshing around. “Karen…” He swallowed a sudden mouthful of spit, and his eyes darted around, looking for anything he could find, “I’m gonna do it again…”
She knew, she had the basin ready for him, holding it with one hand, the other resting gently against his forehead. Poor kid, this was miserable. Not as long, or as violent as the first attack had been, this actually seemed to bring him a little relief, and she was pleased to see a little bit of color returning to his face. Sighing, she slid the basin away from him, and grabbed a towel, to wipe off her arm. He was watching her this time, and she could see he felt bad.
“Listen kiddo, let me tell you…” He looked up into her eyes. “I’m a nurse. We get puked on all the time. It’s no big deal. But twice in one night? It’s a good thing I like you…”
He smiled faintly at that, and shrugged. “S’like you said. Sick people get all sticky and slimy, for no reason, all the time…”
Her eyebrows went up. “Then why, Zac, since you are the sick person, am I the one who’s sticky and slimy?”
He sighed, and made a face. “Think I could get a toothbrush?”
“Yeah sweetie, I’ll bring you something. How’s your stomach feel now? Better?” He shook his head. “Not really. Not like I’m about to throw up, but not good.” She frowned sympathetically.
“I’ll get you something to help that.” She finished washing his face, and handed him another paper cup of water. “I’ll be right back. Try to keep everything in you, until I get back.”
“Yeah, boss lady, I’m gonna try.”

Karen jogged out to the desk, muttering, coming up behind Christie, who turned at the griping she heard behind her.
“Holy God Karen, what happened to you?”
Karen scowled. “Two guesses and the first one doesn’t count, Chris…”
Karen nodded. “Who else? I been slimed… or Zacced, or something.”
“He doin’ okay now?” Karen shook her head.
“No, he’s still pretty nauseated. Where’s the damned Stemetil. Oh, there it is…”
“Want me to give it, so you can go change?”
“Nah, he’s feeling pretty bad that he got me, I want to at least get it to him that it’s okay. I knew it was coming though. Saw it. I’ve been waiting for it all night. It keeps hitting him, and then backing off. He’s been fighting, but it was bound to happen. He’s coughing up all that crap and swallowing it. And he went into hyper mode a little bit ago, got way too excited, tried to do way too much. Yeah, it was bound to happen. All I could think was “Oh Lord, another uniform shot to hell… thank God for scrubs.”
Christie simply stared throughout the incredible run of words. She’d never heard Karen go on quite so much. “Karen, you about ready for a break?” Karen looked back over her shoulder as she headed down the hall, meds in hand
She headed back for the bed, groaning when she saw Zac with the basin back up close to him. “Sweetie, you are about as miserable as it gets, aren’t you?”
He nodded, again out of breath. “It won’t stop, Karen, why won’t it stop?”
“It’s okay, Zac, it will. It’s really not that unusual.” His eyes went to the IV she was working on. “What’s that?”
“That is going to make you feel a whole lot better.”
“Does it work fast?”
“Very fast. No more than ten minutes. Here, make believe this is a toothbrush.” She handed him what looked, to him, like a giant Q tip. “What is it?”
“It’s like a toothbrush, it’s lemon glycerin. Just swipe it over your teeth, it’ll get rid of the nasty taste.” She watched him toss the swab away, and turn over onto his side. Already his eyes were glazing over as the medication did it’s work. “H’come I’m so sleepy, Karen?”
She smiled and stroked his hair back. “The medicine honey, it’s going to make your stomach feel a lot better, and help you sleep.”
“Oh…” He yawned, and rubbed at his eyes.
“You wake me up when my mom gets here?”
“Of course. Would I let you miss her?”
“No…” He patted her hand. “No…” He reached up, clumsy and sweet, and touched her cheek. “S’sorry Karen.”
“I know, I told you, I hate this uniform anyway. Go to sleep, Zac. Stop being so stubborn.” He smiled at that, and waved at her a little, why she didn’t know.
“I love you Karen…”
“Aw Zac…” She kissed his cheek then, and watched as his eyes finally closed, and his breathing evened out. Smiling, knowing she had at least an hour now, she headed out to the desk.
“Chris, would you mind getting someone in there with a mop? I’m running up to OR for some scrubs, and taking a shower.”
Christie nodded. “Yeah, go ahead, and go get a break!”
“Twist my arm!”


Taylor sank, exhausted all over again, into the corner of the couch, pulling Tiffany down next to him. “God, Tiff, I feel like a truck hit me.”
She snorted, and settled herself next to him, teasing him gently. “Yeah, that long hike to the kitchen, Tay…” She started to curl into her own corner, surprised when he reached over and pulled her up against him. Smiling, thinking he was a little weird, she settled back. The warmth of his arms around her felt nice, and the spike of pain that had settled behind her eyes, hours ago it seemed, began to loosen its grip. She felt him kiss her head again, and his cheek against her hair, and tipped her head back a little to look at him.
“Hey, what’s all the cuddly, mushy stuff?”
He grinned at her, and shrugged. “Nothin’. Just…” He shook his head, baffled himself, and she smiled. She understood. After the day he’d had, he probably didn’t want any part of being alone.
“You okay, Tiff? You comfy and stuff?”
She laughed softly. “Yeah, I’m fine. You’re actually…” She turned and poked him a little in the stomach…”…Pretty darned soft.” He grinned down at her, and suddenly she felt her heart racing, felt the blood rush to her cheeks. She looked away quickly. “What the hell? This is Taylor!” Shaking her head, not sure why she was suddenly nervous, she settled back again. “I’m just tired.”
“How come you’re still here, Tiff?”
She giggled a little. “Long story. Want me to leave?” His arms tightened on her.
“Not on your life. But it’s really late, how come…”
She sighed, and twisted around a little, so she could see him.
“Well, mostly it’s because your family is nuts.”
“You’re not just figuring that out, after all these years, are you? What’d they do this time?”
“Well… lets see. You’re dad pacing and muttering stuff all day, refusing to sit down. We had to threaten to drug him if he didn’t just cut it out. Your mom chasing reporters like she’s the Terminator, grabbing shirt collars, and films, it was great! Ike’s hearing voices, and jumping up as if someone goosed him, every time he sits down, everyone’s pagers going off continuously, and the phones ringing off the hook, this place was a madhouse! Now your mom and Ike, who are complete and total idiots, are on their way to Sandy Pines, or Windy Tide, or wherever the hell Zac finally called from, even though they’ve both been awake for three days, and most likely will drive right straight up a tree. Now, here I am, babysitting the kids, you, and them…” She pointed to the comatose men on the floor.

Taylor’s jaw dropped slightly as he took this all in. “Whoa. Sounds like they outdid themselves.” He sighed, almost afraid to ask what was foremost in his mind. “Tiffy, um, where was I during all this?” She hedged, pulling away from him a little, and he felt her tense up. “Tiff, come on, just tell me.”  He was afraid he already knew. He knew something had happened, he just wasn’t sure what.  She took a breath then, not really wanting to tell him, knowing he had to know. “Well, Tay, you kinda had a major blowout.”
“A what?”
“Tay, you freaked completely. Totally and completely.”
“Oh, shit…” Tears came to his eyes, and he looked away. “Oh man… Tiff, did anybody get hurt? ‘Sides me, I mean?”
“Tay, you’re in the best shape, physically, of anyone here.”
“Oh, no…” He mumbled something, trying to hide his face, unable to with her in his arms. “Tiff did I hurt you?”
“No way, you haven’t been able to beat me in years.”
The small smile that brought to him faded quickly, as his eyes took in CC’s form, on the floor. Pointing to the bandage on his friends wrist, already knowing the answer, he muttered “Who did that?”
“Tay, so you want the whole thing, just straight out?”
“Yeah, I think I do, I think I better know.”

“Well, the house was nuts, everyone looking for Zac, do you remember that?”
“Yeah, vaguely, CC took me for a drive, then he said we had to come home fast, I think he was afraid, but I don’t remember why.” He shook his head, frustrated with himself. “There’s all kinds of time missing.”
“Hon, you must have started to remember something, CC was trying to get you into the house, but some reporter guy with a camera stopped you, and you punched him, and took off at a dead run for the road.”
“Oh my God…” Taylor hung his head again, blinking to stop the tears from falling on Tiff’s head. She took his hand, holding it gently.
“Do you want to hear the rest?”
“Oh damn, there’s more?”
“We haven’t reached the fun part yet, Taylor.” Tiffany gazed up at her friend, not sure she should be telling him, knowing he needed to know.
Taylor took a shuddering breath, tightened his arms around Tiff, until she squeaked. “Boy, you got some strength in those pipe cleaners, Tay. What’re you doing, pumping iron?” He shook his head, and shifted uncomfortably.
“Stop it Tiff, and tell me what happened,” He sounded scared, and she winced. “…Just tell me straight, no more joking, ok?”
Tiff sighed heavily, knowing how much this would hurt both of them.
“Ok, you want it, here it is.” She slipped an arm across his shoulders, wanting to keep him close.
“You ran for the road, screaming like something I’ve never heard before, and Ike tackled you just by the driveway. You clawed his face bad, he and CC almost couldn’t hold you down. I grabbed some cops to come help them pin you down but you bit CC on his wrist, and broke his teeth when you head butted him. You just about got free, and Ike was in front of you, and Tay?” She stopped for a moment, thinking how to say it. Well, might as well just say it. “You bit him. you bit Ike’s face.”
Tears flowed steadily down her face, as she watched despair reflected in his eyes, felt his heart pounding, heard his shuddering breaths.
“I can’t believe you did that. Ike was bleeding, and almost passed out. The cop, the stupid jerk, maced you! He maced you!!! you went all limp, and your dad carried you into the house. Your mom started yelling at the cops to help her get the press out of here, then I came in. The EMT guys were giving you a needle, and one of them was fixing up Ike, he was in shock. your dad was crying, Tay, Walker was crying! CC was just shaking, he was just holding on to you… then Tay, you scared the shit outta me. Totally. You started talking in other people’s voices.”
“Other peoples?” His voice was thick, tear choked, and more than anything she wished she’d never started.
“Yeah. Sounded like it. I recognized your dad’s voice, and Ike’s voice, but that one voice, the one that kept saying “Come with me, I’ve been trying to get you alone all day,” that one was so awful.”
Taylor shuddered violently and pulled away from her. “Oh my God, Tiffy…” She shook her head at that. “No you don’t, you just hang on to me.”
“Tiffany!” His swollen throat croaked what would have been a shout. “How can you stand to touch me? Aren’t you afraid of me? Aren’t you afraid that I’ll freak out like that again, and hurt you this time?”
He tried to pull away again, and she held him tightly. “No, Tay, no! I’m not afraid of you. I couldn’t ever be! I love you!” Tiffy leaned in closer, putting her forehead against his. “Tay, I was afraid today, but I was afraid for you, not of you.”
His voice came back dully. He was beginning to feel a little sick, wondering what else had happened.
“Is that everything? Did I do anything else?”
“No Tay, after the voice thing, you passed out, and didn’t wake up until I disturbed your sleep with my guilt trip.” Tiff wiped the tears from her face, and sighed heavily “I’m sorry I woke you, you really need the sleep.”
Taylor took Tiff’s hand, looked at it for a minute as if he wasn’t sure what it was, and used it to wipe the tears from his face. Tiffany yanked her hand away, “Ick, you goof!” They both giggled softly, and Taylor looked into her eyes.

“Tiff, I needed this talk more than I needed the sleep. I needed to know what was going on, and I…” His voice broke, and he brought it back with difficulty. “I needed to know you’re not afraid. Thank you,” he looked at her face, so close to his, and felt his heart start to race again. He loved her so much. He always had, but something right now felt different. “Ah, I’m still so out of it…” He smiled a little, and felt himself blushing, shifting his gaze away from hers. Blushing around Tiffany. How silly.
He looked back at her again, intending to tell her so, and found himself hypnotized by her eyes, so close to his. Her lips… could he? “Tiff..?” His whisper needed no answer. He kissed her softly, gently, and held her closer. His breath caught in his throat as she returned the kiss, new sensations, new connections washing over him. Tiffany, this is Tiffany! “Oh God…” His words were a groan, as he broke the kiss, resting his head for a moment, on her shoulder, feeling her hands in his hair, on his back. God he loved her… He looked into her face, saw her eyes shining back at him. She loves me too, and she’s not afraid. “Tiffy, I love you, you know that?”
She nodded, not trusting her voice. Taylor, this was Taylor… She hugged him tightly, surprised herself by kissing him again, softly, hesitantly. His response encouraged her and she deepened it slightly, suddenly reveling in his scent, his taste. Tay, this was her Tay, what was all this? Suddenly confused, she pulled back, blushing.
“Y’okay?” His voice was amused.
“Yeah, bratboy, I’m okay. You okay?”
He giggled. “I don’t know. I should say I’m sorry, but y’know, I’m not?”
She giggled back at him. “Me either…” She kissed him again, quickly. “I love you too…” He sighed then, and slid down, stretching out, pulling her next to him. His eyes closed, sleep had snuck up on him again. “Tiffy…”
“Hmmm Tay?” She was beyond content, snuggled there next to him, her headache a distant memory.
“Mmm, welcome.”
Not many minutes had passed, before their breathing slowed into the rhythms of sleep.

CC’s eyes closed in relief. They were asleep. Thank God. He got up quietly, stifling a groan as abused muscles screamed. Padding barefoot to the bathroom, he thought about what he’d heard. His name, and the need to use the bathroom had awakened him. Something, some finely honed sense made him lie still, when he heard the children’s voices. It would have been easy to just get up and go, but something made him stay and listen, ignoring the demands of his body as best he could. It had taken only a minute to realize that Tiff was telling Taylor what had happened. Fear jabbed into him, then, cold and sharp. If Tay couldn’t take it, if it triggered another flashback, things could get very ugly, very fast. But no, he could hear upset in the boy’s voice, tears, stress, shakiness, all manner of entirely reasonable emotions. But nothing out of control. No incipient flashbacks. No screaming. No hair pulling. No vomiting. No regression. He was taking it very well.
Must really trust her… God she’s doing great, but I wish she’d either hurry up, or he’d listen quicker.” Thinking he should catheterize himself before crisis interventions, he struggled to stay quiet. He didn’t want to disturb them. This was making his job a great deal easier. If Taylor could hear all of this, about himself, and stay in control, it boded well for him. “He’s stronger than he thinks he is…” He tensed up slightly when he heard Taylor raise his voice, asking if Tiff were afraid of him. Holding his breath, he waited for her answer, praying. Ah, there. She’d told him no, she wasn’t, and wouldn’t be. How much he had needed to hear that. Thank God. Thank God. He knew he had someone on his side, that was wonderful. His ears perked up at a soft sound, now, and again he stifled a groan. “God, their getting mushy. Taylor, buddy, don’t try anything you don’t have the strength you think you do.” Hoping he wasn’t going to have to turn a hose on the two of them, he silently prayed that one of them would fall off the couch, or Taylor would throw up, something, anything, to negate any need for birth control, and so he could get up and go pee. He was relieved that they stopped on their own, after exchanging a few kisses. Thank God, they’d gone right to sleep, he had actually been in pain. Finishing up in the bathroom, he flipped on the kitchen light, and sat down at the table, examining his arm. Looked mean, he’d bitten deep, and it had gone an ugly congealed red around the edges. “Good job, Tay, attaway to do it up right. Throw your guts up, and then bite me. Yeah boy.
Shaking his head, he slipped out the back door to get his bag. He had some penicillin samples out there. Looked like he’d need them. He thought to wonder, as he routed around in the back, how Ike as doing. He’d sustained one hell of a bite, and damn near his eye, too. He slipped back into the house, helped himself to a coke, to wash down the antibiotics, and wandered back into the living room. Walker, asleep in the chair, looking like hell. He’d feel that particular choice of bed in the morning. Taylor and Tiffany, stretched out together, belly to belly, sound asleep. Tiff’s arms were drawn in against her chest. “Chilly in here, she’s cold…” Ceec picked up the blanket he’d been using, and gently tucked it in around the children. Tiffany’s eyes opened as he worked, and he smiled at her. “Go back to sleep, it’s fine.”
She sighed, started to shut her eyes, then looked back at him. “Should I move?”
“I don’t know, do you want to move?”
She shook her head. “No way.”
He smiled then, and brushed her hair back out of her eyes. “Then you stay there. Sleep well.” She smiled back, touched his hand briefly, and snuggled in closer to Taylor, shutting her eyes again.
CC’s eyes shifted, taking in the boy. He’d certainly looked better, but all in all he didn’t look too bad, and he was out cold. Good. He tucked the blanket up a little closer around his shoulders, and tiptoed out of the room. The sun was coming up. He fixed himself a coffee single, and carried it out to the back swing, to listen to the birds, and watch the sunrise.


“Scrubs, Karen?” Tracey’s eyebrows went up.
Karen sank into a chair, and sank a knife into the coffee cake. “Yep. Scrubs. Zac heaved, not once, but twice, all over that damned ugly yellow uniform.”
“Uh. Maybe it was an opinion.”
Tracey’s eyes twinkled, as she watched Karen fix her coffee.
Karen shrugged, grinning. “Maybe. Good excuse to throw the thing away. Hey, did you ever hear of a band called Hanson?”
Tracey thought about it. It rang some kind of vague bell. “I might have, but it’s not really meaning much to me, why?”
“Well… I had him in the tub, and he started singing. It was a pretty song and I asked him who sang it. He said he did, and proceeded to tell me that he, and his brothers no less, are actually quite famous. Been all over the world. He was kinda put out that I didn’t realize he was a somebody.” She smiled, shaking her head. “I don’t know whether to believe him, or assume I’m having my leg pulled.”
Tracey’s hand had frozen, in the act of putting a bit of cake in her mouth.
“He says he’s in that band?”
“Yeah. Seemed completely serious. He told me two song titles, lemme think for a minute.” She sipped her coffee, mindful of Tracey’s stare. “What is it Trace?”
“Karen, if he was telling the truth, and he’s really a celebrity, why isn’t anyone here looking for him?”
“Oh, he got hold of his family, his mom and brother are on the way here from Tulsa.”
“Yeah. That’s where he lives. One of the songs is Um bop, or something like that. Can’t remember the other one.”
Tracey’s face lit up in a grin. “I do know that song. So do you, Sheila was “umbopping” when you came on shift, remember? In the activities room? You asked her to turn down the music.”
Karen’s smile was blank. She really had no idea. “So, the CD is down in the activities room?”
“Yeah.” The two women eyed each other for a moment, grabbed their respective snacks, and streaked, laughing, down the hall to the activities room. A few minutes of digging through the stack of CD’s and Karen held one aloft in triumph. “Aha! I have Hanson! And son of a gun, if that’s not our Zac!”
Tracey leaned over her shoulder. “Yeah, it sure is him. These two must be his brothers? Put it in! Then take a look at this.” She waved a magazine in Karen’s face. Karen nodded, stuck the CD in, and pressed play, wincing a little at the music that issued forth. She wasn’t much into pop music. Ah well, it was pretty cute, and whichever one of them was singing had a pretty good voice.
“What’s Zac do, anyway?”
“I dunno, hang on.” She cruised the liner notes, piping up with “Drums. Figures, he seems the type to like to bang on things.”
“What are you reading?” Tracey was literally on the floor, tears streaming from her eyes. “Look at this! Just look…” she flung the magazine in Karen’s direction, and wiped her face, erupting into giggles every few minutes.
Karen read for a moment, amused. “The “babely” Zachary…” She paused, expression amused. “Babely? Oh sure he is. I should write to them.”
“Write to who, the magazine? Why?”
“To tell them what it’s like to be puked on by one of the “Babely brothers”. I bet I could get a hundred bucks for that disgusting uniform.”
“You mean since he heaved on it?”
“Well, yeah. Valuable now, y’ know. I shouldn’t have washed my arm, I could have charged admission. This kid… the oldest one? Makes me wish I was twenty years younger.”
“Karen, really. Going to subscribe to Teen Beat, now?”
“Nah. He’s cute, what’s his name, Isaac? But he’s no Donny Osmond.”
Tracey snorted. “You and Donny…”
“Hey, I happen to like him.”
“I happen to know that. I hate to tell you this, but break’s over. I gotta get back up to the unit, and you gotta get back to MMMBop boy.”
Karen snickered. “MMMBop boy. Wish I’d taken a picture of him in the Bambi gown. Babely. Haha. Babely in Bambi. Make a mint.” Laughing, she took the magazine with her, as she headed back to the floor. If he woke up, she had plenty she wanted to talk to him about.

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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