Chapter 2

Stag – healing (from the Language of Animals)

It takes them time to get to the infirmary.

There are more Gnomes than Ian had anticipated and later, he has to remember to thank Ray for the overwhelming help. The kid is a born fighter, and his attitude almost makes it seem like he enjoys it. In another life, Ian, maybe, would have found some kind of joy in winning so many fights. But he isn't quick-tempered anymore. Fenton isn't that bad either, though he is more of an alarm system than a throw down man. At least the group knows when someone is coming.

Ray bursts into the infirmary, eyes sweeping, hands raised ready for a fight.

Ian crosses the threshold next, gripping CJ who has gone somewhat weak in his hold.

"Nurse!" He yells desperately. "Nurse!"

But the place is deserted. There is no one.

"Archer," Fenton waves at him from beside a bed, "put her here."

With one motion, Ian bends down and grabs CJ's legs behind the knee, lifting her into his arms. He feels her stiffen but she doesn't protest.

"My hero," she mumbles into his chest as he sets her down delicately on the bed.

"I'm no hero Ceej," he shakes his head with a miserable smile. "If I were, this wouldn't have happened."

Fenton studies the blood-soaked sweatshirt tied around CJ's stomach, face grim. "She shouldn't have been walking…" he mutters to himself.

Ian's preflex kicks in moments before CJ's eyes grown wide in warning. Spinning, he catches the oncoming fist of Jenni Peasley. The blond squeaks seconds later with realization. "I'm sorry!" She whispers, "I thought—I thought—well, I guess I didn't know what I thought."

"What are you doing down here?" Fenton asks. "We were told to return to our dorms."

Jenni regards him curiously. "I could ask you the same question." Fenton blinks and Jenni rolls her eyes. "I was hiding, obviously. The Broken and Gnomes were going into dorm rooms, fighting just about anyone they could find. I wasn't—" She stops suddenly, like she's seen a ghost. "Ian, why do you have blood on your shirt?"

Ian steps to the side, revealing CJ on the bed. "Where's Nurse?" he asks in a panic. "We need her help."

Jenni's eyes are suddenly serious and she steps forward to CJ's side. "Nurse is rarely here anymore." She talks as she works, untying the sweatshirt around CJ's stomach. "Not after that Chemica Desin incident a couple of weeks ago." Ian doesn't miss her pause when the slashed skin of CJ's stomach is revealed. Fenton swallows audibly and Ray curses under his breath. She turns and locks eyes with Ian, "I run this place now." She is upbeat, but Ian can read the emotions passing behind her eyes. She's worried.

"It feels like sliced beef," CJ whispers, swallowing. She's obviously agitated that she doesn't have the strength to lift her head and look at the damage because Ian can see the hard line of her clenched jaw.

Jenni shakes her head and forces a sweet smile. "Nothing I can't handle."

"You're lying," CJ grins, tapping the side of her head softly with a finger, "I would know."

"I'm so relieved that you're not a grumpy injured person. Or a flirty one. Your friend Gabe nearly gave me a heart attack with all those pick up lines he used." Jenni puts a hand on CJ's arm in comfort. She turns to Ian, "I need a bowl of warm water, soap, a rag, antibacterial cream, sterile bandages and plastic wrap."

Ian blinks. "Plastic wrap?"

"It'll keep the wounds airtight once I clean them." She turns to Ray and Fenton, "Help him get the supplies. You'll find the bandages and antibacterial cream over there," she points to a few cabinets to the right.

Ian jogs to the sink, turns on the water and starts filling up a bowl of water. The hairs on the back of his neck prickle and he turns to the infirmary door seconds before Suki and Gabe burst through it. Their eyes are wide and frantic. Gabe sounds like he's about to have a heart attack while Suki scans the room. She locks eyes with Ian and rushes to him, Gabe on her heels.

A weight disappears from Ian's back and he can finally fully breathe again. "Thank God you guys made it down here."

"You say that like it was easy," Gabe replies with fake anger. "The whole school's turned into a warzone. And what's with the change in meeting location? I thought we wanted to get out of this God forsaken place, not move deeper into it."

Ian steps forward to give Suki a huge, but there is something in her eyes that freezes him. He's forgotten that there's blood no his shirt. CJ's blood.

"What happened?" She asks, panicked. "Are you hurt? Are you alright?"

Suddenly, Ian cannot find his voice. The blatant fear is Suki's eyes have taken his words away.

Ian Archer can be brave in the most hopeless of situations, but the one think he cannot face, the one thing he cannot bare to see, is pain in his friend's eyes.

Especially when he will be the cause of it.

But he clears his throat anyways and says in a small voice, "It's not mine."

Gabe stares at him, and Ian can see the cogs in his best friends head turning, she's him silently count the numbers, until he's finally figured it out. "No…" the teen with glasses turns his head slowly to the other end of the infirmary, where Ray and Fenton have returned to Jenni with their completed orders. The blond turns and Ian can see his name form on her lips, but at the sight of Suki and Gabe, she stops herself.

"Ceej!" Suki is gone from their side in an instant, sprinting across the room to her friend.

Gabe is frozen to the spot, and Ian thinks that he might not be breathing. "Here," Ian hands Gabe the bowl full of warm water. "Take this over to Jenni for me."

Gabe looks down at the water, licks his lips and takes the bowl. He moves to the small bed, but takes his time.

Ian grabs a rag and soap. He'd get the plastic wrap later when he knew where to look for it. Returning to Jenni's side, he hands the blond nurse-in-training the rag and soap, which she pours into the warm water. "Fenton, Ray, can you go and try to find a way to lock or block the doors to get down here? I don't want any unwanted company."

They nod and disappear out the door. With the outside security settled, Ian turns back to CJ.

It isn't overwhelmingly hot in the infirmary, but CJ is sweating like she's just completed the forest run. Jenni has pulled up her shirt so that she can work more efficiently, and has proceeded to wet the rag and dab at the deep slashes on the brunette's stomach.

"Be careful," CJ pants, grinding her teeth together.

Jenni offers an apologetic smile, "I have to clean the wounds or they'll get infected. I'm sorry if I hurt you but it has to be done." Jenni pauses and reaches under the bed, withdrawing a small leather case. "Also, how do you feel about needles?"

CJ slumps into the bed, "I'm not fond of them, but I've had stitches before."

Ian steps by her side, taking one of her hands. "You can make it through this Ceej. And once she's done patching you up you'll be as good as new." He's smiling so fake that in makes his teeth hurt. But he must be optimistic. If he isn't he'll go crazy with worry.

"You can stop smile," she jokes feebly. "It looks like it hurts."

He laughs slightly and then grabs his ribs. Now, since the adrenalin in his system has drained away, the aching has returned with burning force. Though he tries to hide the pain, Jenni notices. "Don't tell me you're hurt too?" she says, sounding exhausted.

"It's nothing," Ian shrugs, then winces at the movement.

She sighs and sets down the bloody rag. CJ's stomach, if it's possible, looks a hell of a lot better. "Lift up your shirt, Ian."


"Lift it up."

"What?" Ian stammers. "No. I'm fine. Really."

"He's embarrassed," CJ divulges with a smile.

"I am not," he denies, cheeks flushing red.

Jenni raises and eyebrow and motions with her hand for him to raise his shirt. He sighs and rolls his eyes, lifting up the red fabric. Looking down, he is slightly relieved at the light bruising that has already started to form. The abrasions are not black, just a deep purple, which means there is no bleeding in his abdominal cavity. He can live with that. "See?" he looks back to Jenni, "It's not that bad."

Gabe's mouth has dropped open, "Not that bad?" He says, scandalized. Walking over to Ian he inspects his friend's flawless stomach, "Dude, what happened to the six-pack?" He looks at Ian in disappointment, "I told you those raisins at breakfast were going to turn you into Mr. Tubbers."

Ian swats at his roommates hand, "Ha Ha, very funny Gabe."

The class president smiles, "Just trying to keep the atmosphere light."

Suki's eyes are still wide, but she seems to be less worried. Jenni just stares at him, face scanning. "Nothing's broken," the blond nurse says. "But you'll have to wrap them for extra security. That's really the only thing you can do for cracked ribs."

Gabe raises his hand like he's in class. "Um, how do you know they're cracked?"

"I can see them." She taps the side of her head. "X-ray vision."

With a squeak, Gabe places his hands over his crotch and turns away from her slightly. "Warn us first would you!"

Jenni smiles and rolls her eyes. "Really Gabe? I only use it to diagnose patients."

Gabe eyes her suspiciously. "So you say…" he accuses.

"Trust me," the blond quirks a teasing smile, "I've seen all that I want to." She turns to Suki, "There's an ace bandage and some tape over there in the cabinet. Could you get it and wrap his ribs for me."

"Sure," Suki nods and returns seconds later with a tan ace bandage and white athletic tape. She walks over to Ian and offers a small smile. "Do you mind?"

Ian inclines his head and lifts up his shirt higher. "Not at all."

Suki starts wrapping with the ace bandage. Jenni sets aside the rag and bowl of water, which has now turned a light red. "Okay," she sighs and blows a couple of wisps of hair out of her eyes. "The damage isn't as bad as I originally thought. There was just a lot of blood." She opens the container of antibacterial cream. "I'm only going to need to stitch up one of the gashes, it's too deep to leave open on its own." She puts on new gloves and takes out the needle. Turning to CJ, she asks, "Are you ready?"

"Gabe." CJ motions for him, "Give me your hand."

The normally sarcastic teen is suddenly very serious. He steps forward and offers his hand, "Squeeze as hard as you want Ceej."

She takes it, settles back in the bed and closes her eyes. "Okay. I'm ready."

Jenni nods and Ian looks away just before the needle enters CJ's skin. He isn't squeamish by any means, but there's something different in the situation when it's a friend under the knife. Thankfully it doesn't take long for Jenni to stitch up CJ and before Ian can think, Suki is taping his ace bandage as the blond nurse, with some help from Gabe, secure the bandages with antibacterial cream to CJ's stomach with an ace bandage as well.

"It doesn't look like we'll need the plastic wrap," Jenni seems thankful for that aspect. Grabbing a blanket from another bed, she spreads it over CJ. "We just have to keep you warm. You lost quite a bit of blood, so the lethargic feeling is going to stick around for a while." She tucks in the edges under CJ and stands back to admire her handiwork.

Suki pats Ian's shoulder when she's done and he lowers his shirt. He turns to Jenni. "Thank you so much," he says seriously. "I mean, I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here. Seriously, I don't know how I'm going—"

Jenni holds up a hand, "Stop thanking me, Ian. I didn't just do this because it's my job. I did it because she's my friend. So there's nothing to thank me for." She nods her head and Ian knows there's no chance in arguing. The blond pats CJ's arm and turns on her heal, "I'm going to go check on Ray and Fenton. See if they have any injuries they aren't telling me about. I'll give you four some time to talk." She waves back over her should and is gone.

Gabe pulls over a bed and he and Suki sit down on it. Ian stands, arms crossed. They regard each other for a moment, taking into account emotions and body language.

"So," Ian starts.

"So is right," Gabe says. "What the hell happened?"

"Cal is what happened," Ian answers. "He's a Gnome again."

"Shut the front door!" Gabe says in surprise. "I should have known he would go back to them."

"So he did rat us and the Broken out to Headmaster," Suki inputs.

"That's what it looks like," Ian shrugs. "We fought in the hallway. He about kicked my ass somehow. But then CJ was there. Distracted him long enough—"

"To get sliced open like a holiday ham," she grimaces, trying to sit up in the bed.

Ian helps her and finally asks the nagging question that's been sitting in the back of his mind. "Ceej remember when you told me to get his helmet off? You said it was controlling him?" There is something that flickers in her eyes that he does not like, but he needs answers. "How did you know that?"

She licks her suddenly dry lips. "I have to tell you guys something." She looks to them, locks with each one of their eyes until she falls on Ian. She opens her mouth to say something, but seems to think better of it, turning her head away in disgust.

"Ceej," Suki sooths, "what is it?"

She turns back to Ian and her eyes are watering. He'd seen people cry before. It was uncomfortable and awkward. But for some reason, seeing CJ's brown eyes water over just kills him. He steps forward to put a hand on her arm but she shakes her head. "Stop, I have to get this out."

He steps back and honors her space, nodding.

She sniffs and clears her throat. "Do you remember when we discussed leaving Tower Prep and where I would stay? And how I said I didn't think my dad would understand me leaving here?" Ian nods and she continues, though he can tell it's tearing her up inside, "Everything I know about Tower Prep has a large part to do with Headmaster."

Gabe furrows his eyebrows, "Ceej, you know who your father is?" He smiles like a Christmas tree, clearly happy at his friend's achievement. "That's awesome!"

"Who is it?" Suki asks smiling.

Ian has a tingly sensation crawling up his spine. He doesn't like the way she's looking at him. Like she's about to say something she's going to regret for the rest of her life.

And in a million years he'd still wish that he had been wrong.

"It's Headmaster," CJ locks eyes with him. "He's my father."

A\N: Shocker right? Just pretend that you were surprised, okay? :) Anyways, I am looking at a three to four day period between updates. I want to make this story almost as complicated as the show, but know that'll probably be down right impossible because I don't full understand Tower Prep either. So we'll see where this goes. I have a map in my head, but when does something every go as planned?