The Hospital Story

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Chapter 1 – Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow
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"I hate hospitals," Lor groaned, running her fingers through her hair.

"Still?" Tish asked.

"Always," she responded. "And this one is even worse than the one at home."

"We're here for him," Tish reminded her. "Try not to mope too much."

"I know, I know," Lor said. "I'm here, aren't I? I want to see him. I want to know he's getting better. I just..."

"Hate hospitals," Tish finished for her. "Come on, they've had enough male bonding time, let's go say hello." Tish pushed herself off the corridor wall and tugged her dress straight, stepping up to the door opposite them and moving to push it open, before turning to face her friend again, seeing that she hadn't moved. "You coming, Lor?"

"Of course, of course," she said, pulling herself out of her crouch against the wall and crossing the hallway to join Tish, who knocked once before pushing the door open. "Hey, guys," she called into the room, striding in confidently while Lor slipped in behind her. "How're you feeling this week, Tino?"

Tino looked from Carver, with whom he had been 'bonding', to his girlfriend and offered her a small smile. "Hey, Tish. Better now that you're here." He looked beyond Tish for a second and nodded to the blonde standing there. "Hey, Lor. How's it going?"

"Me? I'm fine," she said, trying to hold Tino's gaze. But it was like staring at the sun. The more she looked at him the more she wanted to look away.

Tino had spent their childhood as such a young and vibrant person – not quite as athletic as some but definitely an active, healthy young man. Now, they were a few months away from senior year and he found himself bedridden, struck down by disease just when his life was really beginning. Lor knew as well as everyone else that he would be better by then, out and free, that it was all curable, that it was just a matter of time and patience and care, but it was hollow comfort when she had to stand here and stare at him, lying there, pale and tired.

She went through the motions as they exchanged pleasantries, watching with idle interest as Tish slid into the seat next to Tino's bed, placing her hand in his, watching his eyes light up slightly at this simple gesture. She contributed to the discussion where necessary, but so much of it was reiterating what was happening in the real world, something Tino seemed to be disconnected from – something they were, by necessity, his lifeline to.

But there was only so much of it she could take.

During a lull in conversation, she jumped on an opportunity, tugging on Carver's collar. "Hey, Carv. Let's perhaps give the lovebirds some private time, huh?"

Tish blushed red but Tino smiled appreciatively. "Thanks, guys. Not that I don't love seeing you..."

"Hey, no problem. We'll be back in a little while," Carver told them. "No playing doctor in the meantime though, huh? No matter what the surroundings may suggest."

When they were out of the room, however, Carver groaned, leaning against the wall and hanging his head in his hands. "I need a smoke."

"How do you do it?" Lor asked.

"How do I do what?" Carver replied, looking up at her.

"How do you go in there and...pretend it's all normal? Act like you're not sitting in his hospital room, watching him...wither."

Carver shrugged and shook his head. "I don't know. I just...I just have to, so I do. You do it too, you know."

"Some days I don't think I do," she told him. "Some days it's all I can do to just stand there and not break into tears and ask him how he's surviving"

"You hate hospitals," Carver noted.

"I really, really do."

Carver shrugged. "Well, look at it this way. At least he's in the best place possible." He gestured to their surroundings. "I mean, you might not like hospitals, but you gotta admit, this is a pretty snazzy one."

"As a hospital, it's much better than the one at home," she admitted. "But at the same time I hate that he's so far away. And what that does to Tish. And...well, what it does to me, as well."

"You never realise how much you take him being there for granted, huh?" Carver said. "Come on, I'm going for a cigarette out the front. You want to come out for the fresh air?"

She shook her head. "I think I just need to find somewhere to go sit for a while."

"Rec room's down the hall," he said, pointing vaguely in the direction away from the elevators, of which he climbed into one. "I'll be downstairs if you change your mind."

She smiled at him. "Yeah, because there's so much fresh air down there. I swear, I've never seen so many people trying to determinedly to kill themselves right outside a hospital."

"Hey, we don't have to travel so far when we come down with emphysema," he pointed out as the doors slid closed between them.

Lor sighed as she watched the numbers next to the elevator descend, and allowed herself a moment, pinching the bridge of her nose and allowing a couple of tears to fall.

"I hate hospitals," she muttered, turning on her heel and strolling toward the rec room.

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After two wrong turns down various corridors, Lor was just about ready to give up on finding the rec room, before a harried and tired looking nurse stopped her and asked where she was going, pointing her in a completely different direction from the one Carver had suggested. Lor, grateful for the help, thanked the nurse profusely and finally ended up in the right hallway, heading toward a well-lit door labelled Recreation Room: Level 5.

The noise coming from beyond the door nearly gave her second thoughts, however.

She leaned against the door, listening to the sounds of applause and commentary that were coming from beyond it. She did not, however, immediately recognise the sport that was being listened to, and this bothered her somewhat. Finally, she pushed the door open, curiosity getting the better of her.

Said curiosity was nearly immediately sated by the sight of gymnastics on the television. This held her interest for barely a few seconds, however, distracted as she was by the sight of the person watching it.

She had, of course, seen people getting far too into football on the television and begin throwing phantom passes, or into basketball and start jumping around. She had never seen anyone become interactively involved with a gymnastics broadcast, however, and therefore the sight of the young man balancing delicately on the back of a couch took her somewhat by surprise.

To his credit, if he was startled by the sound of the door opening, he didn't show it, merely turning on his heel very delicately, shifting his weight so as not to tip the couch, to come to face her. "Hi," he said, biting his lower lip. "Can I help you?"

It was hard to tell, what with him standing on a couch and all, but she guessed the boy speaking to her was a little bit taller than she was, albeit much, much thinner, his gauntness seemingly only emphasised by the bandanna he wore. His pale appearance reminded her of Tino, and though he wore surgical scrubs she had no problem as picking him as definitely not being a doctor.

"I just wanted somewhere to sit down for a minute," she said, indicating an arm-chair placed near the couch, which she quickly slumped down into. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt."

He shrugged. "That's okay. They just won't let me use the gym."

"There's a gym in the hospital?" she asked, somewhat surprised.

"For rehab patients," he explained, pacing back and forth along the thin back of the couch, bouncing very slightly every now and then, as if preparing to mimic the impressive moves being displayed on the television. "And I'm definitely not a rehab patient, so I may not use it. They're driving me insane."

"I'm sorry to hear it," she told him. "Are here a lot?"

"I'm here for the time being," he explained.

"What are you in for?"

"To get better," he said, offering a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "What about you? I'm guessing by the civvies that you're not a patient."

"Ah, no," she said, looking self-consciously at her clothes for a moment, suddenly feeling as if she might be the one dressed unusually rather than the other way around. "I'm just here visiting a friend who's in here for a while. We're from out of town, you see."

The boy snapped his fingers, pointing in the direction from which she had come. "Blonde kid, in for a stint...Tony?"

"Tino," she corrected him. "Do you know him?"

"Not really," he said. "Being on bed rest most of the time has a tendency to dull the likelihood of running into each other."

"You're on bed rest?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Most of the time. But if I just lay there all the time I'd go crazy."

"Are you a gymnast?"

He laughed, loudly. "God no. I'm way too big." He looked down at himself for a moment. "Or I was, anyway. No, I played a bit of soccer, but professional athletics was probably not in my future. Good thing, too. Can you imagine being in sports for the rest of your life? Doesn't bare thinking about."

Lor held his gaze for a moment. "I'm hoping to go into professional sports."

The boy smiled sheepishly. "Ah. Sorry."

"That's okay," she told him. "We're all allowed our opinions, even negative ones."

"In that case, would you like to hear my feelings on the music of Britney Spears?"

She laughed. "Well, everyone is entitled to that opinion."

The sheepish smile he wore blew out to a full grin as he stepped off the back of the couch, sliding down into a more conventional use of the furniture. "There was a kid in here for a while who felt that current pop music was quite clearly the definition of quality tunes. I'm still lobbying for a record player so I can bring in something worth listening to. As it is I just leave the TV on VH1 and hope for the best."

"Sounds reasonable," she told him.

The sound of someone clearing their throat came from the doorway, and Lor turned to see Tish standing there, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. "Carver said you were in here. We've got to get going soon, so d'you want to...come say goodbye and all that?"

Lor nodded, pushing herself up from the chair. "Yeah, of course," she said, before turning back to the boy on the couch. "Nice meeting you. Good luck with the gymnastics."

"There's some guy up in the ICU with a better floor technique, but I'll make the All-Hospital Team yet," he assured her with a hopeful glint in his eyes and a brief wave.

She waved back as Tish lead her from the room. The brunette girl looked back over her shoulder as they left, asking once they were out in the hall, "Who's that?"

Lor shrugged. "I dunno. Some guy."

"What's he in here for?"

"To get better, apparently."

"Huh," Tish said, apparently sated. "Come on. You up to seeing Tino again?"

Lor came to a halt. "What's that mean?"

Tish shrugged. "I know it makes you uncomfortable, Lor. I don't blame you. To be honest, it's pretty rough on me, too."

Lor's teeth were on edge. "I'm sorry," she said. "I just...well, I -"

"Hate hospitals," Tish said, placing a hand on Lor's shoulder. "We all do. He'll be out before you know it."

"I know, I know," Lor said. They were already outside Tino's door, and Lor found herself taking a deep breath. "Alright. Let's do this."

8 - * - * - 8

Alright, so a bit of back story. This fic was inspired by a number of things, but mostly it was just a case of waking up at 3 in the morning and sitting down and writing. Before I knew it, I had one chapter, then two, then just kept going and then it was 60 pages long and has since itself inspired me to write yet another fic - Dating - which can be found in the Rugrats section.

There's more of this to come - much more of it, to be honest - and I hope you enjoy it. The next chapter will be up soon. Reviews are always appreciated.

Thanks, as ever, to Lord Malachite, who has been invaluable in this project from day one, helping me with characterisations, dialogue and plot points that would be much lesser for his contributions.

Acepilot 11/01/11