Tyson continues to be a difficult patient and Vladimir has a bad night.
"Oof," Dr Bradley Okereke loved to make noises while he was examining his patients as though he were watching a horror movie or something. It made Tyson laugh. "This must be painful!"
"I'm okay," Tyson wasn't exactly lying when he said that. Yes, his ankle hurt. A lot! But he liked it that way. It gave him relief from those thoughts. That urge. Not because he didn't want to think about his demise, no. He loved thinking about killing himself. But he couldn't do that. Not here, at least. The unit was incredibly secure, and staff watched him closely. No. He would play ball and get discharged as early as possible, then... oh, did he have plans for himself! He hoped his stupid bitch mother would be the one to find him. Nice and messy. He was going to enjoy it.
"Oh, really?" Bradley smirked up at him and gently pressed his fingers into the swollen, bruised flesh above Tyson's bared foot. Tyson squealed in pain and recoiled. "You're not a good liar, Tyson. It's hurting, isn't it?"
"Yeah, because you're touching it and stuff!" Tyson pointed out. Once again, it wasn't like he was lying. It hurt most of the time, but the pain had only become unbearable when the doctor tried to prove his point.
"It's going to hurt for quite a while," Bradley warned him, gently examining the rest of the boy's blackened foot and ankle. "I don't see what you hope to achieve by putting up with it - especially when you go to sleep. Doesn't it keep you up? Don't you move it?"
"No," Tyson grumbled. This time he was lying. "What would you know, anyway? I'm the one with the busted ankle, not you!"
"You'd be surprised what I know," Bradley spoke wearily. Tyson had not been an easy patient for him, and his parents were even worse. "I've been practising medicine for twenty years and I have three teenage daughters. There's not a lot from you that can surprise me. Look, I think you're being silly by refusing the painkillers. Can I ask you why you're so determined to go through hell? Why you want to make everything so hard for yourself?"
"Oh hey, I'm Tyson!" Tyson put on a big smile and extended his hand. Bradley was confused and suspicious. The man looked up at him, his dark black lips pouting in irritation.
"I'm not following you," Bradley turned his attention away.
"Oh, you know. Clearly, you and I haven't met before!" Tyson's impertinent reply dripped with sarcasm and got on his doctor's nerves. "I like hurting myself, not that it's any of your business! You can't tell me how to live my life! That's not your job!"
"You're right about that," Bradley chose to shrug off the boy's arrogance and privilege. He'd been the physician for a lot of wealthy, entitled patients and was used to ungrateful, snide attitudes coming his way. Treating him like a servant and wiping their arses with his medical opinions. "I can only fix you up when you make bad decisions, and from what I'm hearing from you right now, there are going to be a lot of them."
"Who cares? Can you go now?" Tyson folded his arms angrily. He didn't need a sermon from this man. This man was a general practitioner. Nothing more. He wasn't a psychiatrist. He wasn't Cynthia! He was overstepping his bounds and Tyson wasn't having it. Edith wouldn't stand for this, so neither would he!
"Indeed I can," Bradley let go of Tyson's foot with a stoic face. "I've seen everything I need to see. Before I head off, though, there's one thing I want to tell you. Whether or not you want to listen is up to you, though."
"I won't," Tyson sneered, but Bradley ignored him. A petulant teenager was the least of his worries today.
"Making things harder for everyone involved isn't going to get you home any faster, Tyson," Bradley warned him, slowly walking towards the doorway. He'd finished his examination. "If you want to act like a testy brat the entire time you're here, then that's no skin off my nose. I get paid either way. I'm not the one who has to deal with the consequences of your behaviour - you are. Like I said, mate; it doesn't matter to me. It's all on you. I'll be back to check on that ankle and knee in a few days."
"Good. So fuck off," Tyson snarled, and Bradley gave a slight nod and left the door open behind him. After a few moments of slowly stewing in his unpleasant, frustrated feelings, he swung his fist and punched the wall with a thud. It hurt. But it hurt good. He did it again. And again. His fist started to ache. A sad voice interrupted him.
"Tyson?" It was Charlie. Small for his age with little eyes that peeked out from behind the tangled, wild mass of curls that shrouded his face and fell to his shoulders. He hugged his favourite pillow close with his left arm almost all the time, and today he was gently suckling on the corner of it. There was nothing at all malicious or scary about the youngster. Being around him was just... upsetting. That might be the best word, Tyson thought. Charlie spent most of his life abused, molested and raped by the sick fucks who adopted him, and the boy's brain didn't seem to know how to deal with the trauma. Tyson didn't understand it. It was as though his psyche wanted to go back to a time before all that happened and got lost there, stuck in a world where Charlie was still an innocent two or three-year-old boy.
"What's going on?" Tyson asked, rubbing his sore fist with his other hand. He was surprised that Charlie initiated a conversation with him. It wasn't as though the boy never spoke, but it was often to a nurse or sometimes Vladimir or Casey, two who spent time in the high-dependency unit with him.
"I heard you being sad so I bringed you a cookies," Charlie's hand, dry at the moment, passed a packet over to the older boy. Awww! The boys and girls only got one of these packets every day - five small cookies - and Charlie was willing to surrender them because he thought Tyson was sad. The gesture was such a sweet one that much of Tyson's fury dissipated in seconds.
"Thanks heaps, Charlie!" Tyson smiled with genuine happiness, but he turned them away. "You cheered me up, but these are your cookies. I already had mine."
"Kay!" Charlie gave a rare smile, nuzzling the blue pillow in his arms. It was just a standard hospital pillow, but Tyson learned that it came from another hospital. The nurse who tried to separate it from Charlie on his transfer received some pretty nasty bites and scratches. "You stay happy! We're friends, ok? Bye-bye."
Friends? Only a few days ago, he would have been disgusted with the idea of being friends with someone like Charlie. The boy was a mess. Unkempt and mentally scarred. Weird on both the inside and out. Edith and Will would never in a million years let Tyson go anywhere near someone like Charlie if he were on the outside. In here, though, he was consistently surprised by how layered, complicated and nuanced mental illness truly was. Edith believed that all people with "depression" or "suicidal thoughts" - she would say with her fingers making quotation marks - should sign up with the army because "that's all they're good for. They'll die in combat, and everybody wins." She thought people like Vladimir, who had trouble separating what was real from what was not sometimes, should be locked away for the rest of their lives. Well, she can go fuck herself. She's wrong about them. About me. We're just people. I like Vladimir. I like Charlie, too.
"Hey boys," Neil spotted them on the way past and smiled. He's handsome, Tyson thought shyly. "You ready for dinner? Let's get it while it's hot, yeah?"
"Sure," Tyson hopped along on his crutches while Charlie chewed on the corner of his pillow. The dining hall did smell fantastic. Jae worked pretty tirelessly all day long to feed the kids in the ward. Tyson had some fish and chips to look forward to, and indeed he was. Five-thirty in the afternoon was too early for dinner, though. At home, his family ate at seven sharp. Tyson was usually starting to get hungry again by lights out at nine o'clock and often smuggled biscuits or fruit back to his room to gnaw on when his tummy inevitably grumbled.
"Tysoooon!" Vladimir greeted him loudly and cheerfully with a big wave. He's so beautiful, Tyson thought, and another smile widened on his face. Don't be so obvious, he told himself. Vladimir might get weirded out. "Charlie! Come and sit here!"
"Do you wanna sit with us?" Tyson asked Charlie, who seemed indifferent about the idea but nodded anyway. Charlie spent his time alone more often than not, but usually, he ate with a small group of other younger kids his age.
"So how's your foot? Do we have to amputate?" Vladimir's blue eyes shone, and Tyson laughed as he gingerly sat down in the chair next to his friend while Charlie plopped down opposite them.
"The doctor's a shithead," Tyson rolled his eyes and sighed. "He's always giving me lectures and stuff instead of doing his job."
"What does he give you lectures about?" Vladimir asked curiously, propping his head up on his hand. He looked drowsy, but Tyson wasn't surprised. Vladimir took a lot of pills.
"My life in general," Tyson played with the salt shaker with his clever digits. He was starting to miss the piano. Not the flute. He hated the flute. "He's supposed to be fixing my ankle and stuff, not telling me how to live. I hate him."
"He cares about you," Vladimir pointed out, sounding peeved. "I don't think that makes him a shithead, though. Is he rude or something?"
"So rude," Tyson rested his head on his arms. Maybe he wasn't so bad. Maybe I'm just too much like my mum. "Maybe I'm just having a bad day."
He shivered with both surprise and joy when Vladimir gently rubbed his back. It was a lovely feeling. It gave the boy hope. Maybe things might get better? Maybe Vladimir and I could be friends when we get out!
"I'm sorry you're down," Vladimir said quietly. "Is there anything I can do to make it better?"
Kiss me, Tyson thought with a cheeky smile on his face. Hug me. Be my boyfriend.
"You're already making it better!" Tyson reassured him and looked up to see Vladimir blushing and smiling. The older boy looked away. "Thanks. I have crazy days where I'm a total schizo, I guess." He laughed, but Vladimir's face darkened, and Tyson knew he just put his foot in it. Oh, no.
"Why would you say that?" Vladimir asked quietly, his eyes drooping and his lip pouting. His feelings were hurt. "You know I have schizophrenia."
"I didn't mean it like that," Tyson tried to backtrack, but it looked like the damage had been done. "I was just joking."
"It's not a joke to me," Vladimir looked away and rested his head on his arms. "People say that to me all the time. Crazy, psycho, schizo, mad, nuts. Maybe it's funny to you, but it's destroyed my life."
"I'm sorry, Vlady," Tyson reached across, and it was his turn to rub the skinny, pale boy's back gently. Vladimir nodded and turned his head so Tyson could see him. "I won't do it again. Really. It was stupid of me."
"I know you didn't mean anything," Vladimir sighed long and loud. "It's just... it's hard when people throw those words around, and they have no idea what it's like to go through it, you know?"
Tyson did know. Maybe not in the same context, but he was a young, gay teenager. His friends often used the word "gay" as a synonym for stupid or horrible, and that got up his skin. It made coming out of the closet that much harder when his friends and family threw around words like "fag" or "poof" as generic insults. Maybe this would be an excellent time to come out, Tyson thought. Just to Vlad, maybe. He took a deep breath.
"I do know a little bit," he explained, and Vladimir's eyes softened. "I'm gay, and I'm listening to people call each other fags and stuff all the time. It annoys me. I should have been more careful."
"Oh," Vladimir smiled again. That did the trick, it seemed. "I'm gay too. I know what you mean. Does your family know?"
"Fuck, no!" Tyson shuddered to emphasise his distaste with his family knowing their little prodigy was a flaming queer. "I don't wanna tell them, either. They're really homophobic. It sucks. Well, what about yours?"
"Yeah, everyone knows about me," Vladimir explained. "They don't mind. I know I got a good family because even though I'm gay and my brain is broken, they still love me. I don't know what I'd do without them."
"Must be nice," Tyson couldn't help but feel bitter about it. He worked so hard for his family. He was artistic, intelligent and athletic by effort and sheer persistence rather than being naturally gifted. He wasn't allowed to fail or even be mediocre at anything. He had precious little spare time, and he used that to plan suicide attempts.
"I'm sorry things are rough for you," Vladimir reached over and playfully tweaked Tyson's fingers with his own. Tyson chuckled, locking his fingers with Vladimir's and feeling content. "Look, I know your visit today sucked, but I want to you to meet my Mum when she comes tomorrow. She'll love you! I know she will. Please?"
"I dunno about that," Tyson still felt weird about the whole idea. "It's your visit. I don't want to take any time with her away from you, especially if she's so awesome."
"I want you there," Vladimir sat up in his chair, and all sadness around him seemed to be altogether gone, Tyson's faux pas forgiven and forgotten. "Well, if you change your mind, you can totally come with."
The boys smiled, and Jae served up their food. Vladimir got stir-fry - again, he had no recollection of ordering such a meal - and Tyson felt obliged to share some of his chips with his new friend. After all, Vladimir bought Pringles to share. It was only fair. Tyson did not forget about Charlie. He offered the younger boy some chips as well, but Charlie was content to chew on his carrot sticks. He did not use utensils, even though his nurse encouraged him to. It was strange for Tyson to see someone eating like that. At home, he'd get a stern admonishing or even a smack over the knuckles if he used the wrong fork for his entrée.
"Do you mind if I spend some time in my room?" Vladimir asked suddenly halfway through his meal. He'd gradually become quieter, and his attention was fleeting.
"No that's cool," Tyson told him. "I'm probably going to do the same. Just bang on my door if you wanna hang out or something."
"Yeah, he'll do that," Vladimir mumbled, his eyes struggling to focus. He touched his fingers to his forehead, and Tyson couldn't help himself.
"Are there voices? Or thoughts?" He asked timidly, and Vladimir looked at him blankly, before getting up from his seat. Neil, with eyes like a hawk, descended on him immediately. It must have been the look on his face.
"Hey, Vlad, is everything okay?" He asked in that baritone voice. It was a deep voice for a guy so feminine and fair in appearance. "Do you need a time out?"
"He's-- he's umm..." Vladimir mumbled, and Neil clicked his fingers in front of the boy's face a few times. Where the pale boy responded earlier in the day to Jae's clicking, he did not this time. "I-- he... it's so loud!" He grabbed a handful of his raven-dark bangs and tugged on it. "He can't think!"
"Let's get you somewhere quiet," Neil suggested and gently ushered Vladimir out of the hall, one gloved hand on his back. "You're okay."
Tyson watched intently as Neil escorted Vladimir to the corridor. The poor guy. He looked so confused and scared. He didn't know what it was like to battle his own brain like that.
"Is he going to be okay?" He asked Charlie, who looked up and tossed his brown curls out of his face, revealing some pretty green eyes. Charlie and Vladimir spent time in the high-dependency wing together, so he figured Charlie would know what was going on.
"Oh yes," Charlie shrugged. "He is loud in his head sometimes. Ok? He will be better soon. He hears scary things."
"Good," Tyson breathed a sigh of relief.
He was worried, though. The high-dependency wing housed the inpatients who were a threat to either themselves or others. That meant Vladimir, who was transferred to the low-dependency wing only earlier that day, was at one point dangerous. What did he hear? What did he see? What tortured him so much that he was in hospitals since he was only six years old? It made Tyson sad. He didn't feel like socialising much and excused himself. Charlie did crack a rare, sweet smile when Tyson told him to have sweet dreams. He spent the rest of his evening reading To All The Boys I've Loved Before, a book he'd taken from the AIU library. It was a good read, and he didn't even notice the twenty-minute checks until Neil came in to formally hand him over to Sue, who was his nurse on the night shift. Sue was a lovely lady, but he was almost sorry to see Neil go. He was a bit of eye candy. Sue was a middle-aged woman with a sizeable pink blotch on her face. An unfortunate looking woman.
Eventually, nine o'clock ticked by and the staff shut off or locked away all electronics. Tyson was welcome to stay up and read, but he, like many of the other children, took a pill to help him sleep through the night. The AIU was a foreign, scary place and it was difficult to sleep, especially when some of the other patients had episodes during the night. Tyson woke up to a heck of a racket outside. Someone was upset. Vladimir.
"No no no no nononono!" The boy cried out from the room across the hall, and Tyson slipped out of bed, wincing as he put weight on his injured ankle. "Stop!" Vladimir shrieked, and Tyson used his crutch to limp his way, clad only in his boxer shorts, to the door and opened it. Across the hall, Vladimir's light was on, and two nurses were in there with him. He looked so scared. He was huddled in the corner, his arms around his legs, rocking back and forth.
"I don't want to put him in seclusion because he's having a bad night," Sue was saying to another nurse. Tyson did not know her name.
"Yeah, well if he doesn't accept the valium, then we don't have a choice," the woman replied to her. "He's waking everyone up. If he doesn't calm down, we have to."
"Please just leave me alone!" Vladimir begged, his two hands grabbing handfuls of his black hair. He was beginning to hyperventilate. "Make him go away! Make him stop!"
"What's going on?" Tyson asked the nearest nurse, a young woman he hadn't met yet.
"It's nothing you need to worry about," she replied sharply, and he frowned. Who was she to talk to him like that? She was just a nurse. "Go back to bed."
"I don't have to be in bed if I don't want to be!" Tyson snapped at her, although he was still only half-awake and wouldn't mind going back to sleep. She glared at him, but he was right, after all. He'd read the inpatient handbook. He knew his rights, and she couldn't do jack shit about it.
"Then stay out of the way," she growled and turned towards the nurse's office. Fuck you, bitch.
"He has three heads!" Tyson heard Vladimir shout to Sue, who was trying her best to calm him down. "He-- he won't leave me alone! Make him stop!"
"He's not real, sweetie," she reminded him gently, kneeling down. "Okay? He'll go away soon because he's not real. We'll get you some medicine and back to sleep. Come back to bed."
"No!" Vladimir shook his head. "No! He'll find me there!"
"Shhh, you need to stop shouting," Sue soothed him. "Do you want to come for a walk instead? Would you like a hot milo?"
"Um..." Vladimir was shaking, squeezing his head with his hands. It broke Tyson's heart to see him so distressed. Is this what schizophrenia was? It was awful. "O--okay."
"Alright," Sue stood back and let him climb to his feet. He was wearing tight briefs and a grey singlet top that hung awkwardly off his skinny frame. Tyson hobbled out of his room into the corridor and Vladimir looked at him.
"Oh, sweetie, you should be in bed!" Sue saw him as well and frowned. "It's half past two!"
"I wanted to see if Vlad is okay," Tyson explained to her. She was nicer than the other insolent mole, so Tyson was kind to her. "Can I please have a hot milo too?"
"Of course, but we should give Vladimir some space," she advised him, but Vladimir didn't want space.
"Tys!" Vladimir approached and rested his head on Tyson's bared shoulder, putting his arms around him. Tyson flushed with embarrassment, joy and arousal all at the same time and hugged Vladimir back. Sue gave an adoring coo, and she smiled, waiting for them to finish. Vladimir's face was wet from tears and he sniffed. "I'm sorry I woke you up! I just had a bad dream, that's all!"
"Don't worry 'bout it," Tyson yawned and happily nuzzled his face against the other boy's. "Do you wanna get some milo with me?"
"Yeah," Vladimir's voice broke and he began to weep again.
"Okay, let's go," Tyson pulled away and leaned on his crutch. "If anyone with three heads comes near you I'll break their face with my crutch, hey?"
Vladimir's shaky hand grasped at Tyson's spare one, and he looked appreciatively at his friend.
"Thanks," he smiled, wiping his face with his forearm.
"Come on, boys," Sue beckoned with her head and the two followed her, holding each other's hands on the way. "Let's get you some milo and some valium for young Vlad."
"Are you alright, Vlady?" Tyson whispered. Vladimir's eyes were still round as the full moon and he was sweaty, still quivering.
"No!" Vladimir touched his head with two fingers. "I'm... but... I feel better now."
"Why's that?" Tyson asked, and he flushed when Vladimir answered him.