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Heart - 1. A Bug's Life

A new face in the psychiatric unit eases Tyson's misery.

"It's like an addiction," Tyson was currently cross-legged on his bed, tolerating an appointment with Dr Cynthia Ellicott.

She was sitting on the creaky chair he had in his room for visitors, paper and pen in hand, a smile on her face. She paused for a few seconds after he spoke. She always did that. She made sure she gave him time to speak and be heard. It was... different. A nice different.

"An addiction to suicide?" She clarified, maintaining eye contact. Tyson couldn't look at her much. He preferred to avoid it if he could. That kind of connection was way too intimidating.

"Yeah, I mean... even when I was in the ambulance, I was already starting to plan my next attempt," he rubbed at his sore ankle. "I dunno. It's all I ever want to think about. It's like this urge I have in my belly. You know? It's all I want to do. I just want to die. I don't say that because I'm emotional or anything. It's like, a fact. Like, it's Tuesday, it's three o'clock, and I want to fucking die."

"So you understand why I can't let you go home?" Cynthia smiled at him. She was often smiling and making jokes. It made Tyson feel better about talking to her than he did with the other doctors. "You're clever and resourceful, and if I let leave, the first thing you would do is try to end your life again, am I right?"

"Yes," Tyson admitted uncomfortably. If he said no, she would never believe him. "I already have it planned out. The minute the ambulance found me, I was already working out what I can do next time. I'm gonna succeed, you know."

"And I don't suppose you'd let me know about this plan of yours?" Cynthia asked optimistically and laughed when he shook his head. "I thought as much! Still, you can't blame me for trying, can you? Are you feeling angry, Tyson? Since our appointment yesterday?"

"I dunno," Tyson sheepishly replied. "I guess."

"Alice told me you lost your temper again yesterday. You spent more time in the quiet room," Cynthia reminded him, forcing him to sigh in frustration. Everything he did was recorded in his file and brought up in the next appointment. "Tyson, this is the third time in the four days you've been here that you've spent time in seclusion."

"Yeah. I'm good now," he sighed, remembering it as though it happened only minutes ago.

The quiet room was a place he never wanted to see for as long as he lived. A tiny, soundproof room right from the movies, white and padded and empty but for a single bed with velcro restraints already attached to the mattress. The very sight of the wrist and ankle cuffs terrified him, even though Alice often reminded him that they were very rarely used unless a patient was actively hurting themselves. He was locked in medical seclusion until his primary nurse was satisfied that he no longer posed a threat to anyone, himself included. The first time it took nearly two hours for Tyson to calm down. Yesterday, it was twenty minutes - twenty very long minutes. One of the other boys, Derrick, once spent all day in there when he went totally schizo! Tyson couldn't imagine that happening to him, and he didn't want to. He was going to behave himself. He would. He really would this time.

"You're allowed to be angry," Cynthia said after a pause, realising he didn't intend to speak about that experience. "You're not allowed to be aggressive or violent. Okay? When you feel like you might throw something or shout or hit someone, make sure you tell whoever's looking after you. We'll see how we can help you without needing to go to the quiet room to calm down. I hate it when we have to use the quiet room, Tyson. It really sucks for everyone involved, especially you. I know Alice, Sue and Neil will do everything they can to make sure you don't have to go there. Maybe we can find other ways to help you calm down."

"When can I go home?"

"That depends on a few things," Cynthia shifted in her chair, making it squeak horrendously. "The most important one is that you, your parents, Dr Okereke and I are confident that you're safe at home. You'll need to agree to and comply with a treatment plan - I'll stay in touch with you for all of that. Also, we need to see that you're taking positive steps to help yourself. Lastly, we want to make sure you have some strategies ready for the next time you feel angry. We can't fix everything for you, but we can give you as many tools and as much help as you need to get you there."

"How long might I be here, though?"

"I think it would be a good idea for you to stay here in a safe environment until next week at least. After that, we'll take it as it comes, okay? But... look, I'll tell it how it is. You'll be here for as long as it takes for us to make sure you can be safe when you leave. But unless you go out of your way to make everything difficult and unpleasant, we should be ready to rock and roll before you know it. Do you trust me?"

"Yeah, I suppose," Tyson shrugged petulantly. "Are you leaving now?"

"I have a lot of people to see!" Cynthia exclaimed, making a show of wiping her brow to showcase her exhaustion. "You're one of my favourites, though! I'd stay here all day with you if I could. I'll be back on Monday, okay? If you need to contact me, you ask Alice."

She smiled and turned to leave through the heavy door. It was a neat system. It locked automatically when shut, but would open from the inside. To get back into his room, Tyson only needed to press his wristband against the lock for it to open. The AIU staff all had a master key and came in to check on him every fifteen minutes or so, but no other patients could access his room.

"Hey, wait!" Tyson objected, sitting up and frowning at her. "Did you forget?"

"I almost did!" Cynthia laughed and fished out a small chocolate frog from the pocket of her strangely trendy skirt, tossing it over to him. She often brought little gifts to her patients, particularly those confined to a psychiatric ward. It helped foster a positive bond and increased morale. "Sorry, I'm a bit of a scatterbrain. I see you didn't forget, though!"

"Thank you!" He managed to smile up at her.

"Try to have a good day, and remember to listen to both Alice and Dr Okereke when you see them. It's not their fault that you're here," she winked and waved on her way out.

Tyson gnawed cheerfully at the tasty chocolate treat. There was no shortage of edible delights to enjoy at the AIU, but these were special because they were from Cynthia. Edith Belmont-Lovett, Tyson's mother, tainted the experience by calling it coercion or bribery in exchange for cooperation, but even if that were true, Tyson didn't care. They gave him a tiny window of joy in a time where nothing else did.

This being an adolescent unit, all the other boys and girls were twelve years old to eighteen. Tyson was almost two months past his fourteenth birthday. He was both too shy and too elitist to talk to the other patients. After all, they were crazy. The kids in these places were all bad kids who fucked up their lives, after all - Edith and Chase always told him so. However, despite what he'd been expecting, what he thought he knew, very few of the other teenagers seemed to be weird or deranged at all. A few were nutcases, but most seemed just really sad. Some of them were so regular that he could scarcely believe they were supposed to be here. He wanted to ask, but that was apparently in bad taste, so he did what everyone else did. He minded his own business.

A clique of three girls and one boy, the older kids, liked to eat with each other and sometimes spend their free time together. While the girls seemed friendlier, most of the other teenage boys had nothing to do with each other, and Tyson was one of them. He played Solitaire with a pack of cards in his room and spent a lot of time napping - the frequent checks during the night woke him often, and he struggled to sleep even though his medication made him drowsy.

Naturally, minutes after he was left alone, there was a knock on the door. Although Tyson shouted out that he was okay, Alice always opened the door to check anyway. Regulations, he supposed. He was too sad to care. He was far too tired to get up to any mischief anyway - it wasn't like she was ever interrupting anything except his sleep.

"Just checking on you, hon," she smiled sweetly and spoke with a Scottish accent. She was old, possibly in her sixties and with her silver hair cut like a mushroom.

"I wish you'd just set up a webcam or something," Tyson said to her, looking up with tired eyes. "This checking stuff is getting on my nerves."

"Sorry, hon, I know it is," Alice hesitated. "Would you like anything? A cup of tea? Juice? A hot Milo?"

"No, thanks," Tyson sighed. "Can you please leave the door open? Having it open and shut all the time is annoying."

"Sure."

She pushed the door to the wall where the magnet kept it from closing. After she left, Tyson sat on his bed once more. Man, it was lonely here. The nurses, Dr Okereke and Cynthia were all helpful and personable, but he needed a friend. This was his chance to take time out of the painfully strict schedule inflicted on him at home and actually socialise with people his own age, but his uncontrolled anger, rich-boy entitlement and filthy mouth made him unpopular. To skip the rest of another day he tried to have another snooze, but it didn't work. It rarely did. Alice and Cynthia both promised he would get used to the interruptions and routine welfare checks, but he wasn't adapting well at all.

"We've got your room all nice and ready for you," he heard Alice talking in the background and crept to his open doorway to investigate.

Tyson immediately felt his dark brown face flushing pink and butterflies in his stomach. It was a good-looking young man he was looking at, strolling wearily up the corridor with Alice and an orderly from the high-dependency unit escorting him. That wasn't anything new. The really crazy kids seemed to bounce between the general ward and the secure wing all the time. This boy was the cutest he'd ever seen, he was sure. He had such gorgeous blue eyes, raven-dark hair that flopped over his left eye and dimples in his cheeks. What a stud! Alice led him to Terry's room - Terry must have been released or transferred. Tyson didn't care much, but if this hot guy was taking his place, then he wished he could high five Terry for either recovering or deteriorating.

"I'll get you a wristband," Alice had been talking the whole time Tyson was busy looking at the new guy. She noticed right away. "This inquisitive young man here is Tyson. Tyson, this is Vladimir."

Vladimir gave a shy smile, but he looked just as drugged and defeated as the smaller boy felt. Tyson had no idea what it was like in the high-dependency area, but it would be a lot worse - especially the lack of privacy! In this part of the ward, the checks ranged from fifteen minutes to two hours, depending on patient risk. Tyson, dedicated to killing himself, was considered high risk and got checks four times an hour, but thanks to Cynthia, his voluntary status saved him from a sojourn in the high-security part of the complex. He was incredibly grateful that Cynthia gave him that trust and privilege and his pride made him determined not to let her down. She could have dragged him in as an involuntary admission, but she let him decide to come in himself as a voluntary inpatient, affording him more freedom in return for his compliance.

"You know the drill, Vlad. Anything you need, you just let me know, okay? I'll never be far away," Alice beamed as she took her leave, and she gave a friendly wave to Tyson as well.

She was comforting without even needing to try. She had that gift, it seemed. Tyson often wished his parents could be like that. They were great for motivating and encouraging him to be the best person he could be, but they were not warm or comforting when he needed them. They expected so much of him, and he was failing them. He blamed himself for that whereas Edith and Chase blamed themselves. Cynthia insisted to all three that these things can happen, nobody was to blame and that the brain could be "a fickle bitch of a thing" but still, it was hard not to feel like he was the problem. Edith and Chase didn't mean to make him feel that way, but he did.

Lunchtime arrived before long. Tyson, when going through the menu with the kitchen staff to place his orders, had beef and gravy with hot chips to look forward to. Not being forced to eat those obnoxious superfoods was a rare upside in the Acute Inpatient Unit that he exploited every chance he got. While Alice would encourage him to eat a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables with his meals, Tyson, in typical teenage fashion, chose to spoil himself. This was the one place his overbearing helicopter parents did not control every aspect of his life, and he was determined to at least enjoy the perks if he was going to be stuck here. Vladimir was there already, and Tyson nervously approached, hobbling on his crutch to spare his severely sprained ankle, and sat next to him. With those blue eyes, the boy stared off into space as though he were in an entirely different world.

"Hey," Tyson said quietly to the boy next to him. While in the high-dependency wing, the children were required to wear hospital uniform, but now that he was in the low-dependency area, Vladimir had some of his freedoms returned to him and dressed himself in a red shirt with black jeans, leaving himself barefoot. "I'm Tyson."

To his dismay, Vladimir ignored him completely. He continued to stare into space, and if Tyson listened carefully, he could hear the boy whispering to himself. It sounded like he was chanting. Or maybe singing. It was unnerving, and Tyson felt crushed. Either Vladimir didn't want anything to do with him, or he was too spaced out for whatever reason. So be it, Tyson thought sadly and sighed deeply. What did he expect would happen? Still... he was cute.

A few minutes later, nothing had changed. Vladimir's eyelids sometimes quivered, and he never stopped whispering to himself. Jae, the funny Korean man who cooked in the kitchen for both wings of the AIU, served up the tray for Tyson, whose mouth watered. The food here was far better than the healthy crap Edith served at home. Jae, noticing Vladimir's state, snapped his fingers a few times in front of the boy's eyes. Vladimir seemed to shake from his daze, and his beautiful blues locked onto the young man.

"Hey, Vlad! Off with the fairies again?" Jae grinned, and Vladimir gave a shy smile.

"I was," he admitted, hugging himself with his arms. Jae left, and Vladimir took in his surroundings, almost looking surprised to see Tyson next to him, looking at him strangely. "Oh... hey. Um... how long have you been there?"

"Like, five minutes," Tyson replied softly and nervously. "You didn't hear me."

"Oh, that's not completely embarrassing, heh," Vladimir rubbed his temples with his fingers. "I'm sorry. I do that a lot. I wasn't trying to ignore you." He managed a half-hearted chuckle.

"Don't worry about it," Tyson giggled, looking down at his food.

It smelled heavenly, but he didn't want to start until Vladimir had his tray as well. He couldn't care less about Annie and Heather, seventeen and fourteen respectively, sitting across and next to him around the circular table. They often ate with Tyson and Terry, but they never spoke to him or each other. Terry was gone, though. Vladimir was here now. Good. Terry was an arsehole anyway.

"And here's something for young Vlad," Jae was undoubtedly an animated man, enthusiastically slipping the tray of fried rice in front of Vladimir with a grin. Tyson was sceptical of how happy the staff always seemed to be. He wondered if they'd let him have a dose of whatever kept them so insanely optimistic.

"I thought I ordered the same as you," Vladimir touched his forehead with his skinny, pale fingers, a confused, blank look appearing on his pretty face.

"Would you like a chip?" Tyson asked, his mouth already full.

"Oh, no, but thank you!" Vladimir beamed, his blue eyes locking on and making Tyson's knees weak. He's so pretty. Oh wow. It was a good thing they were sitting down, or Tyson was sure he'd swoon. "I like rice more; I just... argh. Forgetful and stuff."

"Like a goldfish?" Tyson grinned, and Vladimir managed to retain his cheerful smile through the first mouthful of his lunch, suppressing a laugh so that he didn't spit his food everywhere.

"Sometimes," he eventually replied, and Tyson was thrilled to be having a real conversation with someone who wasn't paid to do it.

Even when his mother visited all she talked about was the campaign and how successful Kelly was at school. Edith had no interest in speaking about their son's hospitalisation - it was embarrassing for her. She liked to keep her problem child hidden and secret.

"Do you play cards or anything?" Tyson asked hopefully, and Vladimir looked at him oddly.

"You mean like Go Fish?" He asked, gingerly wiping his mouth with his napkin. Tyson felt compelled to do the same - he was a terror for getting gravy, sauce and whatnot all over his face and didn't want to take any chances of making a fool of himself in front of the first potential friend he had.

"Anything!" Tyson shrugged. "Go Fish is fine! I'm so bored. I want something to do."

"Oh, I feel that," Vladimir rolled his eyes. "In the other wing, I was climbing the walls! I don't know why they seem to think keeping us so bored is helpful! Sure, I'll play cards with you. It's erm... tsk. I knew it once! I did! Um... your name, I'm sorry!"

"Tyson."

"Tyson argh, yes! I'll probably need to write it down on my hand."

"And you're Vladimir?" Tyson was glad he had the dark brown Sri-Lankan skin he inherited from his mother. If he were as pale as Vladimir, everyone would see how hard he was blushing right now.

"Just Vlad is fine," Vladimir nodded, using his spoon to organise his rice into a nice, even circle.

The four at the table at their meals and occasionally glanced at the television. Being midday, nothing on the screen was exciting at all. Tyson had little interest in current events, mainly while he lived in the hospital. He looked down at his blunt knife. There must be a way to sneak one to his room and keep it safe. Surely. He'd already examined his room for ways to sharpen it - the floor of his bedroom was covered in an ugly blue carpet, but his ensuite bathroom was hard and stony. He could sharpen the knife well enough in there; as long as he kept the blade, the noise and the marks on the floor from Alice, Neil and Sue.

The frequent checks would be annoying, but he was sure he could time it well enough. Then bam. Right into the jugular. Not the wrist. Not again. He'd been saved in the nick of time when he slashed them during his first attempt two months ago. This time he'd go for the money shot. It was a lot more lethal, he was sure. There was a cutlery count before and after meals, though. If Tyson were going to steal his knife and stash it, it would have to be under the nose of Jae and the supervising nurses, and somewhere it couldn't be found in a search. He'd have to research things more thoroughly before doing a sloppy job that would only have him rescued and sent to the high-dependency area.

"I think I'm going to have a nap actually," Vladimir yawned after they both finished their meals. Tyson stuck his bottom lip out. "Hey, sorry, man. I'm just... rooted."

"You haven't slept well?" Tyson asked. He felt the same way, but he was hoping if he avoided having a nap, he'd manage to sleep through all the checks during the night.

"Not great, but it's mainly my meds," Vladimir explained, his eyes heavy-lidded and droopy. "They make me sooo drowsy."

"Do you wanna watch a movie instead?" Tyson asked hopefully, remembering that the staff would be putting on A Bug's Life on DVD in the movie room. He'd seen that movie already, but it was better than doing nothing, he supposed. Better than trying to sleep only to have Alice coming in to make sure he wasn't devising a way to hurt himself all the time.

"I'll probably fall asleep!" The pale boy laughed, dropping his head onto his hands and massaging his face.

"Doesn't matter! I'm pretty sure all of us will!" Tyson giggled and rests his head on the table so he and Vladimir could maintain eye contact. "None of us can sleep, and everyone is on drowsy pills!"

"Fine! But if I want to see a movie next time, you have to agree to come with me!" Vladimir teased and conceded, nodding ever so slightly.

"Okay, whatever! Let's go!"

Tyson hopped to his one stable foot and winced, bracing himself on the crutch in his right hand. The ward staff were always apprehensive about the use of crutches, especially as Tyson had an explosive temper. If he used the crutch as a weapon - even as a threat - it would be permanently confiscated, and Tyson would have to use a wheelchair until he could walk again.

"Not yet, mister!" Alice approached, and Tyson's heart sank. What now? "You've got some medicine to take before you go anywhere."

"Right," Tyson looked away awkwardly.

Being ashamed of all this was weird. Taking medication because his brain wasn't working correctly wasn't a big deal, right? The nurses, Dr Okereke and Cynthia all reassured him of this every time he turned his nose up at them when they offered him his valium and antidepressant. Still, his parents didn't believe in mental illness, and he often heard their words echoing through his head. Words like useless, retarded and pathetic. Weak and stupid. Everyone here took medication all the time, though. From what Tyson could see, it was working for most of the boys and girls here. So many of them seemed functional enough to be back home already. Tyson didn't know why Vlad was here, but he took medication as well. So why does it feel like I'm a loser of a human being for doing that?

Two pills. One white, for his depression. One orange, to keep him calm. He didn't like the orange pill much. It dulled his senses and made him sluggish. Still, he trusted Cynthia, he supposed. Alice, too. He swallowed both pills with the small cup of water and opened his mouth so Alice could make sure he'd consumed them. The staff were aware, thanks to his record, that he was crafty and resourceful. They didn't take any chances with him. It made Tyson feel like a criminal sometimes, to have so few freedoms. But if Cynthia said it would make him better, he believed her. He just wished it wasn't all so... hard. Vladimir followed him at the snail's pace Tyson was forced to keep. His ankle caused him a lot of pain.

On his way to the train tracks a few nights ago, he'd been unprepared for how slippery the slope became with some rain and took one heck of a tumble, spraining his ankle so severely he could no longer walk, and getting a lot of bruises on the way down. There he stayed, unable to move until the police car searching for him finally spotted him lying in the wet, muddy ditch. Another plan, perfect in theory, ruined by bad luck. That was a running theme, it seemed. Fate threw a spanner in the works every time. Now he was stuck with this stupid bloody compression bandage around his ankle and a crutch to walk on until he got better. Vladimir didn't ask questions. Not about the vast, ugly scars running up both of the smaller boy's wrists, the injured ankle or the other wounds, bruises and grazes on the boy's hands, face and neck.

"Where do you wanna sit?" Vladimir asked through another yawn, covering his mouth with his slender fingers. "Couch?"

"Couch is good!" Tyson hopped over to one of the red couches and Vladimir followed him, the two sitting side by side on the three-seater. It felt good to be with someone for a change. So eager had the two been to gulp down their food and leave that they managed to beat everyone else here - even the nurses.

"Where are you from?" Vladimir asked quietly as he crossed his legs under his knees. Tyson wanted to ask how in hell that could be a comfortable way to sit, but he chose not to.

"Red Vale," Tyson replied. He was hesitant to talk about himself, but he was enjoying the company.

"Me too!" Vladimir gasped excitedly, and Tyson tittered. "No, seriously! But I'm in Cook Bay, so I guess it doesn't count. I'm like... Red Vale adjacent."

"That's weird that you're so close," Tyson exclaimed, shaking his short, curly hair. "Where do you go to school?"

"Oh... it used to be Cook High," Vladimir looked away. Suddenly the light and energy seemed to fade from his face. He went limp. Deflated. "I don't know which school my parents will send me when I get better."

"You should come to Murdoch Grammar!" Tyson decided for him with a laugh. "That's my school, and it's not far away!"

"Murdoch Grammar?" Vladimir smirked at him, and some of the light returned. Good. He looked so miserable and defeated a moment ago that Tyson was feeling echoed effects. "You're a rich kid, then."

"No way!" He replied with an almost condescending laugh. "Maybe my parents are rich, but I guarantee you that I am not! I don't even have any money for the vending machine. Argh."

"Aww. Really? Well hold on, I'll be back, okay?" Vladimir spryly hopped to his feet. He was very slim, almost skinny, and a few inches taller than Tyson was. Fifteen, sixteen, maybe seventeen at a pinch? Tyson had forgotten to ask. "Save my spot!" Vladimir darted away, and Tyson didn't even think to ask where he was going.

More people started to trickle into the movie room, including Janet, the nurse who worked on the floor today. Alice, whose responsibility was to look after Vladimir, Tyson, DJ and Isaac, often talked of her as though she were a superhero. Luckily, Vladimir returned before someone snatched his seat away - as Tyson would have told them to piss off - and sprung back down, accidentally knocking Tyson's sore leg as he did and causing a whimper of agony.

"No! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" Vladimir panicked and fretted, but Tyson laughed it off. Had it been anyone else, he might have lost his temper at their clumsiness, but Vladimir was special. Janet already had her keen eyes surveying the situation the moment she heard Tyson cry out. She seemed satisfied when Tyson, quick to anger, forgave the other boy on the spot.

"Don't worry about it, Vlady!" Tyson already nicknamed his new friend. Vladimir didn't comment, so he assumed it was okay. "My whole body hurts like a bitch, so it's bound to happen."

"Can I ask what happened? Oooh, hey, Charlie!"

Vladimir shifted nice and close so there was enough room for Charlie, an almost adorable twelve-year-old boy with a mop of wild, tangled brown curls always hiding his face, his fingers in his mouth and perpetually clutching a big pillow to his chest, to sit next to them. Charlie did not reply. He was an enigma. Between a few small tidbits that Charlie had let go and what Tyson had managed to eavesdrop on and discover, years of sexual abuse from his foster parents left Charlie badly scarred on the inside. He was a nice enough guy, as far as Tyson was aware, but he was awkward to be around. Though he was twelve, he spoke and acted as though he were two years old.

"I fell down the hill near the train station and hit of rocks and stuff," Tyson grimaced, remembering the terror that flooded his body when he lost his footing and the world spun around him like a vortex of darkness. "Sprained my ankle bad and the rest is just bruises and shit."

"Keep the bad language to a minimum, please," Janet ordered from the front of the room, fiddling on the computer and turning on the projector.

"Yeah, you're fucking disgraceful," Vladimir whispered, and both boys began to giggle uncontrollably. Janet seemed to know what they were doing, her stern eyes assessing them. She was smiling though, so they must have gotten away with it.

"Hey, so how old are you?" Tyson asked quietly.

"Fifteen. I'll be sixteen in April," Vladimir shrugged. "You?"

"Fourteen," Tyson was secretly ecstatic to hear that Vladimir wasn't too old to crush on.

Of course, Tyson had been crushing on guys from his age to guys in their twenties, thirties and forties. Mostly the cute guys he played soccer with, or a couple of his teachers. Some older guys, too, mostly movie stars. Brad Pitt was, what, sixty now? And still such a stud! But Vladimir guy was young enough to maybe like him back. Maybe...! There was always hope. After all, Vladimir did look a little bit gay sometimes. He sat cross-legged on the couch, and he had kind of a girly walk and a hairstyle that Edith would describe as "faggy."

"What are you thinking about?" Vladimir's voice suddenly startled him. Oh dear. Have I been staring at him this whole time??

"N-Nothing!" Tyson smiled and burned under his dark skin, brushing his curly black hair with his fingers. "Zoned out. You should know what that's like."

"Hah!" Vladimir poked his tongue out playfully and shook the can of Pringles he had purchased from the vending machine. "I was going to give these to you, but now you have to share because you made fun of me."

"You didn't have to do that!" Tyson felt guilty all of a sudden, but Vladimir responded by opening the can and putting a chip in his mouth, making a look of bliss as he crunched it obnoxiously loudly.

"It's fine! My mum brings me a small allowance for things like this. Come on! Or there won't be any left," Vladimir threatened, but then he turned to Charlie next to them. "Want some chips, Charlie?"

"Thank you," Charlie smiled and attempted to grab with the hand right from his mouth.

Vladimir, to Tyson's immense relief, tipped some Pringles from the can into his hands rather than letting the youngster put his saliva coated fingers all over everything. Charlie ate like a toddler, too. Mashing the chip against his mouth, most of it crumbling and falling to his lap. Poor Charlie. He always looked so sad and dejected. That was so thoughtful of Vladimir! Tyson's feelings for the boy seemed to get stronger after that display. Handsome, funny and warm-hearted? He's amazing!

"So, you know each other?" Tyson asked.

"Ahh... yes," Vladimir offered the can over to his new friend and tipped some chips into his hands. "From the other wing."

"Okay."

Tyson decided to respect his new friend's privacy. He wanted to know all about why Vladimir was here, how long he'd been here and how long he might still be here, but it wasn't appropriate. There was a sense of unity among all the inpatients. They didn't judge, and they didn't ask questions. If Charlie wanted to cuddle a pillow all day, not one person would comment on it. After all, Tyson had seen Vladimir sneaking glances at the horrible pink-brown scars on his wrists and the boy hadn't said anything.

The movie finally started after Janet came very close to breaking her own no-swearing rule and fixed the projector. There was very little talking, which was nice. Charlie snuggled up happily to his pillow and suckled at his thumb, still dressed in his pyjamas. It was a peaceful movie session. Vladimir did end up eventually dozing off... and his head rested on Tyson's shoulder!! Tyson felt fireworks going through his belly, shooting off and exploding where his heart lay in his chest.

"Is this okay?" Janet leaned down and whispered to him when she noticed the predicament he was in. She must have thought Tyson might have been awkward having another boy sleeping on him.

"I'm good!" Tyson replied just a bit too happily.

Janet's mouth twitched into a rare smile on her gargoyle face, and she decided to leave them alone. Wincing as the pain shot through his body, Tyson adjusted himself so that he could comfortably lean his head against Vladimir's. His shiny black hair smelled like peppermint shampoo, and his body was warm. Oh my gosh! Ahaha. Tyson sighed contentedly, and without even thinking about it, his brown digits rested against Vladimir's alabaster hand. Vladimir's eyes opened lazily, and he gave a slight smile, one that brought thrills to Tyson's blackened heart.

The older boy the gave a soft, happy moan and nuzzled closer, his digits gently brushing and playing with the smaller fingers of the other boy. Oh. My. Gosh! Tyson was almost ready to squeal with delight. He rested against Vladimir cheerfully as the boy gently snored under him, and he closed his eyes as well. For the first time in a very long time, his last thought before passing out was a pleasant one.

Thank you to anyone who reads my stories. ❤️ It means a lot.

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Chapter Comments

10 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Intriguingly different.

Haha thank you! I wanted to write about something that doesn't get talked about very often.

 

8 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great start. Looking forward to learning more about Tyson and Vladimir.

Thank you very much! There is So much more I want to show about the boys :)

 

10 hours ago, ObicanDecko said:

That was beautiful, my friend! ^_^

You introduced all characters so well, we know much about them already, but there's still things we don't know: why is Tyson suicidal? Why is Vladimir in that unit and did he do anything at his old school?

It was such an emotional and bittersweet first chapter!

I can't tell you everything at once! ;) I'll tell you more next time I promise!

As for Tyson, it is strongly implied in this chapter that he has developed an obsession or addiction to suicide because of the amount of pressure his overachieving parents push on him. More on that to come.

Thank you friend <3

 

7 hours ago, donaldbirwin said:

I agree with Obican--beautifully executed.  I read the intro blurb and thought, "Well maybe yes, maybe no, we'll see."  I'm hooked--intriguing, memorable characters, including the staff.

Aw excellent news! Thank you from the bottom of my heart :)

I'm thrilled you gave my boys a chance. And the staff too! :p

I appreciate it <3

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I love the frontispiece illustration!

 

The concept of suicide as an addiction is fascinating.  Interesting that Tyson is open enough to tell Dr. Cane that he will continue to attempt suicide but is secretive enough to refuse to divulge his plan. (His openness is a sham, however, as he knows she wouldn't believe any other response.) Further, while he says to Dr. Crane , "I'm not like... emotional or anxious or stuff," this statement is false:  He has already shown aggressive or violent anger, or he wouldn't have spent time in the "quiet room."  However, his hospitalization is voluntary, so he has enough insight to want help (or at least accept it when offered). Importantly, Tyson feels like a failure: His parents "expected so much of him, and he was failing them." While most kids under pressure from their parents would not turn suicidal, I do not feel that parental influence should be completely discounted (while not quite the same, consider episodes of school bullying which have driven kids to suicide; and here, the parents are referring to Tyson as  "useless, retarded, and pathetic. Weak, and stupid").  Dr. Cane--Cynthia--has gone on record saying "these things can happen, nobody was to blame, and that the brain could be 'a fickle bitch of a thing...'";  and while I agree that the root cause of depression is likely organic--a neurotransmitter issue requiring SSRI antidepressants--a little family therapy wouldn't hurt. (In fact, in this case, I'd say that it's mandatory.)

 

Every 20 minute suicide checks--just part of the price for having attempted suicide. (Such a patient would likely be afforded no privacy--not even in a bathroom--until the staff were satisfied that he is no longer at acute risk.)

 

Tyson's observation (despite his expectations) that most of the kids in the unit look normal is consistent with the reality that one can't necessarily tell if someone has mental illness merely based on their looks or surface behaviors.

 

Vladimir is an interesting character: His trance-like whispering may suggest schizophrenia, and his recent stay in the high dependence area indicates recent high risk behavior.  However, he is receptive to Tyson, and their hand-holding/stroking shows that he's most likely gay (and he's beautiful!).

 

That "Vlady" makes Tyson happy is actually good news, as a severely depressed person wouldn't care.  

 

And Charlie just makes me feel sad.

 

Can't wait to read chapter 2, and I'm in luck, as I see it was just published! 😊

Edited by travlbug
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Now I love Travlbug comments - they're my favouritestest! But you'll probably understand why I was ambivalent about this one :Pit's difficult to have confidence in a story when someone knows much more about the subject material than I do!

 

1 hour ago, travlbug said:

I love the frontispiece illustration!

 

Thank you! :) 

 

1 hour ago, travlbug said:

The concept of suicide as an addiction is fascinating.  Interesting that Tyson is open enough to tell Dr. Cane that he will continue to attempt suicide but is secretive enough to refuse to divulge his plan. (His openness is a sham, however, as he knows she wouldn't believe any other response.) Further, while he says to Dr. Crane , "I'm not like... emotional or anxious or stuff," this statement is false:  He has already shown aggressive or violent anger, or he wouldn't have spent time in the "quiet room."

Yeah you hit the nails right on the head! :) He doesn't see it that way, but that doesn't mean it isn't so. Telling stories from POV rather than an omniscient narrator has both pros and cons. 

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

However, his hospitalization is voluntary, so he has enough insight to want help (or at least accept it when offered).

Hmm I think I put the elaboration of his status in the next chapter - maybe it was this one? I forget!

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

 Dr. Cane--Cynthia--has gone on record saying "these things can happen, nobody was to blame, and that the brain could be 'a fickle bitch of a thing...'";  and while I agree that the root cause of depression is likely organic--a neurotransmitter issue requiring SSRI antidepressants--a little family therapy wouldn't hurt. (In fact, in this case, I'd say that it's mandatory.)

Definitely - but don't spoil things for yourself! :P You already know so many of the answers! Haha there's a lot of the journey to go yet! 

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

Every 20 minute suicide checks--just part of the price for having attempted suicide. (Such a patient would likely be afforded no privacy--not even in a bathroom--until the staff were satisfied that he is no longer at acute risk.)

Tyson is not an acute risk (as far as the staff are concerned) but perhaps I could have explained that better. 

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

Tyson's observation (despite his expectations) that most of the kids in the unit look normal is consistent with the reality that one can't necessarily tell if someone has mental illness merely based on their looks or surface behaviors.

 

:thankyou:

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

Vladimir is an interesting character: His trance-like whispering may suggest schizophrenia, and his recent stay in the high dependence area indicates recent high risk behavior.  However, he is receptive to Tyson, and their hand-holding/stroking shows that he's most likely gay (and he's beautiful!).

 

There's no slipping that past you :P I didn't imagine you'd need the blurb to pick up on schizophrenia at all. More on Vladimir to come. :)

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

That "Vlady" makes Tyson happy is actually good news, as a severely depressed person wouldn't care.  

 

Yessum! Thank you friend. I was hoping that would translate. 

 

2 hours ago, travlbug said:

And Charlie just makes me feel sad.

 

:( I'm sorry! 

 

Thank you for a lovely comment with many insights! I'm just worried you'll poke holes in all my blind spots!! Hahaha :P  ❤️

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41 minutes ago, Dabeagle said:

It's tragic and beautiful all at once. Interesting beginning. You have my attention!

Aww thank you! That's exactly what I'm shooting for! I hope I don't let you down ^_^ 

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This is very intriguing!! The characters have been created beautifully and I feel a real connection with them! I’m looking forward to reading on! ❤️😊

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On 7/27/2019 at 11:03 PM, Cj008 said:

This is very intriguing!! The characters have been created beautifully and I feel a real connection with them! I’m looking forward to reading on! ❤️😊

Thank you so much for giving the story a go, friend! ❤️ I hope it doesn't disappoint! 

14 hours ago, Will Hawkins said:

Superior characterization and pace. I am anticipating much pleasure from reading this.

Thank you for the kind words ^_^ I hope it delivers! :) 

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