A/N SOOOOO SORRY FOR THE LONG WAIT! This chapter's pretty short, and unedited. I've been kind of busy lately, but I can promise you without a shadow of a doubt chapter 11 will be up for Monday at the latest. Again, sorry for the quality, I'll edit all the chapters in a week or two. (By the way, double digits, woot woot!)

By the way, BREAKING BEATLE NEWS: I was watching CNN today, and they had a little bit about prevoisly unseen Beatle photos (mostly from Help! to Magical Mystery Tour period) being discovered. They're all in color, and they're posted on the CNN website. It's amazing! Check it outttt :)

September 26, 1948

Three more days came and went, and each one more eventful than the last. His release date was set for the twenty-eighth, and he would be staying with his Auntie Nanny, which was short for Anne, until October fifth, when his mother would be released and she could take him and Julia home.

He and his mother weren't on as uncomfortable of terms as they had been a few days previously, and although it wasn't quite as nerve-wracking to be with her she still seemed aloof in a way John couldn't quite place, like she was still mad at him but hiding it. Julia Dykins, now Stanley, was beginning the arduous process of making some final funeral arrangements for Bobby. It had been made abundantly clear to John that he certainly wouldn't be welcomed to the funeral of a man he'd killed, which he had expected anyway but the fact that he had actually killed someone seemed all the more real when his mother said it. Even though Bobby always hit, yelled and drank, John did know Julia had loved him and it made him feel extremely guilty that it was him that caused her to be so sad. All he could really hope for was for her to forgive him.

"So you can come back at school on Monday?" asked Ritchie. All four boys were in the small playroom of the hospital, which was no more than a rug-floored area with a few ratty toys around that they wouldn't touch. A little girl attached to an IV played with a doll in one corner and two other children, both of whom were bald, halfheartedly built a puzzle.

"Yes," said John, smiling. He was feeling much better now, and he was walking more normal.

"Good," said Paul. "It's been really weird at lunch, because Liam Fleischman kept sitting in your seat."

"He smells like tuna," added George. "It's really weird."

"I wanted to tell him to leave because it's your seat and nobody can sit in your seat. But Paul here…" said Ritchie, looking pointedly at Paul

"Hey!" protested the aforementioned. "I didn't want to be rude."

"Yes, you also didn't want to be rude to that bug that was in your room yesterday," said George.

"I don't like smushing things!"

"We had to do it for you."

"After you tried to catch it and keep it as a pet," said Ritchie, piling onto the assault on Paul, who frowned and crossed his arms so tightly it was a wonder his chest didn't implode.

"Maybe Paul's a girl," suggested John. The boy was rather feminine, and the fact that he hadn't had a haircut in a while only added to the impression of androgyny. Paul gave John such a look of betrayal and incredulousness that John just had to grin. Paul couldn't help smiling in response, and soon all four boys were rolling about and laughing until their sides hurt.

"I'm-" wheezed Paul. "I'm not a- a girl," he finished.

"Of course," said Ritchie, flashing the others a wink. The mood suddenly became more quiet and intense. The oppressively bleak hospital walls seemed to weight on the boys, and they noticed that the other kids had left.

"What happens now?" asked John, in a rare moment of seriousness. It seemed the less whimsical his life became, the sillier he got, but sometimes it did catch up with him.

"It's late," said Ritchie. "So you'll probably go back to your room, we'll all go home, and then in two days they'll let you out and everything will be nice and fine again." It appeared that Ritchie didn't really get the point of John's question. He wasn't of the sort to be bothered with wondering about the future or pondering life's questions, much preferring to live his life out the way he wanted, in happiness and mirth and spontaneity.

"No, not just now," rebuffed John, slightly annoyed at Ritchie's short-term thinking. "I mean after." Nobody said anything, so he just continued. "My mum hates me now, and Bobby's gone, and I don't know what to do. Do you guys know what I did?"

The other boys shook their heads and looked at him intently, like they were about to hear a big national secret. Apparently their parents had decided to shelter them from what was right in front of them, and it made John extremely angry, although he didn't readily display it, that they got to have a normal and sheltered childhood while he didn't.

"Bobby was mean," he explained, taking a look around at his friends. Their expressions remained unchanged. "And he hit me and mum." Paul's eyes went wide and his mouth opened into an 'O' shape. Ritchie simply nodded sadly- John remembered then that Ritchie knew, since that first day they'd met. George still sat quietly, like he was taking in the information. "And he drank alcohol, and then he'd get mean. And he'd call me bad names, and hit me, and kick me, and use hot things to burn me, and he made me drink Windex, and he took off his belt and whipped me with it or cut me or put his cigarettes out on me. And he'd do it to mum too."

Paul looked absolutely horrified, Ritchie had his eyes closed like he was about to throw up, and George still looked at him with his wide, knowing eyes, keeping his emotions in check as usual. John continued on, telling his story in all the details, sparing no overly descriptive adjectives as he regaled his tale bitterly to his friends, letting out his secrets. He had just finished the last part, the worst part that still haunted him at night, when suddenly Paul decided he couldn't take it anymore.

"You killed him! You killed your stepfather!" he exclaimed, standing up quickly and running over to the other side of the room and booking it out the door, like if he stayed any longer John would shoot him too. By this point, John was spent- pouring your heart out to the people who mean most to you really takes energy, and Paul abandoning him in what could only be disgust- the same that John's mother had expressed towards him- simply seemed to crush what was left his heart into little tiny pieces and set them on fire, as he personally would have put it. The remaining three friends were quiet for a minute, an uncomfortable silence blanketing them, before Ritchie mumbled something about calming down Paul and ran out too.

This left John and George together. John turned away from his friend and stared uncomfortably at the imperfections in the floor, and traced one with his finger so he wouldn't look as mortified as he felt.

"You didn't kill him, you know," said George, looking at John, who glanced up at him. The smaller boy sat against the wall, legs straight out in front of him, twiddling his thumbs. His head was bent down, but his serious, searching eyes bore into John's with the same mesmerizing power of Rasputin- except without the evil. George was like that.

"Yeah, I did," said John bitterly, his eyes stinging with unshed tears. "Weren't you listening?"

"No," said George insistently, scooting over so he was right in front of John before continuing. "You saved your mother. And yourself."

John gave him a skeptical expression, but said nothing.

"What I mean is that you were just, you know, protecting yourself, right? So it's okay. If he was going to kill you guys, then you're, like… what's the word?" His vocabulary wasn't quite large enough to accommodate his thoughts on the matter.

After a short pause of consideration, John suggested, "Justified?"

"Exactly," said George. "See, you're smart too. And anyway, if shooting Bobby was wrong, then you would've been arrested, but you weren't. I mean, grownups are pretty stupid a lot of times, but they usually know when it's okay to do things better than Paul does. Paul's a git." Despite the slight moroseness of his words George was acting uncharacteristically optimistic, although in a subdued fashion that was so very typical of him. John sniffled a little bit and looked up.

"Is he really?"

"Yes. He's the biggest git I know sometimes. Except for Oliver Danes." Oliver was a boy one grade older than them that regularly picked on the boys, with the exception of John, who put up much too tough a front to be bullied, although Oliver certainly tried. George was his biggest victim, and although he always walked home from school with one of them, there were times when the small boy would be hoisted up by his lapels and tossed in the closest rubbish bin. Yes, Oliver Danes had over time inspired quite a few deprecating drawings courtesy of John and sarcastic slurs courtesy of George. Ringo tried his best to 'convert' Oliver to being 'good', but his attempts always failed. For some reason, however, Paul was lucky enough to stay clear of his wrath.

John grimaced as he recollected of the awful, awful boy. "Yeah. Not as bad as Oliver Danes. He's still a git, though."

"Definitely," suddenly changing the subject, George added "Mum doesn't like that word."

"Which one?" It was baffling to John that a parent could get mad just because of one little word.

"'Yeah'. She doesn't like American things." John didn't respond, and the conversation dwindled into nothingness. Eventually, they began a game of marbles, which John won, but not by much. At some point when they were drawing mustaches on all the characters in the books (which was John's idea- George didn't condone the whole idea of vandalism, but he followed the older boy's lead anyway), a portly nurse walked into the small play area and told them that visiting hours were over and John had to go back to his room. John made a funny face at her- which she didn't find at all amusing- and she led him out down the hallway.

"Bye, Georgie!" called John over his shoulder. George waved in response before ambling the other way down the hallway to where his mother Louise stood waiting. John turned back around and let himself be led into his room, to his awful roommates and the bare, depressing walls and lumpy mattress. But somehow, at least at the time, he didn't think it to be so bad. Wordlessly the nurse left, shutting off the light behind her, and John fell asleep almost immediately.