Jackie: Is it can be updates tiem nao plz?
Draco-muse: Oh no, she's speaking in lolspeak, this cannot be good.
RakitWhore: People barely remember this story exists, care to explain the absence?
Jackie: Oh, let's see...work, grandmother dieing, starting, dropping out, and restarting nursing school, meeting, dating, and marrying my husband, learning to love cats...and a million other poor excuses for not writing the next chapter.
Draco-muse: *ahem* Jackie obviously does not own Harry Potter, as the Dumbledore slash would have been a much bigger plot point.
Jackie: *smacks Draco* Shut up! Anyway...enjoy!
A light snow was falling gently outside the window of Draco's room. Draco tracked the motion of the snowflakes with his blurry eyes, the silver-white spots reflecting off eyes with barely more color. Every now and then, a blink signified that he was, indeed, awake, but there wasn't much more movement than that. It was almost Christmas, and Draco's chemotherapy had been increased in order to destroy the offending bone marrow before his transplant. His face was profoundly swollen, and he could barely eat for the sores in his mouth. A few days prior he had been put on complete parenteral nutrition, which meant he was receiving calories and nutrients through his IV.
Draco blinked slowly again as he watched another flake travel down the window and land on the sill briefly before melting. He started to turn his head to the side, but stopped as the slight movement made his head swim horribly. He swallowed a few times painfully and breathed as deeply as he could without pain. His whole body itched horribly, but he had been scolded for scratching, and didn't have the energy to disobey anymore.
Ron sensed Draco's discomfort and reached out to offer a comforting rub to his shoulder. Today was a bad day; there had been more and more of those lately. It worried Ron. Draco's transplant was scheduled for tomorrow. What fool, Ron thought, schedules something like that for Christmas bloody Day? But looking again into Draco's swollen face, with dark rings around his eyes and a sunken, glazed look, he knew that it couldn't be put off any longer.
"Yes love?" Ron responded, reaching down and taking Draco's hand. Draco weakly squeezed his fingers, then whispered, "Water, please?" Ron took the hospital-issued cup and held the straw to Draco's cracked lips, and Draco sipped slowly, holding the cool water in his mouth for a few seconds before reluctantly swallowing it. When he was done, Ron replaced it on the bedside table, and took the tube of petroleum jelly and gently smeared some on Draco's sore lips.
The transplant ward was a different world from the floor where Draco had received his chemotherapy. Since Lucius and Narcissa could not be away long enough to see Draco through the surgery, and since Ron was going to be his donor anyway, the hospital had consented to let Ron stay with Draco at all times. Until yesterday, Ron had slept on a cot next to Draco's bed, but today a second hospital bed had been moved in for him, since he would be donating tomorrow.
The thought made Ron's stomach flip. Dr. Chantelle had gone over and over again with him what would happen: he would be put to sleep, they would remove bone marrow from his hip like had happened to Draco on his first visit, but they would take more. Then he would wake up while Draco would receive the marrow through his IV. But the fear still gripped him unrelentingly. Shaking his head, Ron tried to take his mind off of things. I'm doing this for Draco, he thought to himself, just keep reminding yourself of that. It's going to be worth it. Stroking Draco's forehead slowly, and offering a silent prayer of thanks to Merlin that Draco didn't have a fever today, he distracted himself by focusing on his love. "Is there anything else you need, Drake? Are you cold? Hot? Do you want to try to eat something?"
A sad smile creeped across Draco's face. "Hug?"
Ron returned the smile. "Of course." Gently leaning over the bed, being careful to mind the IV lines, bruises, and delicate skin, Ron lightly squeezed Draco's small, swollen frame, holding him to his chest as gently as a mother holding an infant. Draco sighed happily and rubbed his hand on Ron's back. "Don't...don't be afraid, okay?"
Ron laughed. "Just like you to be more worried about me being scared than your own fool self, Malfoy." Ron pulled back, grinned, and winked. At that, Draco started to laugh, but quickly got dizzy from the effort and leaned back against the pillow, panting. "Well, one of us...has to worry about you...and you seem to...be preoccupied with wor...rying about me." The effort of getting the sentence out drains Draco, and he closes his eyes for a moment, licking his sore lips and grimacing at the feel of the disgusting medicine on them.
As the door to the room opened, both Draco and Ron parroted "Wash your hands!" just as Dr. Chantelle had instructed them to. Draco was, technically in protective isolation, since with the current state of his immune system, a sniffle could kill him. Normally, the nurse, technician, or doctor would just chuckle and say okay, but today a different, yet familiar, pair of voices responded...
"Oy, you're stealing our gimmick!"
Ron turned to the door to see his twin brothers, along with his entire family, standing in the hallway. Mr. Weasley was staring at everything, in seventh heaven surrounded by all the muggle devices, and trying to figure out how the sterile gown was supposed to go on. Mrs. Weasley was carrying a stack of presents, waving happily. Ginny looked nervous, but waved at the boys while peering at things apprehensively. Fred and George, twin looks of mischief on their faces, waved animatedly while taking in the sight, no doubt trying to come up with some prank or idea for a new product. Percy was trying to look dignified, but failing miserably among his family members, while Bill and Charlie managed it much better by just smiling and not fidgeting.
"Mum, Dad, everyone, wha...what are you doing here?" Ron got up to meet his family at the door (and shoo them out...he loved the twins to death, but he was not going to loose his boyfriend to any Skiving Snackbox residue on their clothes!). After he closed the door, Molly shrugged and gave the packages to a still-distracted Arther and gave her youngest son a hug. "Well dear, we couldn't very well leave you up here with no presents or family on Christmas! There's a friend of your dad's from the ministry who has a vacation home here in London, he offered to let us stay here for the holidays so we could see you. After all, tomorrow isn't going to be your usual Christmas, now is it?" She held his head in her hands, smiling that fretting smile that all of her children could recognize in an instance.
"Besides," Ginny said, trying to break the tension, "you can't be trusted not to open your presents early, so we just brought them up." Taking the top ones from the pile her father was holding, she presented them to Ron with a smile that, unbeknownst to Ginny, very much mirrored their mothers. "The rest are for Ma...Draco." Ginny caught herself at the last second, having gleaned from the letter home and owl letters from Harry that Draco was not really the enemy anymore.
Ron took the packages from Ginny, noticing the tell-tale soft paper wrapping on the top one that meant a new sweater, and hugged her. "Thanks Gin. I feel better knowing that you guys are here. I've been over what's going to happen with the doctor, but it's still scary."
Fred and George patted Ron sharply on the back simultaneously, almost sending him sprawling face-first down the hallway. "Don't you worry, little brother, we'll keep you so distracted that you won't have time to be scared!" Fred said, and George continued, "We've got some new items for the shop we thought you'd like to have a look at...no germs in these, we promise!" (At this, Ron breathed a sigh of relief. He knew the twins weren't stupid, but it still made him feel better that they sort of understood.)
"Um...where did Dad go?" Percy said nervously. Looking around, the Weasleys realized that Arthur had vanished, packages and all. "Oh no..." Ron said, and noticed that Draco's door was slightly ajar. "Don't move!" he said, and rushed into the room, squirting the foamy hand cleaner in his hands as he went.
What he saw in the room almost made him laugh with relief. His father was at Draco's bedside, in a backwards sterile gown, three pairs of gloves, mask, face shield, boot covers on his ears, a hair cover over his hat, and a glove over his wand, examining the IV tubing with great interest. "Now, you say that they've got this IP stuff hooked up to your veins? Doesn't it hurt? How do they get it in there without magic? How does it stay?"
Draco was eyeing Mr. Weasley with a look that was part amusement, part confusion, and part sheer terror. His boyfriend's father was in defective PPE, examining the tubes that feed and medicated him and would most certainly HURT LIKE HELL if they came out, and chatting as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. Ron decided to come to the rescue. "Dad, that stuff is kind of delicate, could you not tug on it like that?" Mr. Weasley dropped the tubing that connected Draco to his TPN solution, and muttered a quick apology. "Am I contaminating things? Do I need to leave? I don't want to give him a social infection."
Ron shook his head and laughed. "It's nosocomial, and Dad, I think you're pretty well covered. But it's been a hard day and he's tired, so 20 questions may not be the best thing right now." Sitting next to the bed, Ron patted Draco on the hand. "I'm going to go visit with my parents for a little while, do you need anything before I leave? Do you need me to stay or send in a nurse?"
Draco shook his head. "You go. I'll be okay...but tell the nurse to...send in some ice cream or...something. I've got a little bit...of an appetite now." Smiling, Draco made a shooing motion with his hands and turned to the side, settling down for a nap and some peace and quiet for a few minutes.
Eating in the hospital cafeteria was an adventure for the Weasleys. Ron had gotten used to moving through the lines with the other visitors, staff, and patients, but none of the others had ever eaten in that fashion before. The cashier eyed them strangely as Arthur seemed to have put chocolate pudding on his salad, Fred and George had trays full of nothing but Jello, and Ginny had put creamer in her cereal. Ron rolled his eyes and paid for the meal, thankful that most of his family had figured out the quirks of cafeteria-style ordering after seeing his example.
One thing that made Ron feel better was the fact that, as odd as they were, no one seemed to pay them any mind. Even in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, a parade of redheads drew attention left and right, but on Christmas Eve in the hospital, the room was filled with large families of every shape, size, and color, all there to comfort family members during the holidays. Taking a bite of his baked fish, he even saw a man that looked like a healthy Draco in five years lean over and kiss a sickly looking brunette man on the cheek before feeding him a spoonful of pudding. That got him daydreaming about the day when Draco would be better, and his mind slipped to a happier place.
"Ron did you hear me? I asked, what exactly are they doing to you tomorrow?"
Startled from his reverie about park benches and umbrellas, Ron reoriented himself and looked at Charlie. "Oh, it's supposed to be really simple, they're, you see, they're going to give me some stuff in my blood to make me fall asleep for a while, and they're going to take the insides of my hip bone out and then put it in Draco's blood, where it will start growing in his bones and make him better."
Eight blank stares looked back at him.
"Err, right then, I guess it's not that simple?" Ron said sheepishly. "Dr. Chantelle has explained it to me so many times that I've run out of things to ask."
"Oh, don't worry, we'll give you some more," Bill said, and the family nodded in agreement before exploding with questions and chatter. It took all Ron had to get a few bites in between explaining how hypodermic needles worked and that yes, Mum, I will wake up just fine, it's not permanent sleep.
A few hours later, after his family had been sent off to the London house for the night, Ron tiptoed back into Draco's room, stopping only to wash and sanitize his hands before sitting down at the bedside. Draco had drifted off to sleep while he was gone, but an empty ice cream bowl and pudding cup told Ron that he had, at least, been able to get some food down.
Stirring, Draco opened his eyes as Ron cleaned off the bedside table and put Draco's presents on it. "Hey bright eyes. Those your presents?"
Ron grinned. "Nope. Yours. Mum and the rest couldn't leave you here with no presents, now, could they? Want to open some?"
Draco summoned his strength and sat up in bed. "Sure. Without all those chemo drugs today, I actually have some energy." Reaching for the top one, he hesitated momentarily. "Are any of these from the twins, by any chance?" Ron laughed. "One of them is, but they gave me the same thing and it's completely harmless, I promise. That one on top is from Mum, by the way."
Opening the soft package, Draco tore gingerly through the paper and felt something incredibly soft against his hand. Taking it, he saw that it was a knitted Weasley sweater, in a vivid emerald green, with a delicate script D in shining silver on the front. The sleeves were extra big, for ease of rolling up and fitting over tubing, and it buttoned on the side for easy removal. "Wow," Ron said, admiring it, "Mum outdid herself with that one. How do you like it?"
Draco responded by slipping the sweater over his head and fastening the buttons on the side. "Ahh, it's warm and feels nice. It doesn't itch, either. It's...cozy. Feels like home, only better." Snuggling down, Draco smiled softly, enjoying the feel of something other than the hospital gown or scratchy sheets against his sore skin. Ron stroked his arm through the sweater, drinking in the sight of a relaxed Draco, something he hadn't seen in days. "You know that this means they accept you, right?"
Draco nodded and closed his eyes. "I'm glad. That means that I never have to leave you." Glowing, Draco tried and failed to stifle a yawn.
Ron kissed his closed eyes and pulled the blanket up over him. "I'm glad too. I never plan on leaving you. Goodnight, love. Tomorrow's a big day."
Draco was snoring lightly by the time Ron changed into his own gown and slipped into the hospital bed. Even though he was going to sleep through most of tomorrow, a good night's rest was in order. Before long, both were dreaming happily of each other.
Draco woke up to the sound of hustle and bustle in his room. Opening his eyes, he saw a nurse hanging a bag of reddish-brown stuff on his IV pole, while another nurse cleaned and readied his portacath site for a new insertion. Looking over, he saw that the curtain was drawn around the spot where Ron had slept the night before, and there was a glass partition in between the beds. Instant worry took over. "What's going on? Where's Ron?"
The nurse who had hung the bag looked down at him and smiled through her mask. "You're friend's on the other side of the curtain He's still a little groggy, but he should be able to come see you in about half an hour. You slept all night and all day pretty much, it's almost 8pm. This is his bone marrow here," she said, pointing at the freshly hung bag.
"And let the transplant begin," said the other nurse, starting the flow from the bag into Draco's body. Both nurses stepped back, checked the drip rate, and started to walk away. "W...wait, what happens now? Is someone else coming in? What's going to happen?"
The second nurse blinked. "What's going to happen is over the course of the next hour, that bag is going to go into you. Then we'll come and take it down when it's empty. Welcome to Day Zero."
At that, both nurses walked out.
Draco stared for a moment at the bag, then at his portacath, then back at the drawn curtain and glass partition. "Well, that was anticlimactic." And at that, he sat back and started counting snowflakes outside.
About half an hour later, a hospital-gown clad Ron, wearing a surgical mask and gripping an IV pole, limped through the glass door to Draco's bed. Draco looked over at him and worry immediately marred his features. "Ron, are you alright? Oh Merlin, you look like hell, sit down, lie down, do something!" Draco started to push himself up in bed, but Ron held up his hands. "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm stiff as a broomstick, but I'm fine. The anesthesia just lasted a bit longer than they expected on me." Gingerly taking a seat next to Draco's bed, he took the pale boy's hand in his. "How're you doing? Do you feel sick?"
"Bored is more like it. You'd think that a massively important life-saving treatment would at least be more thrilling than sitting here waiting for your bone marrow to drip into my veins."
Ron looked up at the half-empty bag of bone marrow, and visibly paled. He didn't realize that they had taken so much from him. He could just imagine the pain he was going to be in once the medication wore off...but he shook his head and let that thought fly away. Leaning over, he placed a gentle kiss on Draco's cheek, and whispered, "Happy Christmas, love. How do you like your gift?"
Draco smiled, lifted his head and kissed Ron's lips delicately. "It's the best gift I'll ever get, love. Happy Christmas."
Draco-muse: That was a LONG time coming, what prompted this update?
Jackie: The fact that it is long after the last chapter was posted, people were still leaving positive reviews. It made me realize that nursing school be damned, people like this story and I need to finish it!
RakitWhore: I agree, though, about damn time!
Jackie: I hope you like this new installment, and remember, keep the reviews coming so I don't forget to update again!