Takes place following "Tears Are Not Enough". An exploration of the anxieties faced by Craig as he attempts to figure out his place in the Jeremiah family.
"Craig? Craig!" Joey's voice drifted up the stairs to him, dragging him out of the restless slumber he had finally managed to achieve only minutes earlier.
Forcing himself upright, the teen futily tried to stop the room from spinning. Holding his head with both hands, he desperately attempted to stop the cough from overtaking him. Quickly burying his face in his pillow, he muffled the sound his tormented body wouldn't stop making. He finally managed to achieve a state of stability long enough to reply to his guardian's incessant demands for his attention. "Yeah, Joey?"
"Come down here, Craig." Joey's voice once again drifted up to him, making the one request the teen had desperately hoped to avoid having to fulfill.
Pulling himself to his feet, the boy did his best to compose himself. Taking a quick look at himself in the mirror, he was relieved to see that he didn't look nearly as bad as he was feeling. Briefly rubbing his neck, attempting to get the lingering stiffness out, he finally turned towards the door. Joey probably wouldn't even notice the slightly pink flush in his cheeks. All he had to do was keep himself pulled together in front of the man, and everything would be fine. That, and hold in the persistent, hollow cough that seemed to be consuming him lately.
Dragging himself to the top of the stairs, he took in a deep breath and did his best to act healthy.
Looking up from his daughter as the teen finally emerged from the second floor, Joey smiled up briefly at the boy before addressing him. "I have a potential client coming in this evening, so I'm gonna be pretty late tonight, Craig. I need you to pick up Ang after school. I left a roast in the freezer for you guys."
When the teen failed to respond, the man once again looked up at him. "Craig?"
"Huh?" The boy answered, trying desperately to keep his body under control as the man temporarily scrutinized him.
his guardian to no end. The teen's lack of responsibility was really
starting to irritate the man. "This is important, Craig. I need to know
you'll look after Ang."
"Sure, Joey." Craig replied. "Pick her up, roast in the freezer. No problem."
"Are you alright?" Joey questioned, noticing the boy's slightly off demeanor.
Mildly panicked, the teen responded quickly. "Yeah. I'm fine."
Meeting the boy's eyes briefly, Joey shook off the feeling that something wasn't quite right. "Hurry up and get around, then. You're going to be late for school."
"Right." Craig replied, turning towards the stairs, grateful for the reprieve.
The man watched him go for a moment, before calling after him. "I'll see you tonight."
"Sure." The boy replied, slipping out of view. "See you later."
Throwing the door shut behind him, he once again buried his head in his pillow as another round of coughs overtook him. Pushing himself up once more, he found himself making two wishes simultaneously. One that Joey had not heard. And two, that the annoying cold would soon be gone.
Fiddling uselessly with his combination, Craig actually found himself wishing for the day to start soon. As a short round of coughs briefly required his attention, he clutched to his locker for support. At least when class started, he would be able to sit down. Rubbing the back of his neck futily, he once again attempted to focus on the combination.
"Hey, man." Sean's voice quickly pulled his attention away from the combo, however. Looking over at his friend, the teen didn't even bother to attempt a smile.
"I so don't get you." Sean addressed him, immediately taking in his appearance.
"Huh?" Craig stared at him, too tired to even look annoyed.
Providing a half-smirk, Sean spoke up. "You look like crap, man. You have for days now. Why don't you take a day off?"
"Take a day off." Craig scoffed, turning back to his locked. "Right."
"Seriously, Craig. You look awful. Why didn't you stay home?" The dirty blonde questioned.
As his locker finally opened, the teen looked over at his friend, casting him a sideways glance. "Things are tense there, Sean. Joey's been working all the time, the place is a disaster area and Ang is really testy."
"So?" Sean replied, not getting the correlation.
was quick to explain it too him, though. "So Joey's already at his
limit, man. It's not exactly the best time to be adding to his
As a fresh wave of coughs nearly crippled his friend, Sean looked over his shoulder to share a confused glance with the obviously eavesdropping Emma.
Taking the exchanged glance as an invitation to join the conversation, the girl boldly walked over and addressed her clearly ill friend. "Craig, Joey has to know you're sick. He's not stupid."
"He's been distracted lately." Craig finally responded, pulling himself together once more as he drug out his text and a binder.
Sean almost laughed at that. "No one can be that distracted. You've sounded like death for, like, the last week."
Shrugging, the taller boy looked down at his concerned friends. "Like I said, things are crazy now."
"So then you better tell him, Craig." Emma piped up once more. "You need to be in bed, at the least."
"Look, guys, I appreciate the concern. I really do. But I told you, I'm not bugging Joey with this." As the bell rang, he found himself glad for the reprieve. "We're gonna be late."
As the bell rang and the rest of the class made their way out of the room, Snake sighed at the unmoving figure sacked out at his desk. Normally the teacher wouldn't tolerate sleeping in his class. But this was not a normal case. In the face of his prompts for the boy to admit he was under the weather, Craig had flatly denied any discomfort. As the week wore on, it was apparent to everyone around him that the boy wasn't exactly getting any better. Why on earth Joey had continued to let the kid attend classes was beyond him.
He would have to give the salesman a call and see what was going on with him. He knew Joey had been pushed to his limit lately, but this sort of neglect was not something he would have ever expected from his lifelong friend.
That could wait until late, though. Right now, he needed to deal with Craig. Enough was enough. Shaking the boy's shoulder gently, Snake was startled by how quickly the teen jumped.
Looking around groggily, Craig soon realized where he was. He held in a
groan as he looked up at the concerned face of his teacher. "Mr.
Simpson, I'm sorry. I guess I didn't get to sleep early enough last
night, I promise it won't happen again."
"Come on, Craig." The man demanded, not even acknowledging the obviously fabricated excuse.
Great, all he needed was to get in trouble. And with Mr. Simpson, no less. Joey was going to kill him. He attempted to plead for mercy. "Mr. Simpson, I'm really sorry. I swear I won't sleep in your class again."
"I'm taking you to the nurse, Craig." The teacher told him soothingly, realizing the kid had mistaken his destination for the principal's office.
Unfortunately, however, Craig dreaded that location as
much as the one he had assumed he was headed for. "I'm okay, Mr.
Simpson. Really I don't need to..."
When the teen's pleas were interrupted by an ill-timed fit of coughs, he knew he wasn't going to win the argument. Regaining his composure once more, he looked up at the teacher. "I can get there myself. Really. You better get back to your next class."
"School's over, Craig." Simpson responded flatly, continuing to guide the reluctant teen through the hallways.
How on earth he had forgotten Simpson was his last class was beyond the boy. But it did give him hope for a reprieve. "I'll just go home, Mr. Simpson."
"Right." Snake replied.
"I've gotta pick up Ang." He told the man desperately.
The teacher wasn't having it, though. "I'll send Emma over to get her."
"You don't have to. Really. I'll be fine. I just need some sleep." Craig once again attempted to escape.
"Uh huh." The man replied appeasingly, pushing the door to the infirmary open. Guiding the teen over to one of the sterile-looking white-sheeted beds, he turned his attention to the nurse looking over at the pair curiously.
Glancing through the window at the apparently sleeping teen, Snake turned his attention back to the nurse as she once again set down the phone receiver. "Well?"
"I can't get a hold of Mr. Jeremiah. Or his first emergency contact." The nurse told him quietly. "And I'm really not liking how he's looking, Arch. That cough. His high fever. He really ought to get some medical attention."
"So what should we do?" Simpson questioned, once again turning to gaze at the peaceful looking teen.
The nurse smiled slightly at the question. "I contact the second emergency contact. Suggest he take Craig down to the ER."
"Sounds good." The man replied, nodding slightly at the suggestion. Then he looked over at the woman, as she continued to watch him, an unreadable look on her face. "What?"
"Consider yourself contacted." She smiled brightly.
He looked over at her, stunned. "Me?"
"I can show you the contact list if you like." She told him flatly.
"Never mind." The teacher replied, mentally preparing himself for the battle that lay ahead as he made his way over to deal with the slumbering teen.
Attempting to answer questions about the life history of a kid he barely knew, Snake quickly gave up on the forms and turned his attention to the pouty boy on his left. Slumped down in his chair, the teen was looking sick, tired and angry. Very angry.
Walking down the hallway to the payphone, he once again attempted to get Joey Jeremiah on the line. This was his sick, moody teen to deal with.
As he sat in the small exam area, wishing desperately for someone else to enter the space and break the tense silence hanging in the air, the man finally decided it was time to attempt a conversation at the least. "So why don't you want to admit you're sick?"
The teen blinked up at the man, startled by the bluntness of the question. So startled, in fact, that he actually answered honestly before he could think better of it. "Bad timing."
"Why?" The teacher pressed, curiosity peeking at the unexpected response.
Craig shrugged sullenly. "Ang's been crappy lately. Needing lots of attention. Things have been busy down at the lot. It's hectic. This isn't what I need to top it off."
"This isn't what you need or what Joey needs?" Simpson pressed, beginning to get a better idea of the problem.
"Both." The teen told him, pausing to let out another round of harrowing coughs. "Things are tense. You can only expect so much charity from one guy."
"Charity?" The man pressed, now more concerned for his friend's faltering family life then ever. "What does you getting sick have to do with charity?"
"Like I said, things are rough." Craig replied, leaning back against the gurney as he spoke. "Paying my way on top of his and Ang's is enough a burden. I was hoping to avoid pushing his limits and making him deal with this."
The man had no idea what to say in response. Fortunately, an orderly's entrance granted him a temporary reprieve.
He might not know what to say to the teen to ease his fears. But he did know who was needed to eliminate those fears all together. As the teen was wheeled away, he once again made his way to the phone, now more determined than ever to get good ol' Jeremiah on the line.