Chapter 3: Past presents and present problems
The gift shop was the only part of St. John's that had remotely changed with the times. Although as Merle stared at display window at the arrangement of candles, lotion, flowers, and teddy bears wearing sweaters, he could vividly remember a stuffed elephant sitting on the second shelf decades ago…
The shopkeeper, a middle aged woman whose nametag read Candice, didn't pay much attention to him as Merle tip toed into the gift shop. He walked over to the front of the store where the elephant in the window caused him to take this detour.
The stuffie was really soft, the eyes were two little black beads, and the ears were floppy like the rest of it. For some reason Merle knew that Daryl would absolutely love it.
Merle didn't have enough money to buy it. What he did have was a backpack and a few shop lifting successes under his belt.
Doing his absolute best to act casual, he set the elephant down on the lower shelf, where it wouldn't be obvious when he grabbed back up, and wandered down the aisle of greeting cards cursing his small size for not letting him see above them. So instead he had to peek around the end. Candice the shopkeeper was over by the window, straightening up a few gift boxes. Fortunately she didn't notice that the elephant had moved.
A more promising customer, i.e. not a kid with ratty backpack, came in and started browsing. He feigned nonchalance by smelling a candle that reminded him of the perfume that Crystal wore that made her smell like a cupcake. But his attention never deviated from the prize. Merle felt the urge to tackle them or chuck the candle at them when they picked up the elephant. That was for Daryl.
Maybe they would read the brain waves directed at them because they put it down and picked a little duck instead.
While they were paying, Merle swiftly stashed the elephant in his backpack and exited the store. It was hard to not run to the elevator. Merle hit the up button and stepped inside. When the doors glided shut and he felt the elevator lift up, Merle began to feel excited to give the stolen stuffie to his broken baby brother.
The doors opened to the third floor where high-pitched screaming carried down the corridor. Merle didn't have to get any closer to his destination to know that it was his baby brother that was the one making that racket.
He chanced a look into his brother's room. He couldn't see what was going on due to the two nurses in front of the bed. They were probably taking blood and Daryl was being his usually bawl baby self.
Merle waited until the nurses walked past him before he walked in.
A haggard Ma was sitting beside Daryl's bedside. Out of habit, she stroked the back of his head. It wasn't the same with the helmet holding together his head, (or so was Merle's guess for its purpose.)
"Look whose here, baby," she said.
His face was still red from the upset. The bruise on the left side of his face had darkened to a very deep purple. Daryl's teary eyes seemed to accuse Merle for not being there while he was being tortured. Merle should've been there yesterday afternoon to keep him from falling out of the window in the first place then Daryl wouldn't be here at all.
Merle knelt down beside the bed, took the elephant out of the backpack and hid it behind his back. Apparently forgetting the fact that he was upset, Daryl looked curiously around him. Merle sat down on the bed. Daryl tried to pull his arm from behind his back.
"What? I don't got nothin'" Merle held out his other hand.
"Oh, this? You don't want this?" Merle plopped the elephant in front of him.
The reaction was as Merle knew it would be.
Is that for me? Daryl said silently looking from his brother to the elephant. Then quickly strained his little arms to reach for it, opening and closing his hands in the universal sign for gimme.
Merle puppeted the elephant to crawl up to him on the bed. When the stuffie was up on Daryl's lap, he folded the ears over the eyes like the elephant was hiding. Daryl giggled and pried one of the ears back.
"Hi," Daryl said for the first time. Ever.
"Awe, what did you say?" Ma reacted as any mother would even though she let her toddler slip out a second storey window. "Did you say hi to the elephant?"
Daryl looked at Ma, confused as to why she was getting so excited. Merle would've been more impressed if it was a bigger word. His brother had already tackled ham and cow. The kid had more important things to say
"Hi," she repeated. "Hi."
"Moo," Daryl pointed at the elephant.
Merle and Ma shared a laugh at the tot's ignorance. Daryl grabbed the elephant and studied it with his hands; pulling on the trunk, poking at the beady eyes, then he kissed it's head. It was safe to say it was a hit.
"I really need a smoke," Ma collected her purse.
At least she had waited until I came by to leave Daryl. Merle thought bitterly.
Merle leaned back on the tilted upright bed. Daryl sat back with him. "Ouch," Daryl pointed at his head.
"Yer damn straight," Merle agreed with him.
There had never been any event in his life that had conflicted Merle so much. He loved his mother but he wanted to be mad at her forever. How could she let this happen to his baby brother?
It almost horrible to admit but Merle hadn't realized how much he cared about Daryl until yesterday afternoon.
He wasn't impressed with the whole baby brother concept when this one was brought home. All he did was cry because he was hungry then he'd poop then cry about that.
Sometimes he would make funny faces and he had a funny laugh too. One afternoon, Daryl was laying on the floor, his only pastime in infancy, and his laugh made Merle laugh which made Daryl laugh and they just sat there giggling until Dad told them shut the hell up.
Now that Daryl was mobile, he had become a pest. Whenever Merle came home Daryl would scamper to the door, and would do his best to follow him wherever he went and he had this little train on string that would squeak that he brought along behind so much Merle heard its squeaking in the middle of the night. God forbid Merle shut a door for a little alone time, Daryl would sit outside and make enough noise to wake the dead until Merle let him in. Daryl's whole shtick was I'm your little brother and I'm going to make you love me.
And he did. Merle had fun being a big brother. He had taught Daryl how to roll a ball, and how to bang on a pot to make a bunch of noise, that the slide at the park wasn't scary if you went down backwards on your belly.
"Hi," Daryl said above a whisper. Probably wanted to say something else but he was limited.
Merle didn't respond. Daryl stared at him with big blues eyes troubled by his mood. Then for no fathomable reason Daryl leaned further and kissed him on the cheek, leaving behind a smudge of wet spittle.
"Don't," Merle wiped it off.
Daryl did it again with more spit.
"Daryl. No." Merle warned.
"Ouch," Daryl poked his cheek this time.
Pouting Daryl hit his shoulder with a chubby little fist.
"Ouch," Daryl sort of smacked his own cheek in frustration.
Merle clued in. Daryl wanted Merle to kiss him back because that's what Mom did. Looks like he was going to have to teach him how to be a Dixon.
"Good lord," Merle rolled his eyes.
But now wasn't the time for that so Merle gave Daryl a light peck on the cheek.
Merle made a mental note to return later when the store was open and made his round about way back to the O.R. On his way he stopped in front of a nondescript door with a dead security camera across from it.
God bless this hick town.
He slipped the first plastic card, a reloadable Tim Horton's card, from his wallet and slipped it in to the door jar and jimmied it until the door thingamajiggy was pushed back. He looked up and down the hall. The coast was clear and he slipped inside the pitch dark hole he had opened up. Merle groped the wall by the door, found the switch and flicked it on.
He was standing in a small space lined tightly with shelves and on those shelves, bottles upon bottles of pills.
Merle loaded up as much Oxy as he could first into Daryl's hunting jacket. He found some Seroquel, Winston could make some Q-balls, those were always hot sellers, Xanax, and some methamphetamine.
"Score," Merle murmured.
That should be enough. For now. He might have to make another stop but that wasn't concerning. Actually this had been the most fun he had since he came back to East Jesus Nowhere.
He shut off the light and walked out as carefully as he entered. Careful not to shake the jacket too much so it would sound like a maraca, Merle walked out to the truck and threw it in the back seat where he found a pack of cigarettes and helped himself (that'd be his alibi for why he ran the coat to the truck if anyone should look into the disappearance of the drugs and committing that crime gave him such a thrill he almost had to smoke calm down) before going back to the O.R. Daryl would probably be done soon.
A blonde woman, whose jeans were riding just low enough to give away with a hint of a g-string, was having the same problem with the obstinate coffee machine he had.
Low guarded prescription drugs and fine tail, Merle would have to come to St. John's in the middle of the night more often.
"Here, lemme show ya how it's done," Merle offered.
"I can do it," the woman snapped.
Merle stood by and whistled a little tune, making a show of stretching out his one-dollar bill.
G-String stepped aside and let him ahead of her. Merle fed his perfectly un-creased bill and it only spat out the coffee.
"The problem is your moneys not any good here," Merle put another bill in and handed her the coffee that came out.
They took a sip simultaneously.
"Yer here with someone, aren't ya?" Merle asked. "You're all wound up, worryin' about them."
"Yes. My younger sister, Amy, we were doing some hiking and she wanted to climb up this stupid ledge and she fell and smacked the back of her head. It wasn't bad but they want to keep her overnight just in case," the woman explained.
"She'll be fine."
"Since you seem very intuitive, I'll take your word for it."
"I know my stuff. I roam around here most nights in a white bathrobe, standing in doors way of the elderly, tell 'em it'll be peaceful."
"That's awful," she said but laughed.
"What about you? If you don't mind me asking."
"My baby brother's having his appendix taken out. I had to tell 'im I was taking him for a frostie at Wendy's to get him here. He's in his early thirties."
"Here's to younger siblings," she raised her Styrofoam cup.
They tapped them together without a clink.
"Merle," a recognizable woman's voice behind him.
It was Dr. Kaycee.
"I'll leave you to it," his conversational partner left before he could even ask for her name, never mind her number.
"So Daryl is out of surgery. He's waking up in the recovery room, I'll take you back. It went great but his appendix had burst –"
Went great but his appendix burst.
"Whoa, let me rephrase that. It didn't burst like explode, more like split open at the seams," Dr. Kaycee opened up her metal chart, "but it was really localized, there was a good deal of pus built up along the break, so there is a very low chance of an infection breaking out in his abdominal cavity."
"Is that what the surgeon said?"
"Yes, that is what Dr. Gellar said. Right here in his notes," She knocked on the clipboard. "If you want I could page him and see if he could come down and talk to you if you want. Dr. Scottman wanted me to get some practice talking to family members is all."
"Nah, no need. You did pretty good."
"Really. I thought I was coming off as crass and then I was blowing it out of proportioned – not downplaying right now, appendicitis is a serious medical condition. Any who um…" Dr. Kaycee pulled her bangs out of her face
"Daryl?" Merle helped her out.
Merle followed Dr. Kaycee down another hallway.
"When do you get outta these halls?" he asked.
"I'm pretty much a hamster in a tube here. I think I'm working my way somewhere but really I'm stuck in a cage."
He didn't take that as rejection. Given how frazzled she seemed now, it was poor timing to try and be subtle.
They arrived at another square room. Daryl was lying on his back, working hard at keeping his eyes open. He actually resembled a sloth now with his half lidded eyes and the dopey smile when he realized Merle was
A weight that he wasn't fully aware of was taken off Merle's shoulders. His brother was going to be a – ok.
Merle pet Daryl's shaggy head.
"Ouch," grumbled Daryl.
"Oh ball up, baby brother," Merle laughed.
Author's Note. Sorry this took a while but what've learned about my writing habits is it's like speaking in Entish (Lord Of The Rings). It takes me a while to write anything and I never write anything that doesn't take a long time to write.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, can't tell you how much it means. I was picking out Thank You cards for people and wish I could give y'all one. Jack And Honey, Peachuzoid, zombieslayer5, BannaFlvdSnow, Christy3k, Rebecca taylor, Unfeigned, SoulMore, Awkward-idgit, Dracona Malfoy, Punkrockerbabe95,TheKid'sKid, Kass95, Ashlala93, Mione788, crazstiz, DucksFan1510, Susemi, Booyakasha, VoodooInTheTARDIS.
Thanks to all my tumblr friends, I would've never been introduced to the glory that is BBC's Sherlock without you. My life, as you well know, has been enriched for watching it.