Author's Note: This is just something that I've been thinking about trying for a while now. Hospital scenarios are pretty easy for me to write considering that I come from a family of people in the medical field (you can imagine how disappointed they were once they realized that I didn't plan on following in their footsteps). xD I doubt this story will be more than a maximum of three chapters unless there is a high demand for it. It's been a while since I've written something brief. Anyway, please review, favorite, follow, and most importantly, enjoy! :D
Christmas was always the busiest time of the season at the hospital, especially in the emergency room, where countless bodies poured in, each suffering from a range of illnesses that ranged from mild cases of strep throat to severed fingers resulting from incompetently carving the Christmas turkey.
Honestly, it was a wonder that Americans even managed to function on a day-to-day basis.
At any rate, it was a living nightmare for most doctors, who would battle for a single day's break from the 'Christmas cheer' at work to spend time with their families. However, such was not the case with Dr. Arthur Kirkland. He had nary a family member to race home to, no parties to host or a bountiful dinner to prepare; in short, he was completely free to stitch up swollen fingers all day while stockpiling those precious hours of overtime that brought in wonderful sums of money. He had no reason to complain, for his Christmas was simply another day spent in usual solitude along with a beloved bottle of wine.
During today's shift, he had managed to scrape himself a short lunch break, returning only to be bombarded by a set of weary nurses who continuously voiced their complaints regarding how understaffed the emergency room was. They shuffled to and fro, delivering medications and equipment as hastily as they could manage while staying sane.
He didn't usually work down in the ER, but his position had been temporarily changed from working in the Adult Intensive Care Unit due to the shortage of doctors working on the floor. He assumed he'd be stuck with this new role for at least another day or two, depending on how long it would take for the chaos to clear itself up.
Quite frankly, it wasn't until another nurse ran up to him and brought up the fact that there was some sort of commotion going on outside of the emergency room's entrance that he realized that he was in for another long night.
"Dr. Kirkland, it's an issue with a pair of children," the woman told him exasperatedly, eyes pleading with him to go and resolve the situation without further debate.
Arthur frowned, finishing the rest of the tea he had purchased from the corner-store during his break and tossing away the Styrofoam cup into the nearby garbage bin. "I don't treat pediatrics, that's Antonio's job. He's the temporary pediatrician on shift."
"Dr. Carriedo has his hands full with another patient in critical condition, and the situation is apparently urgent. The children cannot wait."
Sighing heavily, Arthur nodded numbly and decided to accept the challenge even though he was terrible with children. Nonetheless, he couldn't stand idly by if help was needed immediately. It wasn't as if he wasn't educated on the different treatment methods—in medical school, it was necessary to know how to treat any type of patient—it was just a bit unnerving at times due to the lack of exposure.
He had barely turned the corner to the entrance lobby when he heard fervent shrieks and shouting bringing him to attention. He was soon met with the sight of two little boys fighting with a pair of security guards who were making futile attempts at calming them down.
"NO! LET ME GO!"
Well, in actuality, one of the boys was fighting and lashing out at both of the guards, while the other stood slightly off to the side, tears running down his pink face as he sobbed, breath seemingly getting caught in his throat and refusing to be accepted by his lungs.
Arthur scowled, his white coat rippling behind him as he approached the boy that was crying. "What the bloody hell is going on here?"
Finally managing to restrain the flailing boy by snatching him up by the waist, the flustered security guard spoke roughly, enduring the twinges of pain that coursed through him as the child kicked at his chest restlessly. "We found these kids down the block," he began slowly before pointing to the boy that Arthur was standing next to. "Something's wrong with that one—he's breathing all funny and his parents were nowhere to be found, so we brought them in."
"PUT ME DOWN! DON'T TOUCH MATTIE!" the boy that was entangled in the security guard's arms cried out, making a weak attempt at biting his captor.
There was a reason he avoided children like the plague; he just couldn't stand the tantrums.
"Calm down, no one is here to harm either of you," Arthur spoke firmly, glaring at the screaming boy. He had striking blue eyes and an unruly cowlick perched atop his dark-blond mop of hair.
Kneeling down next to the timid boy that was still trying to suck in a gulp of air, Arthur removed his stethoscope from its resting spot around his neck and placed the buds in his ears, cautiously beckoning the little boy closer.
"What is your name?" he asked the child, hoping the distraction of a conversation would give him a chance to examine the boy properly.
Hugging a shabby stuffed bear in one arm, the boy mumbled through a hiccup, "M-Matthew."
Trying to muster his best bedside manner for the sake of keeping control of the situation, Arthur smiled forcibly, looking rather uncomfortable as he berated himself for his lack of consolation. "Right, then, I'm Dr. Arthur Kirkland. Would you let me have a quick listen to your lungs?"
The temper-tantrum prone child opposite him tossed in his two-cents into the conversation, causing Arthur's blood to boil. "Don't let him touch you, Mattie! Doctors aren't safe! Don't trust him!"
"Excuse me," Arthur said coldly, casting the blue eyes a sharp look. "Matthew does not require an attorney at the moment to speak on his behalf."
Exhausted from all of his thrashing, the badly behaved child dangled limply in the security guard's clutches, looking defeated and forlorn as he watched his companion warily.
Finally responding, Matthew offered the doctor a grim look. "Will I f-feel better?"
"Yes," Arthur promised, stern yet calm. "I will do everything in my power to help you—it's my job after all."
Matthew bit his lip and finally conceded, taking a step closer to Arthur's figure and glancing nervously at his subdued accomplice opposite him. "Okay."
Arthur instantly went to work, gently pulling up the child's snow-sodden sweater and undershirt before placing the business end of the stethoscope against the boy's chest. Every few seconds he would adjust the diaphragm to a different spot, ultimately moving on to the boy's back to listen to his lungs from behind. Eventually, he released the boy, slightly relieved with the outcome of the examination.
"It's a textbook case of an asthma attack that has gone untreated for quite some time," Arthur announced, more for his own benefit than anyone else's. "You're going to be just fine with the proper medications, Matthew. Now, I must ask, where are your parents?"
The boy wavered slightly, shying away from Arthur's gaze as he continued to breathe in heavy, high-pitched wheezes. "Gone," he finally whispered, no longer crying.
Arthur let the information sink in for a moment before nodding and standing up to his full height, wrapping his stethoscope about his neck again. "All right, it looks like we're going to treat you without any formal consent then, seeing as we have no other choice other than simply sending you back out onto the streets while you're unwell. Let's find you an empty bed, which I imagine will be difficult in and of itself."
"I'm not going without Alfred," Matthew chimed, pressing his face into the dusty fur of his stuffed polar bear.
Arthur stood still once more, one hand on his hip as he raised a bushy eyebrow at the child still in the hold of the hospital's security. "I assume this is Alfred? Who by the looks of it is your twin brother…" he mused.
Matthew nodded softly, an apologetic look crossing his face. "Alfred doesn't like doctors because he thinks they're evil."
"I gathered that much," Arthur replied, unable to contain an amused smirk as he met the defiant gaze of the little boy. "I suppose he can tag along if he behaves himself."
"DON'T GO WITH HIM, MATTIE!"
Deciding he might as well instill some fear in the rebellious counterpart of Matthew to keep the peace, Arthur sent the boy a dark look. "Do you know what happens to little boys who don't obey doctors, Alfred?"
"No," Alfred huffed, crossing his arms and sticking out his tongue at the doctor testily. There was no way he was going to allow himself to be intimidated by the man. He was going to be brave for Matthew because his brother needed him now more than ever.
Arthur grinned wickedly, green eyes boring into the blue. "They get painful shots with big, scary needles."
Alfred's face paled a bit, but he still managed to keep up his stubborn wall of defense, and for that, Arthur mentally applauded him. The doctor chuckled with a small shake of the head and guided Matthew down the hallway with a warm hand on his back.
Alfred loomed shortly behind the two, having been released by security and permitted to follow his brother as a form of support. He had simmered down, taking the threat of getting an injection rather seriously.
This was certainly a first for Arthur. Normally, he wouldn't treat children and would refer them to a trusted pediatrician, but now he was left with no choice. Additionally, he'd never had to deal with an under-aged patient that was present without a single parent by their side, so that was going to make filling out the paperwork an especially tricky feat that would most likely result in a migraine.
He helped Matthew into a blessedly available bed and made sure that Alfred was not going to convince his brother to make a run for it before disappearing for a bit to retrieve a nebulizer along with some albuterol (seeing as he couldn't be bothered to ask an overworked nurse to do it for him). When he returned, he was pleased to find that both boys were still present and in relatively the same positions that he had left them in.
Depositing the nebulizer on a side-table, Arthur plugged it into the wall and found a disposable children's oral mask in the adjacent supply cabinet. After pouring the liquid albuterol into the nebulizer's cap, he made sure the adapter of the mask was secured to the machine before turning it on and placing the mask over Matthew's face. He adjusted the elastic bands of the mask behind the boy's head to keep the device in place, finally satisfied with his work.
"The treatment should be finished in about fifteen minutes. I'll be back then to examine you again and to ask you both a few questions," Arthur told the twin boys, beginning his retreat so that he could find out how to contact one of the boys' guardians as well as to discover what would be done with them after Matthew was finished being treated.
He had moved to pull the privacy curtain closed when he realized the bloodstained sleeve of Alfred's sweater, eyeing the artifact carefully and pursing his lips. It looked as though Matthew wasn't going to be his only pediatric patient of the day.
"Alfred," he started steadily, recalling how Matthew had told him that his brother was mistrustful of doctors. "May I ask what happened to your arm?"
Jumping in his chair in fright, Alfred spun around to face him, eyes staring into Arthur's as he willed himself to be brave and hold his ground. "What do you mean?"
"Don't play stupid with me," Arthur countered coldly, holding up the boy's arm as though he had captured a fish. The ratty sweater smudged with pure filth couldn't disguise how thin the boy's limb was.
Immediately the child hissed, courageous exterior crumbling as his brain registered the pain and tears sprung in his eyes. "Don't touch it!" he wailed at the doctor, trembling violently and attempting to pull away.
"Could you relax?" Arthur asked, significantly annoyed with all of the child's resoluteness. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to do my best to help."
"I don't want your help!"
Sighing angrily, Arthur released Alfred's arm, deciding that if the boy was going to be so bullheaded, then so be it. It wasn't in his job description to persuade little boys to accept his medical assistance. He scoffed and left the pair of children, deciding that he would send Antonio to check up on them later rather than dealing with them himself. After all, he wasn't cut out for pediatrics, and he'd always known that due to his thin patience. He couldn't stand the tears and shouts, though he supposed that some children were more compliant patients than the majority of the adults.
Reaching the nurses' station, he let out a tired breath, addressing the nearest nurse who didn't seem swamped with tasks. "Send Carriedo into room eleven when he's done faffing about. I've got a pair of parasites waiting to see him. We also need to contact Child Services seeing as said parasites have arrived with no parents."
"I'll see what I can do," the nurse muttered, already on the phone as Arthur went to tend to another patient.
What a day it was turning out to be.
Arthur Kirkland congratulated himself on beating his record as within the next hour he patched up a total of eight patients, administering sutures as the more spirited men and women shouted profanities at him. Most were given local anesthetics for their wounds and ailments through the help of some trusty syringes, but others opted to take the 'high road' by declining any pain medication beforehand. It was because of these patients that Arthur became fearful for the safety of his own life as one of the more brutish men sent him a murderous look as he finished his work.
When he had finally decided that he had seen enough bleeding wounds for one day, he was called back to the nurses' station and ordered to deal with yet another round of commotion taking place in room eleven. Apparently, he was being specifically asked for.
He had a feeling that he wouldn't be able to get rid of those rascals so easily.
So he accepted his fate and made his way to the forsaken room to see what the problem was. He pushed back the curtains to find a rundown Antonio standing over Alfred and Matthew, stethoscope at hand as he tried to reason with the two boys.
When Alfred spotted Arthur, the child's gaze hardened. "You left us. You said you would be back."
"You said you didn't want my help," Arthur backfired. "Either way, I don't specialize in treating children."
Alfred grabbed hold of his brother's hand, squeezing it tightly as he continued. "You're still a doctor though. You helped Mattie, but then you abandoned us."
Arthur growled under his breath, shaking his head in negation to the claim. "I sent another doctor in to take care of it, one who does specialize in children. I'm growing very sick of your attitude, lad."
Antonio turned to his colleague, downtrodden as he gave the man a pleading look. "The little one in bed said that he wanted to see you. I'm sorry for the trouble but perhaps you could take over? I really am busy and don't have the time to play games."
Arthur wanted to snap and say that he was busy with his own group of patients as well, but kept quiet seeing as most of the people he had treated were already on the road to being discharged within the next hour or so. One look into the fatigued doctor's eyes and he couldn't protest any longer, opting to solemnly nod his head and watch the man's exit.
"At least someone appreciates my help," he muttered, smiling wistfully at Matthew. "Are you feeling any better, lad? How's your breathing?"
Matthew bashfully lowered his head, picking the lint off of the bed sheets. "I'm okay."
"Splendid. Allow me to take another look at you, okay?"
He lifted the boy's sweater once more and rested the cold stethoscope against his chest, nodding in satisfaction upon seeing that the wheezing had ceased and the boy's airways seemed to be clear again. He pulled the stethoscope away and gave Matthew a thoughtful look, beginning the necessary interrogation process.
"Matthew, are you aware that you're an asthmatic?"
Matthew tilted his head to one side, a contemplative look growing on his face. "What's that?" he finally questioned, more than a little confused.
"It means that you have a chronic respiratory disease which—" Arthur stopped himself, realizing that he was speaking to a boy that was surely no more than eight years of age. He would have to explain the condition in terms that a child such as himself could process. "Well, simply put, it's when your lungs don't function as well as they could because of excess mucus and swelling in your bronchi, which are the passageways for air. The swelling can be caused by a number of things that we in the medical business call 'triggers'. Your triggers could range from allergies, to being sick, or breathing in cold air. You need to avoid these triggers so that you don't have another asthma attack again. Normally, it would be your parent's job to keep your asthma under control since your still so young and little, but—"
Matthew interjected the man , discontent evident in every feature of his face. "I'm not little! I'm seven years old!"
Ah, finally he had obtained a new tidbit of information from the children. He smiled dryly and nodded apologetically, pleased to see that his estimate had only been a year off. "I'm terribly sorry. You're absolutely right—seven years old is very grown-up indeed. Anyway, seeing as one of your triggers caused you to have a rather severe attack, it would probably be best to put you on some preventative medication to lessen your chances of having an episode again. Before I can do that though, I need to know the name of the adult that is looking after you two. You said that your parents were gone before. What did you mean by that?"
Alfred stepped in suddenly, protectively standing in between Arthur and Matthew. "Mattie and I take care of each other. We don't need any adult's help."
"If that's the case, then what do you think would've happened if the hospital's security didn't escort you both here today? Matthew's condition would've only have gotten worse, and he could've become seriously ill. What would you have done then?" Arthur asked the defensive child pointedly, staring him down. "We've already contacted someone to come and retrieve you both after—"
"NO!" Alfred shrilled, long-suppressed tears finally flowing freely from his eyes. "You can't let them take us away! W-We're fine on our o-own."
Heart softening and turning to mush in a way that he didn't realize he was physically capable of, Arthur patted Alfred's back reassuringly. "All right, just settle down. I'll work something out and make sure that you are well taken care of after you both leave here, okay? For now, let's just take everything one step at a time. First, I'm going to order a Pulmonary Function Test for Matthew to see the real extent of the asthma. Then, I'm going to give both of you a full examination, seeing as I've noticed a few underlying problems like malnutrition. So, no more tears. Chin up and we'll fix this mess," Arthur soothed, a little stunned himself to see that he was actually managing to handle the situation despite his dislike of children.
Alfred wrapped his arms around Arthur's legs, resolve dissipating. "Thank you for fixing, Mattie. Don't leave us again."
"You're very welcome," Arthur murmured, ruffling the boy's matted hair as a pleasantly warm feeling erupted in his chest. "I won't leave for very long again, but you're going to have to let me take a look at that arm of yours."
Alfred sniffled and nodded, holding out the offending arm as a peace offering. "I scraped it on a piece of metal a few days ago."
Gently pulling back the sleeve and having it bunch at the boy's elbow, Arthur inspected the wounded forearm, grimacing slightly as he noted the tell-tale signs of infection on the swollen flesh. "Hold still," he ordered the child before rummaging around for a clean pair of gloves and snapping them on. He then ran a finger over the length of the deep scratch, chewing on his lower lip as he usually did when he was in deep thought. Finally, he finished his inspection and took off his gloves.
Delivering his verdict, Arthur gave the exposed wound another look from afar. "It's a bit infected, but it doesn't seem to be too serious. I don't see much drainage…" he spoke to himself, going through his options. It wasn't a good idea to stitch the wound up and possibly worsen the infection, so he'd have to settle on topical antibiotics and some proper bandaging. "I'll disinfect it and wrap it, but the bandages are going to have to be changed frequently, and I don't suppose you have anyone who can do that for you when you leave here. We'll have to figure something out when the time comes. Not to mention it'd be wise to give you a DTaP immunization."
Alfred cocked his head to the side, horribly confused by the doctor's words. "What's an immuni—immunemization?"
"Immunization," Arthur corrected, suddenly scolding himself for scaring Alfred with the threat of getting a shot previously. The child certainly wasn't going to be pleased with him after he was properly treated. "It'll keep you from getting sick. It's possible that after getting such a scrape, you could develop a variety of diseases. And though you seem fine now, it's best if we're cautious and administer the vaccine anyway."
Well, he supposed he was used to people hating him anyway.
Alfred immediately grew anxious. "V-Vaccine?"
Oh, dear God, how did he get stuck in this position?
"Don't worry, everything's going to be just fine," Arthur murmured in what he hoped was a tender lilt. "I'm going to get this all sorted out. Sit tight and I'll be back in a tick."
It was then and there that he realized he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he let those boys down.
"Good, now take in a big breath… Keep going… Breathe out…" Arthur mumbled, coaching Matthew as he took his first Pulmonary Function Test or PFT for short. The British doctor had resorted to literally doing everything on his own, seeing as the nurses and various medical assistants on the floor couldn't be trusted to get his orders done in a timely manner. And well, if there was one thing that he was good at, then it was managing to get things done on his own. He knew full well how to have a patient take a PFT, and he wasn't going to wait for anyone to finally grace him with their presence so that it could be completed four hours too late.
Matthew coughed roughly, bringing a fist up to his mouth to block the gust of air. When he had recovered, he blinked at Arthur expectantly.
"It's normal to be a little breathless after the test," the doctor informed reassuringly, stifling a yawn as his exhaustion began to catch up with him. He took the spirometer used to measure Matthew's airflow away. "I'll print out the results and look them over to see if they're in a healthy range, though I suspect they aren't."
Matthew frowned, folding his hands together and looking a little curious. "I'm not breathing enough air?"
"Actually," Arthur began, briefly reminding himself to simplify his answer, "with asthma, it isn't that your lungs aren't getting enough air. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Your lungs are having difficulty with releasing the air that you're breathing in. In turn, that makes it hard for you to breathe in new air as well."
"But I feel okay now…"
Arthur sighed, placing a hand on Matthew's shoulder wearily. "Matthew, I'm afraid that even when you're not having an asthma attack, the disease will still be affecting you. There is no absolute cure, only rescue and preventative medicine."
"Will I have it forever?"
Arthur glowered, hating that he had to be the bearer of bad news for the child. "Yes, but it's also possible that you will never get an asthma attack ever again. Nevertheless, you will still need to be on medication. Now, let's take you back to your brother, hmm?"
Glancing at his watch, he noted that it was now seven o'clock. If he recalled correctly, he'd returned from his lunch break at around one. Since then, he'd been on his feet nonstop, leaving him feeling dead inside.
He dragged himself into room eleven yet again, only to be greeted by Alfred's sparkling blue eyes that continued to be filled with deep concern for his brother.
"Is Mattie okay?"
Arthur allowed himself a tired chuckle upon seeing the child fretting over his twin. "Yes, he's perfectly fine, dear boy."
Alfred smiled softly, hopping off the hospital bed to greet Matthew. He then observed Arthur silently, a new found trust beginning to form between him and the doctor.
"You look tired," he noted.
"That's because I am tired."
"Go to sleep then," Alfred ordered as though the solution to Arthur's problem was blatantly obvious.
Arthur snorted. "I wish I could, but I'm tending to you both. I need to go back to pick up those test results, and then I need to prescribe Matthew's medication. After the hour is up, I'll probably have to treat a few more patients before I can call it a night. I doubt I'll even leave the hospital tonight. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to take a quick kip in the terribly uncomfortable bunk beds set up for such situations."
"You sleep at the hospital?"
"Sometimes it's necessary."
"You can sleep on the bed here if you want. You need it more than us," Alfred offered charitably.
Arthur laughed despite himself, fondly mussing up the child's hair. "Thank you for the invitation, but I'm afraid I must decline."
And with that, he left to properly look over the PFT results and to prepare the necessary items that he would need to tidy up that mess on Alfred's arm.
Releasing an enormous yawn this time, Arthur couldn't wipe away the image of those adorable twin boys out of his mind no matter how much he tried.
And a voice of reason kept urging him not to get too attached.