Emily worries when Duncan remains silent throughout dinner, looking crushed and disappointed. Carter tells her not to worry, but being a mother, you always worry.

When he doesn't perk up by bedtime that night, Emily decides she's had enough.

"Duncan?" She murmurs softly, rapping twice against his door before letting herself in, eyeing his small bedroom covered in toys, dishes, -she's told him a million times not to eat in his bedroom- and other knickknacks.

He's curled up in bed, arms clasped around Petey's neck, the latter looking just as depressed as the former. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong, or am I going to have to tickle it out of you?"

A spark of emotion flickers through Duncan, and he tries to maneuver so Petey acts as a human shield. As he does so, the large Bloodhound decides he's had enough snuggle time, and jumps off the bed anyway, leaving the boy defenseless.

"Traitor." Duncan mumbles under his breath, crossing his arms over his stomach in a vain attempt to keep his mother from attacking that area with her tickling fingers.

"Tell me what's wrong," Emily says in a sing-song voice, wiggling her fingers in front of him almost threateningly, though a big smile takes over her face.

Duncan stares at her fingers, then up into her eyes, before he frowns. "I couldn't give Courtney her present."

Emily mirrors his sullen expression, before plopping down next to him. She notices a glint of purple from under his dresser; it all makes sense now. "Oh, sweetie pie, why not? Too shy?" That's one thing Duncan has never, ever been, but there's always a first for everything.

"No," He snaps, as if being called shy is an actual insult to him. "She's in the hospital." He leans forward, burying his face in her midsection as he says the words, making it sound jumbled and confusing. Still, Mrs. Evans understands enough, as she proceeds to rub his back in a comforting motion.

"I'm sorry, Dunc. Do you know why?"

They sit and talk, -well, Duncan mostly picks at loose strings on his quilt, and grumbles out the occasional response- for twenty more minutes before Emily decides it's way past his bedtime.

"We'll go see her tomorrow, okay?"

Duncan's expression brightens. "Really?"

She nods, smiling. "I'm sure if she's still there, she'll be allowed visitors."

Duncan climbs out of bed and drops to his knees in front of his dresser. He sticks his hand underneath it, fishing around until he finally pulls out the shiny necklace and smiles to himself.

The next morning, Duncan's dropped off at Mrs. Tanner's place, so Mr. and Mrs. Evans can go to work, for the day. Emily promised him, as soon as five o'clock came around, they would go visit Courtney.

Duncan doesn't mind staying over there; Mrs. Tanner always has freshed baked cookies waiting for him, and her son is okay, sometimes.

"Watch this!" He exclaims, running toward the soccer ball sitting innocently on the snow-covered ground, he goes to kick, misses completely, and lands flat on his back.

Duncan laughs; if nothing else, Tyler is a great source of amusement.

Heaving himself off the ground, he brushes himself off with his cheeks turning red in embarrassment. "The snow's slippery! I slipped!"

Duncan nods, still laughing. His dad says eating vegetables will make you grow up big and strong, -or was that milk?- but considering Tyler eats all his vegetables and is still shorter than he is, Duncan doesn't think he's missing out on much.

"What's that?" Tyler asks suddenly, pointing at the strand of silver sticking out of the dark haired boy's pocket.

He looks, and quickly shoves it deep into his jeans. "It's nothing."

"Show me!"

"No."

"Come on, show me!"

"No!"

This goes on for a minute, before Tyler pounces on Duncan, and the two begin rolling in the snow like animals.

They tumble, fight, and yell, as Tyler rips the necklace from the boy's pocket and examines it. For split second, Duncan thinks he should start eating some vegetables.

"Give it back!" Duncan demands, trying to wrestle out from under Tyler who has him very effectively pinned to the ground.

"Why do you have a purple necklace?"

"It's for Courtney!" He blurts it out before he can stop himself, then tries to feebly stutter up an excuse, but comes up empty handed.

Tyler bursts out laughing then grins wickedly at Duncan. "Stupid Courtney in our class?"

"Don't call her stupid." It comes out as a pitiful whisper.

Tyler gasps, a look of disbelief on his face. "You're a girl liker!"

Horror freezes up the other's insides. "Am not!"

"Are too! You're giving her a necklace! You like her!"

"I do not!" He argues back. All the while; scrambling through all the memories he has of her, trying to pinpoint where he stopped thinking she was stupid, himself.

"Girls have cooties! Girl likers are stupid! If you're a girl liker, you're stupid too!" Tyler continues yelling, waving the necklace in his face.

Duncan doesn't want everyone to think he's stupid...

Suddenly, going to the hospital seems like the worst idea in the world.


It's nine AM when Emily Evans calls the local hospital, and asks if there's a Courtney Callahan staying with them. There is.

Emily speaks to Courtney's mother, and they set up a time for the Evans' to visit.

Courtney listens to her mother's replies to whatever Duncan's mom is saying, smiling to herself and glancing at the firetruck sitting on the nightstand beside her.

She still feels incredibly dizzy, has thrown up more than once, and wants nothing more than to be able to sleep without her dreams being twisted by her fever. The doctors come in every hour to check her over, and sometimes to give her some icky medicine that tastes like dirty feet, but it makes her feel a little better so she chokes it down.

"Mrs. Evans and her son will be dropping by today, at five." Courtney's mother tells her, patting her leg and giving her a soft smile.

"I can give him his gift!" She beams then blushes when Mrs. Callahan shushes her.

"Now now, Ducky, don't be rushing off to marriage so soon." Sarah Callahan winks at her daughter who looks terrified at the mention of matrimony.

She doesn't want to marry him! She doesn't even like him!

"You could of played with him, too." His words from the snow day that led up to her catching this illness, come to mind. He was so close; she noticed how pretty his eyes were.

Boys are gross, mean, and dumb.

Everyone would make fun of her for liking Duncan, even if she can deny it to herself.

Five o'clock comes.

Courtney hid his firetruck under her hospital bed.

He doesn't show up.


AN: I'm late, I'm late, I know! Writers block is a terrrible thing. So is peer pressure. Review~