Past

"Robbie?" his mother's voice called from the sitting room, drawing the name out a beat too long. In the entrance hall, one Robert Chase groaned inwardly as he turned to pull the door shut behind him. Of all the days – "S'tha-t'you?"

He took a deep breath, trying to summon up the will to answer. For a moment, he let his forehead rest against the warmth of the window glass, eyes slipping shut against the sick throbbing at the back of his skull that sent shockwaves of nausea rolling downwards through his body, against the exhaustion that permeated every cell and made his muscles tremble and ache with the effort of holding himself upright. He shivered. The great house felt cold and airless, despite the sunny December heat.

"Robbie?" she called again, too loudly.

"Yeah, mum," he called back, more quietly, carefully steadying his voice. "It's just me."

He let his book bag fall off his shoulder to land on the bench by the door, but it missed its mark by half and upended, its heavy contents spilling out all over the floor with an offensive crash. Giving a disgusted sigh, he bent to tidy the mess, but leaning over made his back scream and the room spin and he had to brace his arm against the wall to hold himself steady. He really didn't feel well, he really didn't. The mess would have to wait.

He'd made it through the day by secretly entertaining the fantasy of coming home, dropping everything, going back to bed and just never having to get up again for anything, ever. Of course, in his daydream, his mother had felt his forehead for fever, maybe fawned a bit – he'd settle for a hug, even if it was a bit on the pathetic side for a teenaged boy to be pining for a hug from his mum all day – and she definitely hadn't been drunk. So much for that, then.

He paused at the sitting room threshold, slumping against the doorframe. His mother was facing away from him, laid out on a couch, glass in hand. The words 'a bit early, isn't it?' came to mind, but the harsh cough that caught at the back of his throat stifled them against his fist - a good thing, really. He didn't want to fight.

"Didn't you go out today?" he asked instead, when he'd caught his breath.

His mother looked up, blearily, then dropped her gaze back to her glass. "No, no, I didn't feel like it." She was slurring badly already, at four o'clock. "You know I haven't been feeling well, Robbie. You know that, right? I just haven't been feeling well."

She couldn't see him, but he nodded anyway, his head throbbing in time. "I know."

"Atta boy. You go on, then. I need to rest."

He couldn't help his tired sigh, and then had to bite back the urge to cough before he could speak again, one hand pressed hard against his chest. "Yeah," he answered, finally, not amused by the irony in his saying "Feel better, mum."

Drudgingly, he made his way up the staircase, holding on to the promise of a warm, soft bed. God, he felt like shit. Oh, God. He paused in the bathroom, clumsily grabbing a bottle of Tylenol and a glass of water. Then he sequestered himself in his room, closing the door gratefully. If nothing else, he had the promise of not having to move for the rest of the day. He didn't make dinner, and neither did his mother, but he figured that neither of them would have wanted it, so that worked out just fine, really. He was alright – alone and shivering under his bedcovers, fighting a wracking cough, a fierce headache, and the occasional threatening tear. He was just fine.