Everything hurt. All the way to the tips of his hair. His lungs ached as they struggled to take in the cool dry air slowing around his face. .D couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so abused. The time he’d come to Izm’s rescue in a fight and gotten the shit kicked out of him came a close second. He still wasn’t entirely sure all of his ribs were intact from that altercation.
Despite the temptation to abandon this painful reality, .D fought against the pervasive drowsiness pulling at him. He had the feeling that he had been asleep too long already. Had he missed school? Maybe he had caught the flu that was going around, that would explain the intense aching, though if he was this ill he should get to Nurse Isla before he got any worse. He was surprised no one had come to retrieve him yet if that was the case.
He took a deep breath and a pain seared across his chest. .D opened his mouth to yell but just had another mouthful of that cold dry air forced into his lungs. It was making him dizzy, and once again he had to struggle against the urge to sleep.
This time the battle ended with his eyes slowly fluttering open. The lights were dim and he gave a silent thanks for that. The surroundings were foreign to him, but he knew it would be counterproductive to panic. .D cast about in his strangely cloudy memory for a hint of what could have happened. He remembered the movie, a pointless action flick that Izm had been set on seeing. It had been two hours long, like they all were now for some reason, and Izm had come out of it complaining loudly that his stomach had started digesting his other organs somewhere around the climax. McDonald’s was all that was open by that point, and he got to witness the very disturbing sight of someone twenty pounds lighter than him devour a whole chicken worth of nuggets.
Izm…why did he have the feeling this was his fault? Probably because the delinquent was always at fault when he felt like shit. His vision was still cloudy, and he couldn’t move his head for some reason, but it looked suspiciously like he was in a hospital. Dim fluorescents, plain walls and tiled floors, the low hum of machinery that he desperately hoped wasn’t attached to. But where was Izm? And why couldn’t he feel his right hand? His left was fine, other than the general ache.
After a few more disoriented moments of trying to move about, his head turned a fraction, settling into the stiff hospital pillow. There he was, and there was the cause of his numb fingers. Izm had a death grip on his hand, even in his sleep. The boy’s slumber was restless, brows furrowed and breathing uneven. .D’s eyes squinted in annoyance. What did he have to be upset about, he wasn’t the one trapped in a hospital bed for god only knows why.
“Idiot,” the word barely escaped his dry lips before it clouded around his face. A breathing mask.
Annoyed, .D swatted at it with his free hand, but his fingers were clumsy and weak. Thankfully the struggle woke Izm, but the boy was little help. He just sat there gaping and rubbing sleep from his eyes, and when the tears began to fall he dashed those away too.
“You’re awake…finally. I was so worried,” If .D thought his hand was numb the crushing force of Izm’s relieved squeeze assured him otherwise. “.D you’re awake. You’re alive…thank god, .D…”
Before the prefect was able to rip the breathing mask off his face and berate Izm for not helping or explaining and generally being an all-around nuisance, the nurse arrived. It was then that he noticed one of his machines had been beeping persistently, probably summoning the softly smiling woman.
“Good, you’re awake,” .D’s glare flickered over to her now, tired of that phrase already. Was anyone going to tell him just what he was waking up from? “Not that we didn’t think you would, but you were certainly being stubborn about it. We had to lower your morphine dose to try and coax you to rejoin us.”
The nurse’s words set off a shock of alarm in his chest. How long had he been out of it? “Three days,” Izm whispered, seeing .D’s eyes fall to him in a question. He squeezed .D’s hand again, and this time the fang banged boy didn’t even scowl at him for it. Three days…no wonder Izm was so upset.
“Such a nasty business,” The nurse, her name tag read ‘Julia,’ tutted to herself as she turned away from checking .D’s vitals. She threw back the covers that had been folded up under his chin to reveal a mess of bandages tinged with the dark ruddy red of old blood. “Gang violence has gotten so bad in this city. And you barely a child, I swear. How could anyone live with themselves? Shooting at school boys—“
Feeling both .D and Izm’s gaze on her the woman brought her fingers to her mouth. Obviously she was used to speaking in a room where no one could hear her. “But don’t you two worry. The stitches are taking well, bleeding’s about stopped, and after a few days you should be right as rain. A little weak and sore, but well enough to get back to class. And you’ll only have a few little scars. All the girls will think you’re quite brave.”
Julia smiled cheerfully and didn’t seem bothered by either boy’s lack of enthusiasm. She bustled around a bit more, setting a glass of ice chips by .D’s bed and placing the bed and television controls within reach. “He can talk for ten minutes then the mask goes right back on,” She told Izm, who nodded, trying to look responsible. “I’ll be back to change the bandages.”
Izm slowly eased the mask off of .D’s face, wincing at the faint red outline along his cheeks. “H-hey…”
.D took a few seconds to breathe the sterile hospital air. It wasn’t much better than the air the mask pumped at his face, but at least it wasn’t so stifling. Izm was acting twitchy, even for someone who had been waiting all night at his friend’s hospital bed. That was the ‘.D’s going to kill me’ face. He was expecting one hell of a lecture and .D didn’t even know what he was supposed to be scolding him for.
“What day is it?” His voice was weak and quiet, throat dry from several days without use. While Izm answered, he reached for the ice chips and popped a few into his mouth, watching his arm trail cords and IVs with distaste.
“Tuesday, around noon.”
.D eyed him, watching Izm squirm in his sear, plucking at the hospital sheets. He thought he was being subtle but .D caught him glancing at the bandages swathed across his chest.
“You’ve missed two days of school.”
Izm laughed. “That’s what you’re worried about? You gonna give me detention?”
“I should,” .D relaxed now that Izm wasn’t acting so strangely. He pulled the sheets back up and over his chest. His disorganized mind fumbled for something else to say. Izm seemed too on edge to ask about his injuries, and he was too embarrassed to comment on the fact that the other boy had apparently been at his side the whole time. The thought rose an uncomfortable heat to his cheeks. Something the nurse said stuck with him though. “So…gang violence?”
Izm flinched back and looked away, settling on the monitors displaying information he couldn’t make sense of. All he knew was the steady movements meant .D was alive and stable.
“What’s the guilty look for?”
Izm shrugged and smoothed the blankets fitfully. “The guys’ll be happy you’re up. They were here for a while, but Rire took them back. Tried to bring me too, but let’s be real, when has he ever told me what to do?”
“Izm,” Weak as it was, .D’s serious voice cut through the other boy’s nervous spew.
“What’s got you so freaked out?”
“…they missed,” Izm said lowly, trying and failing to keep from looking up at the places the bandages covered.
“Well, yeah, I’m still alive,” he rolled his eyes. Izm barely cracked a smile.
“They weren’t aiming for you, remember?”
.D stared back blankly, that night was still blurry. But, after a struggle, he thought he remembered pushing Izm down onto the concrete. He could see a few patches of gauze on his palms and one across his cheek. “Why were they aiming at you?”
“Dunno…” Izm pulled his goggles off to turn them over in his hands. “Guess I’m just good at pissing people off.”
.D sighed heavily and leaned back into the pillows. “Leave it to you.”
“Yeah…all my fault,” Izm ran a hand through his tangled hair. “I’m sorry.”
“Is that what you’ve been worried about?” .D made an annoyed noise. If he wasn’t so weak he would have knocked some sense into him. “I take a bullet for you and you’re busy sulking like an idiot. Think about yourself for once.”
“You’re not mad at me?” Izm’s fearful look faded to confusion. He’d had several days to wrack himself with guild while he wondered if .D would ever wake up.
“I’m always mad at you,” .D closed his eyes, drained of energy already. “Idiot.”
Suddenly the mattress shifted and when he opened his eyes Izm was startlingly close. The delinquent crawled up onto his bed with all the familiarity he showed in .D’s dorm. Instead of settling down to rest, he reached out for .D. Too weak to protest, he let Izm wrap his arms around his shoulders and even held his tongue when he felt a nuzzle at his neck.
“Ah-! Get off,” He flinched way when the hug pulled at one of his stitches, a sharp pain jabbing at his chest. Izm pulled away quickly.
“I did get shot in the chest, you know. Maybe hold off on that until I can punch you for it.”
A sly little smile crossed Izm’s lips. “Something more gentle, got it.”
.D narrowed his eyes suspiciously, but the pillow behind his head kept him from retreating when Izm snatched a quick kiss. “…idiot.”
“Shut up, do you know how worried about you I was?” .D turned away so he didn’t have to look at the very real pain in those earnest red eyes. Of course Izm was panicked. He knew the kid had some serious abandonment issues, even if they both pretended otherwise. He told himself that wasn’t his concern, not his responsibility to make sure Izm felt safe and secure. But if the situation were reversed…
Izm slowly leaned away. Now he’d been quiet too long, and Izm was rethinking that kiss. Good. What did he even mean but that? Obnoxious.
“Stupid. Help me put my mask back on. Maybe that’ll help you keep your lips to yourself.”
Izm laughed softly and helped adjust the straps back over .D’s ears. He did seem tired after just their short conversation, and he always said Izm’s presence exhausted him.
“At least have the decency to use some chapstick or something,” He muttered sourly before the mask was fully back on. Just for that, Izm pressed another kiss onto his lip. For a second it felt like he kissed back before the soft touch was replaced by an annoyed bite.
“You’re one to talk,” Izm quipped, settling the breathing apparatus in place. “Lips like sandpaper.”
.D gave him a very foul look, telling him explicitly that he didn’t have the right to complain after taking advantage of .D’s inability to punch him in the jaw. Izm just grinned that familiar grin, and made to return to his chair. .D watched for a second before patting the bed beside him.
“You sure?” Of course he’d ask, couldn’t just accept .D’s kindness so the prefect could pretend it wasn’t a big deal. .D’s eyes narrowed dangerously, the expiration date on his offer was fast approaching. Without further hesitation Izm clambered back to his side, helping him adjust so they could both fit in the narrow bed and taking care not to aggravate the boy’s stitches.
The warm familiar presence at his back and the steady drip of painkillers had almost lulled .D to sleep when the nurse returned. She clicked her tongue at the sight of Izm curled up in the bed and ushered him out of the room while she changed .D’s bandages and the doctor looked over his injuries again.
“He’ll make a full recovery,” Julia assured Izm when she let him back into the room. She looked at them both sternly. “As long as you don’t aggravate his stitches while they heal.”
Izm smiled innocently and nodded at her every word, then as soon as she was out of the room he took his place at .D’s side again. The boy barely looked up at him, just scooted over and nestled into the pillow, exhausted.
The next time .D woke up was significantly more jarring, laughter and raised voices filling the small hospital room. Of course Izm hadn’t thought to get out of the bed before visiting hours, and so he was now faced with an irate principal Rire asking just what he thought he was doing. .D’s tired eyes found Zeke and Wei Ren, both in hysterics. The warmth at his back told him that Izm still hadn’t left, and he was coming up with all manner of ridiculous reasons he had every right to be in .D’s bed and why he intended to stay. The more outlandish explanations even garnered and giggle from Marcus, who was obviously distressed at the sight of his friend covered in bandages.
At least Izm was good for something. That wasn’t going to save him when .D regained his strength and full control of his limbs, though.