Author's Note: Here is chapter 12's companion. So... a little background on the title of this one. The line "he jests at scars that never felt a wound" is from Romeo and Juliet. Basically, Romeo, after listening to Mercutio make fun of him for being in love, comments that the only reason Mercutio can joke is because he's never been in love. In this case, it's also a double entendre, or play on words, as you will see. Much angst ahead, and some violence.
This oneshot in particular definitely addresses any possible romantic issues between Carpenter and Juliet. It eventually portrays his personal reactions to such developments, whereas the last one was more Juliet's.
Juliet's knees collapsed and she slid to the floor, her back pressed against her bedroom door as great gulping sobs ripped through her. She clasped both hands over her lips to try to stop the moans of heartache that broke from her. Her body shook as the waves of pain washed over her, swamping her in grief.
He had almost died. There was a chance he still could. Her best friend, the man she depended upon above all else could die. He'd been willing to give up his own life so that she might live. But she wasn't sure how to live without him. After all the loss, the rejection, the loneliness that she had experienced in her life, he had taught her to trust again. He had been the one to show her that it was all right to lean on someone when life got hard. But life didn't get harder than this, and after all his lessons, he wasn't here when she desperately needed him the most.
Her breath rasped raggedly from between her lips and her stomach churned, body shuddering with anguish. Bringing her hands in front of her, she felt the onslaught of fresh tears at the sight of the trace amount of blood still on her hands. Rolling to her knees, she climbed unsteadily to her feet and took two staggering steps towards her bathroom. Feeling lightheaded, she had to stop and prop herself against the wall as she tried to work her trembling knees.
A second later, she felt her father's hand on her shoulder. Comforting, somber. But she stepped back, shrinking out of reach. She didn't think she could handle anyone touching her right now. "Juliet," Andrew insisted softly. "Sweetheart, you need to rest. You're too weak to hardly stand."
Of its own volition, her body listed towards her father's, and he held her up. "I have his blood on my hands. I have to wash my hands," she whispered.
His arms came around her, holding her tight. "Oh, Juliet," he murmured, stroking a hand over her hair.
Her head hung in despair and low whimpers broke from her throat. "I can't do this, Daddy. I can't do this."
How could she go on without him, should the unthinkable happen? Hot pain stole through her heart, sending her into an all new spiraling despair.
"I'm so sorry," Andrew whispered against the dark confines of her hair, until her violent sobs had trailed off to gasping breaths.
But her grief was just below the surface, ready to rip free at any moment.
It was hours later when her father left her so that she could sleep, but it wasn't long before she was back in her bathroom, looking up to see her own reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were dark hollows, filled with pain. Her skin was deathly pale and even her lips were colorless.
She looked haunted. But even still, she knew he had looked so much worse.
Turning away from her reflection, washing her clean hands one more time, she turned off the bathroom light and padded back into her bedroom. She pulled back her covers and slid back into bed, pulling the duvet up and over her cold body.
She left the light on; maybe it would protect her from the nightmares she knew were coming.
ONE WEEK LATER
The monotonous drone of the many monitors around them caused her sad unease to fester. Juliet hugged her arms more tightly around her slight, shivering body. She'd forgotten her coat again. Someone had brought in a blanket, but she wasn't willing to move from her silent vigil at the bed to retrieve it.
The usual hospital sights and sounds and smells filled her head, but none of them really penetrated her awareness. They'd told her he was going to be okay now; Juliet shivered again. That thought alone should have been enough to erase the pain and the fear from her, but it wasn't. Despite any assurances, she was still forced to see him in the state he was in now. Pale, still.
Yet nothing was worse than those moments, days prior, during the event that put him here in the first place.
Anger at the broken soul who had brought the gun to Zachary High's last pep rally swamped her, consumed her. She had no idea what had happened to the student responsible for the horrors of that day, but she was torn between crying anew and wishing the most unspeakable evil imaginable on the shooter. A part of her demanded he be made to suffer, while another part ruefully acknowledged the young boy already did.
Juliet pushed it far from her mind, focusing her disjointed, hurting thoughts instead on the man in the bed. Despite her efforts, memories of that day came flooding back to her, unbidden and jarring.
The sharp blast of the gun's report slicing through the cheerful melody of the band's rendition. The screams that followed. The panic.
The student body rushing for cover, desperate to escape the building that once had been their shared mecca, now becoming their prison.
She'd sought him out, her touchstone in times of desperation, only to realize later that it would be the reason for his brush with death.
Juliet curled into a tighter ball on the chair. She remembered it all with unbearable clarity.
Seeing him, ushering frightened students to safety, meeting his eyes, seeing in his that pure relief.
The feel of his hand grabbing hers, and the feel of instantly knowing she was safe.
Juliet felt the hot tears dragging down her face. She had to stop, had to regroup. She tried to forget, but there was a white noise building inside her head, making it hard for her to think of anything else. For one frightening second, she couldn't breathe, and it was like she was literally reliving those terrifying moments.
The exits unreachable where they were. Many people were fortunate enough to get out—their group was not among these.
Shouts. Screams. Some brave student trying for the gun.
The shooter's desperate plea for understanding as he raised the revolver again, aim falling amongst the small crowd of she and her peers.
Carpenter, without thought, lurching in front of her just before the retort of the gun echoed sharply through the halls.
Someone must have smothered the violent student, or wrestled the gun away, because there was no more deafening gunfire on the air after that—not that she would have heard it had there been.
Everything had frozen in place for Juliet in that moment. The earth had ceased to spin, time stopped. Her breath had stilled and her heart had failed to beat. She held on to her sanity now by only a thread, it seemed—just as she had then—wrapping her arms around herself to hold on, afraid that if she let go, she'd fly apart into a million shards like glass.
Staring in shock at her teacher staggering before her, reaching out for him as he swayed unsteadily.
Watching fleetingly as the other students finally poured out of the hall, escaping from the traitorous walls of the building she loathed more and more each day, before turning back to the man at her side who had stood between herself and death, selfishly taking the bullet meant for her.
Somehow, she'd managed to get them into the shelter of his classroom. She knew virtually nothing about medical procedure, but even she knew he wouldn't have been able to make it far with just her help.
He slid to the floor and she went down to her knees with him.
Juliet reached out, brushing her hand haltingly over his. It was no longer cold to the touch, nor was it so lifeless, even though he didn't move. It wasn't like she remembered it being. In the past several days, she'd touched him so much and so often, and yet now she could barely bring herself to squeeze his hand. Juliet shuddered.
The dark red stain creeping rapidly across his lower chest.
Laying her hands over the open wound, feeling the wetness of the blood slipping through her fingers. There was so much of it. Speaking to him, in breathless words, as adrenaline pulsed through her body and pushed through her veins with the cold fear that slowly infused her.
In the background, hearing authoritative shouts, more people running, calls for assistance. But she listened to none of it; all her attention was focused on him.
He'd had trouble breathing.
She recalled something the doctor had said about the damaged brachiocephalic vein, excessive blood loss, and suffering from hemothorax. In the hospital room, another tear slipped down her cheek. She wiped a hand across her tired eyes, staring at the salty wetness and picturing it redder.
Alternating between staving off the blood flow—pressing harder, as if she could will the blood back into his body—and holding his hand. Waiting together for the ambulance to come. Waiting for anyone, please, anyone.
Him telling her that it was okay, that help would come, not to panic—him, the one who was dying.
She'd been so sure he was going to die.
Nearly OD'ing, the tension between she and her father, everything that Siobhan had put her through, all her friends abandoning her—and this had been the worst moment of her life. He was in so much pain and his first instinct had been to make sure that she would make it through.
Juliet focused on the steady rise and fall of his chest, the sight a physical reminder that he would recover. The tension in her shoulders ebbed, and the grip of her fingers on her upper arms eased, her nails leaving behind little crescents in her skin. Her relaxed composure became a stark contrast to the images still invading her mind. All day and night, it repeated, like a broken record. When she closed her eyes, it was there, and she was certain it would be until she was looking into his again.
Him being so calm she wanted to scream.
Her pleading voice dropping to a whisper as choking terror continued to overwhelm her. She didn't know how to help him; if she did nothing, if help did not come, she was going to lose him, right here on the floor of this classroom. She was going to lose him as he bled to death right in front of her. Numbing terror filled her at the thought of life without him.
Feeling his hand clutching back at hers, the tremors there, no pretense of staying guarded as all sense of appropriateness was lost. His head lolling against the wall which he was weakly propped against as if he didn't have the strength to hold it steady.
And when he had finally lost consciousness, she thought she would cry his name until she had no voice left. Then the medics arrived, and took him away from her.
They wouldn't let her on the ambulance, wouldn't let her say goodbye before they rushed him into surgery, and wouldn't let her in his ICU room afterwards.
It was around the end of the second day, after they'd moved him, when she'd just started sneaking into his room. The nurse on duty must have taken pity on her, because around the third or fourth day, the woman finally stopped kicking her out.
Every night, her father came, coaxing her home to catch at least a few hours of sleep in her own bed before she inevitably returned to her elected seat in the soulless waiting room. First chair to the right of the main hall; closest to him.
Juliet watched him now, that awful oxygen mask finally removed. Seeing him there, so many IVs and monitors and the mask, had nearly been her undoing. Her chest throbbed and ached at the remembrance of the gutting sight. It had been so foreign and so terrifying.
C saved, he didn't need saving. But him lying there, so helpless, had left her broken in so many ways. And yet, in the moments of his looming exodus, Carpenter had been the one talking to her as she lost all composure. She remembered the feel of his limp body in her arms, remembered starting to hyperventilate from the stress and shock, her breath ragged and gasping. Watching as his eyes slid shut, perhaps for the last time.
She shuddered again, finally getting up to get the blanket draped over a chair on the other side of the room. The sun had just started to leak through the blinds of the window, silhouetting her body.
He'd woken up a few times in the past several days, but had been too tired or too inhibited by pain medication to really talk for long. So when she heard his suddenly clear, if tired, voice behind her, happiness so pure leapt up within her chest that she'd all but written off to never feel again.
"What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
Juliet turned around, a truly brilliant smile lighting up her face. The breaks in her heart instantly mended, every horrible image evaporating from her mind. There he was, cognizant, looking at her with bright eyes. She recalled his line from when he'd made the class read the play the week before. "How's the morphine, Romeo?" she asked.
"Better than I could have imagined," Carpenter grinned dazedly back. "Thy drugs are quick."
Juliet laughed, hurrying over to him.
Before Andrew could enter the hospital room that afternoon, he heard laughter drifting out into the hall. When he stepped into the threshold, he saw his daughter sitting on the bed beside her teacher, a look of comic superiority on her face. A phone was in her hands, and she was tapping away at it with her fingers.
Carpenter still looked tired, but Andrew was pleased to see him sitting up and smiling over her shoulder. "You're never going to touch my high score," the young man was saying.
Juliet ignored the remark. "How many birds do I have left?"
"Not enough," Carpenter replied smugly, and Juliet was laughing again. There was a crash from the phone, and she growled in mock outrage. Carpenter's answering chuckle was one of triumph.
Andrew felt a great sense of relief wash over him, and he was in no hurry to interrupt their collective joy. Too many of the nights previous had left him quite unsettled. Coming to the hospital every night to urge Juliet away from either the waiting room or her teacher's bedside—so many times he'd found her unconscious with exhaustion, curled dependently into Carpenter's comatose form on the bed. Each night, leaving her alone in her own room to sleep, only to return minutes later to hold her as she sobbed against him. Andrew grimaced at the upsetting memory.
"Hi, Daddy." Juliet's chirpy voice broke him out of his reverie.
Andrew looked up, two sets of eyes landing on him. He grinned, a little embarrassed to be caught hovering, and cleared his throat. "Hello." He gestured politely to Carpenter. "It's so good to see you well, Mr. Carpenter."
"Thank you," the younger man replied. He scowled a little. "The nurse won't let me eat anything yet today though."
Juliet looked amused. "Apparently, he's starving."
"And higher than a kite."
Carpenter's smile was meant to assure him, Andrew assumed. "I'm not high anymore," the teacher said, borrowing her wording.
Juliet shrugged innocently. "If you say so."
In a vain effort to hide his own smile, Andrew interrupted them. "Juliet, would you mind if I had a word with Mr. Carpenter here?"
"Sure," Juliet replied, hopping up from the bed and shooting a backward look at the man there. "I'm taking this with me," she said matter-of-factly of the phone, disappearing out of the room a moment later.
Carpenter smiled a little, turning his eyes back to her father to nod respectfully. "Mr. Martin."
Andrew smiled back, hesitant. Despite his minor concerns, gratitude shone in his eyes. He wasted no time with the first order of business. "Thank you," he said with quiet ardency, "for saving my daughter."
Carpenter nodded. He still remembered the feel of her terror and her grief; and there were times it still hung like a cloud wrapped around them. He regretted that look of despair sometimes in her eyes, but compared to the alternative, he was glad of his actions. It had been one choice he would never regret. "It was mostly instinct, but I did promise her I would never let anything happen to her."
Andrew acknowledged this. The young man's pale visage and the way he still favored his injured side was evidence enough of his sacrifice. "I'm truly grateful for all the effort and caring you've given her over these past many months. Whether you believe so or not, you've helped her exponentially. Both Siobhan and I have noticed the wide difference." Carpenter's eyes showed relief and pride towards the absent girl, and Andrew smiled gently. "You care about her, and it shows. She needs that."
"I'll continue to do whatever I can for her," Carpenter told him sincerely.
Andrew nodded, and his hesitance rushed fully then to the surface. "You mean a lot to her. These past few days have been… well, to put it bluntly, she's been a veritable wreck." Andrew clasped his hands in front of himself, eyes retreating momentarily downward. Carpenter waited patiently, not sure what was to be said, but it was clear Juliet's father needed to gather himself to say it. Andrew looked up finally, remorse and discomfort roiling in his previously downcast eyes. "I hope this doesn't come across as being crass, but I fear it's inevitable… are you," he began, voice catching a little, "are you sleeping with my daughter?"
Carpenter's face showed a combination of surprise, discomfort, mild horror, and incredulous lack of understanding. When he finally spoke, the utterance was barely above a whisper. "What?"
Andrew's shoulders wilted a little in something resembling relief, and the tension dissipated from his form. He offered the man in the bed a feeble smile. "I'll take that as a no." Carpenter was at a complete loss for words, so Andrew continued, meaning to offer up some sort of explanation for his assumptions. "I apologize for that, but… you must understand… I have seen the way she looks at you. In addition to seeing you as this fairytale hero—which, given the circumstances, is not all that inaccurate—"
Carpenter laughed weakly, perhaps even a little self-deprecatingly, and averted his eyes.
Andrew's expression softened. "My daughter is in love with you."
Carpenter's gaze flew back to Andrew, reflecting something like fear. "With all due respect, Mr. Martin, I really don't think—"
"I shall offer you the same courtesy, Mr. Carpenter… with respect, I know that there are areas in her life in which I have failed Juliet. But she is my daughter, and I know her. I know her, and I see how she looks at you. She tries to hide it but she can't." And neither can you, Andrew thought to himself, or at least you're better at it.
Carpenter still looked thunderstruck, sitting there in silent shock, absorbing the news. He shook his head, a little helplessly, speaking quietly. "I don't know what to say."
Andrew nodded his understanding. "Indeed. I apologize, I didn't mean to burden you with all this. Especially here and now." He gestured around the room to indicate where they were and the weight the situation carried.
"No, it's…" Carpenter cleared his throat, still hesitant to meet the other man's eyes. "I suppose I needed to hear it."
"You understand my concerns?" Andrew asked. At the other man's hesitation, he elaborated. "I think there's nothing wrong with my daughter having a crush on a worthy subject; it is normal and I think almost healthy. But the outcome is what concerns me. If she is to get her heart broken… I fear it would undo your efforts to help her completely."
Carpenter's brow creased in confusion. "Mr. Martin, are you implying that you would support a… a relationship between your daughter and I?"
Andrew had the decency to wince. "Yes, well… I wouldn't think it the most ideal situation, especially given all the surrounding factors and prevalent taboo—the largest being the most evident: teacher and student. But…" Andrew was clearly conflicted. "As I said, you are a good influence on her. She sees you as more than just a role model. You are her best friend. You care about her, you look out for her, you protect her. At the same time, you've never judged her." Andrew offered the other man a perceptive smile. In his experience, which was admittedly very little, there were three reasons for which a man took a bullet for a woman. Because he was her father, her brother, or her husband. And the latter could assume many other forms. Andrew thought he knew which one applied to his daughter and this man. "And, again with respect, I see the way you look at her as well." Before Carpenter could protest, Andrew held up a kind hand. "You are a good man, Mr. Carpenter. And I know that is why you've clearly never harbored any conscious thought of it. You respect Juliet and you would never think of taking advantage of her. I thank you for that. Another man in your position might've behaved differently." Andrew took a deep breath. "That said… I know you love her. I don't know if it's in the same manner she feels for you, but I see it. And… I am grateful for it. No matter what's to come of this, you need to know that. I'm aware the circumstances are not ideal, and I know that, if anything is to happen between you two, it will be a long time down the road. But keep in mind… if it's ever her father's blessing you're worried about," Andrew smiled, "that will never be an issue."
The two men remained in silence for several minutes before Andrew nodded, apparently satisfied with the conversation.
"I'll let you rest," he said. "I apologize again, but I felt it necessary to explain."
Carpenter nodded faintly. "I understand," he murmured. "I appreciate it."
Andrew stepped forward, laying a hand on the other man's shoulder and outstretching his other. "Thank you." Carpenter shook it, maneuvering as best he could to do so. Andrew withdrew, pointing a finger at him with an almost parental smile. "Get some sleep."
Carpenter laughed, still a little stunned, and was then left alone with the emptiness of the room to contemplate all that Andrew Martin had said. He needn't contemplate for long, because it was no more than a minute later that he heard a soft knock on his room entrance.
He looked over to see Juliet's smiling face. "Hi," she greeted cheerfully, apparently glad to see him looking so healthy yet. As though she still couldn't quite believe it.
Carpenter regarded her almost as though looking at her for the first time. "Hey," he replied softly. There was a look of somewhat whimsical bewilderment about him that she couldn't quite place, but decided to leave alone.
She trotted into the room, revealing what she had hidden behind her back. "Check it out, I snuck you some Jell-o."
Carpenter laughed at the tiny cup and the gelatinous red treat inside. "How'd you swing that?"
"Through a lot of espionage and wiles." She held up the spoon, a wicked little gleam in her eye. "Do you need me to feed you?"
Carpenter grinned back, eyes narrowing in annoyance. "I think I can manage," he retorted, holding out his hand. "Hand over the Jell-o."
Juliet did, then plopped into the chair beside his bed. "Have you tried the TV yet?"
Carpenter shook his head, peeling the foil from the plastic cup. "I haven't dared. It's afternoon and a weekday."
Juliet snickered in an all too perceptive way. "Soap central, huh?" She snagged the remote from the bedside stand. "Well, let's see if we can't find you a sports game or Shakespeare in Love."
He snorted at her banal assumption towards his preferences.
She had only been flipping through channels for a minute as he finished his lunch before she rose up from her seat. "Okay, this chair is like sitting on a brick stool," Juliet complained. "Scoot over."
Carpenter sighed indulgently and slid over on the bed as much as his injury would allow him to. It quickly turned into an all out laugh when he saw what she landed on with the remote. "Okay, how'd you know this was on?"
The first few scenes of Shakespeare in Love filtered across the tiny screen.
Juliet shrugged and made a face, as though to say please. "Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes—I can smell them a mile away." She settled in against his side, dropping her head onto his shoulder. She was relieved to feel the last dredges of her desperation and anxiety finally disappear, her body truly relaxing for the first time in a week. This is what she had craved over the past several days—C's comfort, his strength, his presence. All the stress of those days went, so many emotional wounds healing with just a simple touch. She felt the warmth of his skin through the material of the hospital gown and released a soft sigh. "Plus, I looked at the schedule when you were asleep."
Above her, Carpenter smiled slightly. Raising his right hand, he stroked his fingers over her arm. Almost immediately he felt her body relax against his as physical and mental exhaustion started to overtake her. He felt her gentle exhalation and she shifted, causing him to wince a little.
"Am I hurting you?" she asked, tucking her feet up and getting more comfortable as the television droned in front of them.
He shook his head. "No," he lied.
He felt the moment when she slid gently into sleep a little while later. He stared down at her, somehow at a loss, before a small smile tipped his lips.
Shakespeare in Love, Carpenter thought idly, gaze alternating between the television and the girl sharing his bed.
What was it about forbidden love?