HOW THE DARKNESS SOUNDS

A/N: Expect sadness and medical terms and scenes. Facts from various sources on the 'net.

DIAGNOSIS

March 2010

It was another grim day in South Park Colorado. The clouds hung low overhead and the promise of any sun was slim to none. Currently Sharon Marsh was trying to keep herself busy at home by cleaning up the kitchen. It was Wednesday and she was home, left to take care of her nine-year-old son Stanley who had been ill for days now. Not that she was too worried- at least she kept pretending she wasn't. He had gotten a fever hardly two months ago and he had never gotten fevers back-to-back like that before. Plus, it's not as if she had never taken care of him before when he was sick in bed this long. He fell ill as often as the next kid in class, but what was different with her son was the fact that he could grow from bad to worse in the matter of an hour, no matter what he was ill with. She could still remember how quickly he deteriorated after catching Chicken Pox last year. She defiantly had to make sure he did not grow any worse without her immediate knowledge. She checked the time on the microwave; 12:20, time for lunch. Sighing, she turned on a burner on the stove and began to make some soup, hoping Stan would be hungry for it this time.

Ten minutes later, she knocked on the door to his bedroom and stepped in.

"Stanley honey, I just made lunch."

Stan parted his eyes open.

Sharon caressed his warm face. "Sweetie? Are you hungry?"

Stan moaned and rubbed his eyes. "No."

Sharon frowned. "Stan, you have barely eaten anything since Sunday. You even turned down home-made cookies. Are you okay?"

Stan opened his eyes wider to look at his mother. "No, I haven't been since Sunday."

Sharon stroked his cheek again. "Are you still hurting?"

Stan barely nodded. "My head still hurts and my legs. My whole body does Mom."

Sharon sighed. "I don't know what it is; I don't think you have the flu. You got a flu shot last November. You shouldn't be sick now…"

Stan coughed and sniffed.

"I don't know if we can wait until Friday for your doctor's appointment hon. I'm afraid you're only going to get worse."

Stan closed his eyes. "I just wanna try to sleep now…"

Sharon got back to her feet. "I know you do dear but I want you to eat something. C'mon, only a little bit. After you can have a Pediarite pop. Okay? Stan…?"

Stan moaned as his mother moved him out of the comfortable confines of his bed. She then noticed his pajama top wet with sweat and being under blankets. She went to get a new one and helped him out of the old one. She frowned when she noticed a curious bluish mark on his arm.

"Sweetie, how did you get this bruise?"

"Huh?" Stan looked at his arm and frowned. "I dunno, I never saw it before."

Sharon looked at it for a moment before giving him the dry shirt. "I'm sure it's nothing. C'mon, let's get you some fluids…"

After eating half the tomato soup, Stan was given a special pediatric frozen pop to help with his dehydration before going back to bed. Little happened leading up to his doctor's appointment that Friday. Kyle had come over all week to drop off homework and to see how he was doing. He was a bit worried that Friday afternoon when he saw that Stan had not gotten any better.

"Damn dude, what's wrong with you?" he asked.

Stan shrugged as he sat up in bed.

"You look paler than paper."

Stan sighed as he rubbed his cold feet. "For once I just want to go back to school. I don't want to feel like this anymore."

At that moment Sharon walked in. "Sorry to cut your visit short Kyle but Stan has a doctor's appointment in a half hour. You should start getting ready Stanley."

Kyle helped Stan into jeans, a shirt, his jacket, and shoes before they had to leave.

"I'll visit later then okay dude?" Kyle told his friend. "See ya Stan."

Ten minutes later Stan was sitting in the pediatrician's office with his mom, tired and legs hurting. He tried to distract himself during the wait by playing with his mom's iphone but it wasn't distraction enough. He was sick of feeling well, sick, and just wanted to run around and have fun with his friends again. The door leading to the examination rooms opened and a nurse stepped out.

"Stanley?"

Considering there were two girls in the office and the other boy there didn't look up, Stan stood and he and Sharon followed the older woman behind the door. The nurse looked at the file in her hand before turning to Stan.

"Okay Stanley, why don't you take off your shoes and stand on the scale here for me."

She indicated a scale outside an exam room. Stan did as he was told, taking his hat and jacket off as well for a more accurate weight before the nurse took in his height. The nurse hummed as she wrote down the results.

"Do you know how much he weighed during his last weigh-in?" she asked Sharon.

"Oh dear, what was it? I don't know about last weigh-in but I had him weigh himself last night and he was 61.8," Sharon told her.

"Okay. That's what I'm getting right now. I'm sure Dr. Davies will know how much he weighed last time. Why don't we go in here you two?" she nodded to the door by the scale.

The nurse took in Stan's blood pressure, pulse, and temperature before leaving. Stan once again played with his mom's iphone. Popping digital bubble wrap was a bit boring but it took his mind off of waiting. Ten minutes later a man in his late 20s with brown hair and glasses walked in with a smile.

"Hey there Stan, how are you today?" he shook the boy's hand.

Stan sighed. "I feel like crap."

"Aww man, I don't like hearing that." He turned to Sharon. "And how are you doing today Mrs. Marsh?"

Sharon sighed with a nervous grin, happy as she always was in knowing she had found the perfect doctor for her son months ago. "Like Stanley, I've been better. I just hope you find out what's wrong with him."

The man took out his own file and clicked a pen.

"Can you describe to me your symptoms Stan?"

Stan drew in a breath. "I've had a fever all week pretty much. My legs hurt too, and sometimes my back and arms. I've had a headache days ago. Also… well, it's kinda weird but I found a few bruises on my arms and I can't remember how I got them."

"Bruises? Let me see…"

Stan took off his jacket and rolled a sleeve up to show the doctor. Dr. Davies looked at the forearm where two bluish marks sat for a minute before stepping back.

"I'll be sure to look into that. And according to what Nurse Brenda wrote down here, you lost a few pounds since I last saw you."

Stan could only shrug.

The man put his glasses further up his nose. "How long have you been sick son?"

"Sunday."

"And nothing you've been doing has been helping?" he looked to both mother and son for this. They both shook their heads. He rubbed his chin. "Let's not get too concerned just yet; I'm sure it's just a minor infection. Well let's begin; let me take your temp champ…"

The doctor did so, as well as checked his breathing and heartbeat, looked into his ears, throat, and felt his stomach and throat. That's when he frowned. Sharon didn't miss a beat.

"What is it?" she asked.

"His lymph nodes appear a bit swollen… and I don't want to worry you but these bruises on his arm are making me a bit curious as well."

"I'm not dying am I?" Stan asked bluntly.

Dr. Davies chuckled. "Don't worry Stan, you aren't dying. But some of his symptoms have me a bit concerned… you know what? I'd like have some blood drawn from him. A lot of the times the answers you're looking for are hidden in blood cells."

"Aw-awww!" Stan moaned. "I hate needles."

Dr. Davies cocked a half-grin. "I know champ but it'll help me find out what's wrong with you. As soon as I do you'll be that much closer to a diagnosis and feeling better!"

Stan just crossed his arms; no one could ever sweet talk their way out of a needle touching him. No one. So Stan went back in the waiting room before being called back in and led into another room by a different nurse to have blood drawn. He fidgeted nervously as the nurse tied a tourniquet above his elbow and swabbed at the inside of it. Stan gave his mother a knowing look and sighing, she placed a hand on his shoulder for comfort. She had been comforting him, or trying to at least, all his life when it came to needles.

"Don't worry sweetie, we'll be home soon," Sharon reminded him.

Stan had to worry- the damn nurse took two vials of blood before she was through and his right arm now stung. And why did his doctor need two vials? It was usually always one. The extra vial of blood made him slightly nervous something really might be wrong with him. He wasted no time voicing his concern to Dr. Davies when they met up again in the exam room.

"Don't worry Stan; I am sure it is nothing serious like- cancer. I just want to be extra sure when I go over the results. I promise you you'll be okay," the man reassured him.

Dr. Davies was set out on thinking Stan may have just a cause of influenza and told the Marshes he would call with the results from his blood work in less than a week. Both Stan and Sharon were thinking the same thing; they did not want to wait any longer than they already had to find out what was wrong with him. Until then, Stan was prescribed some pills that should have helped with his symptoms and sent him on his way. The next three days were tedious. Sharon forced Stan to go to school that Monday for fear he may already be very behind after missing a full week. His fever was down so she felt safe he wouldn't get other children sick. But it was difficult to pay attention to Mr. Garrison's lessons with a constant headache. And he didn't want to do much during recess for his legs still ached. He was only too grateful when his mother picked him up from school.

The first thing Stan noticed on his mother's face was a troubled frown.

"Mom?" he said carefully.

"How was school Stanley? Boys?" she looked to the back seat where Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny were sitting.

"Okay. The math test was easy," Kyle passed off.

"Mom?" Stan said again, looking up at his mother.

Sharon sighed. "I got a phone call from Dr. Davies' office an hour ago."

Stan blinked. "…and?"

"Well, they found something interesting in your blood work. I-I don't know what it is but I'm going to give them a call when we get home. Dr. Davies will tell us what to do next."

Stan shifted in the front seat. "Okay then…"

Sharon turned around to face the boys. "I'm sorry but I think it's best I just drop you boys off home today. This is very important and I need concentration talking to Stan's doctor."

"Yeah, of course," Kyle said instantly.

"That's bullcrap," Cartman crossed his arms. Kyle hit him.

After Sharon dropped the boys off at home, she immediately phoned Dr. Davies' office to speak with him. Stan sat at the round breakfast table in the kitchen, hardly touching his after-school snack as his mother walked up and down the floor with the doctor.

"Okay, so what does that mean?" she finally took a seat across from her son. She moved her foot in circles anxiously. "All right. What does that mean then?"

Stan looked down at his cheese and crackers. What was it they were discussing?

Sharon rubbed her eyes. "So if that's the case, what do we have to do next? I see. A what-? Oh no... what is that exactly? A-huh... okay...Oh dear… oh I don't know… I don't know Dr. Davies, that's asking a lot and you know it…" she glanced at her son.

"What? What Mom?" Stan almost leapt from his chair in nerves and curiosity.

Sharon just continued to listen on the phone. She nodded a few more times and said a few more 'ah-huhs' before looking defeated. "Okay, if you think it's for the best. Okay. Anytime, it doesn't matter, I just want him to feel better. When? Yes, that's fine. Okay, okay, good-bye."

"What did he say Mom?" Stan immediately asked.

Sharon set the phone aside. "Dr. Davies doesn't like what he's seeing in your blood tests Stanley. He ordered for another round of testing at the hospital. He wants a Complete Blood Count or something done on you as well as something called a Blood Smear."

Stan licked dry lips. "What- what does that mean?"

"You're going to have to have more blood drawn sweetie, I'm sorry."

"That's not fair! I don't want to! When do I have to have it done?" Stan moaned.

"Tomorrow morning."

"And at the hospital?"

"Yes, they're better equipped to look over your test results and come up with a define answer." Sharon studied her son's worried face. She took his hand. "Don't worry sweetie, I'm sure it's nothing serious. You have nothing to be afraid of."

"Yeah I do. I never had to have so much blood drawn for anything."

Sharon sighed. "I know honey. I wish I could do something about it. But I'm sure there won't be any more testing after tomorrow."

It was difficult for Sharon to pull her son out of bed the next morning for more blood work instead of going to school. But she called the school to reassure them he would be back right after, he just couldn't miss anymore class time. So Stan was called in by a nurse at Hell's Pass Hospital and this time had to hold out his left arm on the chair. He twitched when he saw the chubby black lady take out the butterfly needle.

"Mom…" he said softly, looking for her head.

Sharon held onto his shoulder like she did four days ago. She wished her son didn't have an almost phobia of needles. She couldn't be holding his hand when he was seventeen. Stan made tiny gasps from the unpleasantness of the needle going under his skin and two more vials of blood being taken from him. What was wrong with him? He was taken back to school right after; being told results would come in by the end of the week. It was another long waiting game for the Marshes.

Thursday evening, all four boys were gathered at Stan's house playing video games after school. Sharon had taken the rest of the week off; she wanted to be home in case anything happened. That's when the phone rang.

"Oh, hello Dr. Davies," she greeted.

Stan's stomach dropped- what was he going to tell her?

"Dude, are you paying attention or not?" Cartman called at Stan, indicating the video game.

"I- wait…"

"Ha! I just killed you Stan! Hahaha!" Cartman laughed at the TV screen.

"Stan's doctor is on the phone fatass! This is important!" Kyle told him.

"Oh? Seeing whether or not you have AIDS Stan?"

"Shhh!" Stan hissed, trying to eavesdrop. It was unusually quiet in the kitchen. Stan didn't know whether or not this was a good thing. He could only hear a few agreement sounds coming from his mother. Almost twenty minutes had passed, then thirty. Why was this such a long phone conversation? Stan was feeling very on-edge now. Finally the sound of the phone being placed on the receiver was heard. Stan expected his mom to come straight out but she did not. Having enough of this, he got off the couch to see what was up.

"Mom? What- what did the doctor say?" Stan asked carefully.

Sharon turned to face him, tears were in her eyes. She sniffed and went into the living room. "Boys- boys, I'm sorry but you're going to have to leave."

"Leave? Awww, c'mon, my stupid cousin has my X-box!" Cartman complained.

"I'm sorry boys but you have to. I need to speak with Stan alone."

The air that hung above them all was very thick with worry and anticipation.

"O-kay Mrs. Marsh. No problem…" Kyle trailed and turned off the game.

Stan looked at his friends helplessly before they went out the door. He immediately turned around to his mother.

"Mom, you're scaring me. What is it? What do I have?"

Sharon didn't answer right away. "I want to call your father first, he needs to know too."

"No- just tell me now. It's my body. It's my doctor. I need to know what is wrong!" Stan cried.

"I- I don't know what's wrong. He thinks- let me call your dad," Sharon struggled to say. She picked the phone back up and called Randy at work. "Randy, you have to come home now. Stan's pediatrician just called and he- well he said some things that we really need to go over. Yes now Randy!" she hung the phone back up. Stan blinked innocent blue eyes at her. She stroked his face lovingly. "I love you baby."

Stan's brows met in the middle. This was not the time to be saying those things. It only made him more suspicious. Five minutes later the door opened and Shelley walked in. Sharon gasped at seeing her daughter.

"Oh good, you're home! Shelley, Dr. Davies just called. We need to have a family talk about what he said okay? Your dad will be here soon."

Shelley glanced at her little brother. To not appear too concerned she went into the kitchen to make herself a snack. Randy came by ten minutes after. The family sat down at the round breakfast table, kids on one side, parents on the other.

"What did he say?" Stan immediately asked.

Sharon drew in a steady breath. "He said he doesn't like the results of all of Stan's blood work. It's making him worried. He- he said the results from the Complete Blood Count was- abnormal. He has abnormal cells."

Stan blinked. "Well what does that mean?"

"Cells are overcrowding in his blood," Sharon continued as if her son hadn't spoken. "Taking that into account, as well as his lymph nodes… they were swollen when he examined him a week ago. That and the reoccurring fever, the pains, the headaches, and the bruises that he couldn't find any source for… they think- well, he thinks he may have- have"- Sharon couldn't go on.

"What Mom?" Stan's eyes were glassing over too.

"Sharon, tell us," Randy took her hand.

Sharon let out a sob. "He says he might have… he could have- c-cancer."

The room was dangerously silent.

"Sharon… no," was all Randy could say.

Sharon nodded, eyes shut tight, dripping. "And- and the type he think it- it may be is- is leukemia. Some-something about cancer of the blood…He- he didn't- didn't say it was official. It could be something e-else. But he said we have to-to take it into account. It's high of a poss- possibility," she barely managed to get out.

"No," Randy gasped again.

Stan looked very confused now. Shelley looked at her family, not quite knowing how to feel.

"They- they want to run a few more tests to be sure," Sharon said, slightly stronger. "He has an appointment in two days at the hospital. He's going to have to have a- a bone m-marrow aspirate and biopsy."

Stan gulped, those things didn't sound pleasant…

"Oh Randy what are we going to do?" Sharon cried.

"I- I'm not sure Sharon. I don't know if there's anything we can do but wait." He looked as if someone had slapped him across the face. "Nothing to do but wait for the results."

"What's- what's a bone marrow aspa-thingy?" Stan asked softly.

Sharon sniffed and blew her nose. She touched his face. "Oh Stanley… oh my baby boy…" she took him in her arms and just cried. Stan, still half-confused and half—frightened didn't know what to do. He just wrapped his arms back and softly began to cry as well. Randy joined in. Shelley, as to not appear too rude, stood next to her mother before she was pulled into the hug as well.

It took a while before they let go. All four were in deep, deep shock. Randy had to get up and go outside- beer in hand. He couldn't think right now. Stan let go of his mother and blew his nose.

"M-Mom, what's a bone aspate or whatever? And biopsy?"

Sharon drew in a shaky breath. "I don't really know to tell you the truth sweetie. Do you want to look it up together?"

"May-maybe later." He coughed and wiped his nose. "Mom, I'm scared."

Sharon hugged him again. "I know baby, I am too. But don't worry, whatever happens, if you have it or not, I'm going to be by your side the entire time, okay? No matter what happens, we'll get through it."

"I'm really scared though."

She just held onto him as if he were five. "I know Stanley, Mommy's terrified herself." She sniffed and pushed the damp bangs from her eyes. "This… this calls for a special dinner tonight. A special treat. Who's up for make-your-own pizza night?"

Shelley and Stan both whooped. Sharon got to her feet. "And after, we can make sundaes. I'll go out to the store and pick up ice cream and candy and all the fixings. How does that sound? And maybe a movie, a movie night on a Thursday sounds fun doesn't it?"

Her children both smiled and nodded.

"I want to watch Finding Nemo," Stan suggested.

"Well I want to watch"- Shelley stopped and glanced at Stan. "…I want to watch Finding Nemo too."

Sharon smiled. "Finding Nemo it is."

Even with the recent news that Stan may be diagnosed with a form of cancer; the family did their best that night to put it out of their minds. They each made their own mini pizzas and their own sundaes and watched Stan's movie pick. Even Stan who was close to impossible to distract had a fun time and laughed plenty with his family that night. Only when he returned to school the next day did he remember what he was told yesterday in the first place.

"Dude, what happened yesterday?" was the first words out of Kyle's mouth when he saw him in the front of the school.

Stan's lips parted and he looked down. "Oh, that."

"What happened?" Kyle repeated.

Stan didn't look at his friends. "I- I might have leukemia."

He could have sworn all sound turned off at that moment. Finally-

"You've got to be shitting me," Cartman blurted.

Stan sighed. "No. it's true. Apparently I have a large amount of abnormal cells or something in my blood and it doesn't look right."

"Leukemia? Stan, no. I don't want to believe it. I can't believe it. Wha-what the fuck?" Kyle's eyes were wide with concern.

"It's not official but it's a high possibility."

"No! It can't be! Goddamnit, no!"

Stan could only shrug at his best friend's reaction.

"Holy shit Stan…what- what are you going to do? What- how will you know for sure?" Kyle asked.

"I have to have a couple more tests done tomorrow. After that… I may have an answer."

A few minutes passed.

"Stan…you, you must be terrified," Kyle noted.

Stan sniffed. "I am. But I don't wanna totally freak until I'm diagnosed with something. I don't think I have it, I don't think I'm that sick. I'm sure I have something less serious."

"Do you really think so Stan?"

Stan shrugged. "I want to. C'mon, I don't want to be late and my legs are hurting again."

Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny followed after their friend, in complete disbelief about what they just heard. There was no way it could be true. Stan was right, it must be something else. The unofficial leader of their group couldn't be that sick. Trying not to think of their very sick friend the boys played as normally as they could at his house after school. Thank goodness Sharon didn't get a phone call from the doctor and told them they had to leave again. Once they were over they decided to look up what it meant to have a bone aspiration and biopsy on his computer. Kyle raised a brow when he began to read.

"Shit dude, you aren't going to like this…"

"What?" Stan asked worriedly.

The skin over the aspiration site will be cleaned with a special solution and a local anesthetic will be used to numb the area. Then the aspiration needle will be put through your skin and into your bone to reach the bone marrow-

Stan couldn't go on, he felt queasy just with those two sentences. His friends decided it best not to tell him anymore. That night Sharon took extra measure to make sure Stan was comfortable in bed. He was very tense.

"Sweetie? What's wrong?" she asked sitting on the bed.

"I found out what a bone marrow as'pration and biopsy is."

Sharon blinked. "Oh?"

"They're- they're going to shove a needle in my hip Mom! Two of them! Wait, three including the numbing stuff!" he cried.

"Oh dear…" Sharon took hold of his hand; no doubt he was going to get very little sleep tonight.

The next morning had Stan sitting on a bench with his mother in a waiting area by some exam rooms. He was dressed in a hospital gown and shoes were off exposing his white socks. He was too nervous to do much but twitch at every sound he heard. The doors ahead of them opened and Dr. Davies stepped out.

"Okay Stan, ready for you now."

Stan got to his feet shakily.

"Don't worry, Mom's allowed inside too," Dr. Davies smiled.

Stan shook as he sat on the table. He glanced behind him and saw a table set out with instruments ready to be used, just like at the dentist. He shook worse.

"How are you doing today champ?" the man asked. Stan then noticed an assistant was with him.

"I am so scared," Stan admitted, holding onto his toes.

"Aww, I know you don't like needles. Don't worry too much though Stan; you won't feel the needles for the aspiration and biopsy going in after I numb the spot up."

Stan was always a little suspicious of adults. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. But I won't lie, it might sting a bit once it hits the bone. You might feel some pressure as I twist it and"-

"Please, I don't wanna know anything else," Stan moaned.

Dr. Davies nodded knowingly. "Did you eat any breakfast today Stan?"

"No," he admitted.

"Just not hungry or what…?"

"Not hungry. And was too nervous to eat."

"Well you better start putting some weight on soon son. All right, let me have you lie on your front now."

Sharon had to practically force her son to lie on his stomach and keep straight. He felt his gown being untied by the assistant and a sheet placed over his buttocks for some privacy. Sharon held onto his hand as a spot over his hip bone was cleaned and injected with numbing solution.

"Owww… it already hurts," Stan hissed.

Things did not go anymore smoothly. As scared as he was he kept shooting glances behind him and flipped when he saw Dr. Davies pull out a tool with a long needle at the end. The twisting of the metal going into his bone was one of the worst things he had ever experienced and when it came time for the biopsy, he lost it.

"Ahh! It hurts! Mooommy… it hurts," he cried.

"Don't look Stanley, shhh… I'm right here," Sharon rubbed his hands that were holding onto hers like a lifeline, although it was taking a lot for her to keep calm when she saw just how painful the tests were herself.

He could hear crunching sounds as the larger needle for the biopsy took its sample. He began making gagging noises and spit up the little he had in his stomach. Fifteen minutes of torture and he was finally over. He was instructed to lie on his back for ten minutes to add pressure to the site and stop the bleeding.

"It's all over champ, all over!" Dr. Davies said brightly.

Stan sniffed as he let his last tears fall.

"I just wanna go home," he said breathing uneven.

Sharon kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, "I'll let you pick out anything you want at the toy store after this okay honey?"

Stan wiped at his face and nodded. After fifteen minutes another bandage was placed at the injection site and he was free to go. Results would come in one to seven days, which only meant more grueling uncertainty for the family. But Stan was able to get his mind off it a little by getting a sweet new Batman Dark Knight Action figure and Wild Gorilla toy from Toyland. Now they just had to wait…

Three days had passed and the Marshes got a call from Dr. Davies telling them to meet him in his office to go over the results. This was it, time to find out what it was that Stan was sick with. Sharon, Randy, Stan, and Shelley sat in the small office as the young doctor looked at a file in front of him. He sighed as he looked up at them.

"Well, we do have a diagnosis for Stanley here," he began.

"Oh Randy, this is it," Sharon whispered, squeezing her husband's hand.

"Based off of all the results from my examination of him, his blood work, the aspiration and biopsy, there really is only one thing it could be, and- I'm afraid you aren't going to like it," he said grimly.

Stan looked at the man worriedly.

"I really wish I wasn't the one to tell you this; I am deeply sorry to say that your son has Acute Lymphocytic Leukimia."

As you can tell this story is going to be a bit different than the rest. Each chapter will be in Kyle, Sharon, Stan's, or another character's point of view. It may not be as humorous as other fics but I hope you stick around and like it just as much. Please do review!

Lots of love: Rose, December 2nd, 2010