Jum

[IN PROGRESS!!] Josh is an American teenager living in London after moving all over the States when he was younger, and determined to make it his home. Meet Michael, the British boy who will help him do so. (BL, some chapters feature explicit content.)

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30. Chapter 22 [1/2]

Chapter 22

In which, among other things, Josh meets Mr and Mrs Darlington




"Is this Josh McCalman?" a female voice asked.

"Yes."

"My name is Susan and I work at UCH, University College Hospital. I'm calling you on behalf of Michael Darlington."


My heart skipped a beat and I felt my legs turn to jelly — thank God I was already sitting down! "What happened? Who are you? How'd you get my number?" I nearly shouted.

"Calm down, Love," she said, and I was just about to tell her to shove her 'Love' you-know-where and just answer the fucking questions, when she went on: "He was admitted to our A&E services about… half an hour or so ago."

My head was spinning. Something had happened to him. He was hurt, he was most likely still upset and— Oh God. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, he wouldn't have. He couldn't have. No, he never would have done anything like that after promising he'd come over. Right? Right?? Not him. I knew him; he wouldn't do something like that.

But then, a voice at the back of my head whispered that I didn't know everything about him, did I? Sure, I'd got him to talk about some stuff he hadn't wanted to share, but could I swear that there wasn't a whole side of him I knew nothing about?

Fuck fuck fuck, I should have gone to Baker Street anyway! Why had I listened to him?

"Don't worry, Love," the nurse added, pulling me back to the present situation, probably aware of the way I'd started panting. "He's all right, but we're going to keep him overnight just in case. He hasn't stopped begging me to call you."

"C— Can I come see him?" I asked without thinking, squeezing my eyes shut and focusing very hard on what she was saying.

"Of course you can. Visiting hours are until eight o'clock, with dinner usual served between six and seven. Just go to reception, give his name and they'll tell you where to go. We're just about to move him."

"Move him? Why are you moving him? Where?"

"We're moving him to one of the wards. I'll tell him you're coming."

I was dying to hear his voice but I guess she'd have let me speak to him directly if it had been possible.

"Where exactly is the… University…" Dammit, how was I supposed to remember that name?

"University College Hospital. We're on Euston Road, between the Underpass and Euston Square."

Oh right, the tall new-ish glass building, I knew where that was! And it was really close; I could just go on foot. "I'll be there as soon as I can, thank you so much for calling," I said before ending the call.

I sat there for a while, trying not to freak out. She'd said he was all right, but why hadn't I been able to talk to him directly? There were many degrees of being all right; how was I supposed to know? And why hadn't she told me about what had happened? Was it the whole doctor-patient confidentiality thing? Could it be that bad that she would have kept it from me even if I'd had the sense to ask?

I had to get my shit together. I had to get my ass moving and go to see him, no matter what might have happened. I stared at my phone, counted to five, took a couple of deep breaths and stood up.

And from then on I was on autopilot. I went straight to Mom and Dad and told them what had happened in a few brief sentences. Then I checked the quickest way to the hospital with them, grabbed my jacket, my wallet and keys and my phone, and left. I started running the second I was out of the door. I ran down the stairs, not bothering with the elevator, straight to New Cavendish Street and then up Tottenham Court Road towards Euston Square. I nearly got run over a few times but I didn't stop until I sort of burst through the hospital front doors. If I'd walked, it would have taken about fifteen minutes; I did it in… well, much less than that. Fuck, I was lucky this was in the area of London I was most familiar with.

The woman at reception smiled and calmly gave me directions to the ward, and again I went straight for the stairs. I knew I shouldn't run but I couldn't help it. The muscles in my legs were starting to burn but I kept going, keeping an eye on the room numbers until I came to a stop face to face with a nurse coming out of… the very ward I was looking for.

"No running, Love," she warned me.

"Sorry. I'm… looking for… Michael Darlington," I panted pathetically.

"You must be Josh."

I looked for her name tag. Susan.

"We spoke on the phone!"

"We did. He's in here and waiting for you, last bed on the right, by the window. Keep your voice down so you don't bother the other patients, and no stressing him out, Love."

"I promise," I said, grabbing the handle with shaky fingers.

"And mobile phone on silent."

"Oh, yes, sure." I took my phone out and switched it to silent mode immediately, and then paused and turned to her again. "How is he? I mean… really."

She gave me a quick pat on the shoulder. "He's fine."

I took a deep breath and opened the door. I didn't look around and didn't register how many other beds were in the room. My attention was entirely focused on the last bed on my right, with the curtains partially drawn for privacy. I slowed down as I approached it, lifting an even shakier hand to pull the curtain enough for me to peek inside.

Michael was sitting there, resting against a pile of pillows and looking out of the window, and to start with it seemed there was nothing wrong with him. Until my eyes moved down to the arm in a sling, that is. And then he turned his face towards me and I saw the bandages on his cheek and forehead.

My heart and insides tightened like crazy and I finally lost the battle I'd been fighting with my tears ever since I'd got the phone call. True, it didn't seem too serious, but he was hurt all the same and it suddenly hit me that whatever had happened could probably have been worse. That I could have lost him, just like that.

I rushed to the bed and flung myself at him. I knew it wasn't the best thing to do since it would most likely hurt him, but I needed to touch him really bad. I didn't hear or feel him wince; all I knew was that he was there, wrapping an arm around me, running his fingers through my hair and whispering all sorts of reassurances in my ear. I was ashamed of being the one comforted after he'd been involved in an accident but I…

Fuck, I'd been so scared!

"You sound out of breath. Have you been running?"

"I ran all the way from home," I panted.

"I'm sorry," he said softly, cupping my face and planting a kiss on my temple.

I chuckled — at myself — but didn't let go, not just yet. If anything, I held on tighter. I needed a bit longer to make sure he was really there and that everything was all right.

"What are you apologising for, you idiot?" I whispered against his neck after a while.

"You must have been worried when Susan called you."

Yeah, a bit. A lot. More than I'd ever been in my life. But I gritted my teeth and simply said: "Yeah, I was."

He forced me to look up, wrapped his good arm around my neck to pull me closer and kissed me. And dammit, I was crying again… I broke the kiss and hid my face against his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, I'll get over it in a minute. I'm just— Thank God you're all right," I whispered, trying to stop my body from shaking so much. "I don't know what I would have done if you weren't. When I got that call, I thought that… that maybe—"

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe you'd— I know it's stupid, but you sounded so upset and I thought—"

I felt him tense up and he shifted so he could grab my chin and get me to look up. "I would never do something like that; you know I wouldn't."

"People say that," I whispered, squeezing my eyes shut for a few seconds, "and then—"

"Josh, I promise I didn't hurt myself on purpose."

"OK," I managed to say, lip trembling.

"Look at me. I'm fine. It looks worse than it is, I promise. Nothing's broken; I just have a few scrapes and cuts and I twisted my elbow. They're going to fit me with a brace, not a cast, and I should only need it for a week or so."

I took a few deep breaths and finally managed to look up again. He clearly wasn't on the brink of death, I had to get a grip. I wiped the tears away with the back of my hand and then kissed him again, just for good measure.

"So what the hell happened? And when? Was it on the train?"

He shook his head and sat back against the pillows with a sigh. "It was right next to Madame Tussauds. I got off at Baker Street just like I said I would." He paused and threw his head back for a second. "I was about to call you, I even had my phone out. Oh God I'm so glad I waited… Some idiot in a flashy, modified car went over a red light, straight into a bus, and the car was sent flying towards us. There were so many people waiting to cross, no one had time to do anything. God, I hope no one died…"

He said it so quietly that I barely heard that last sentence, and I noticed he was shaking. Mind you, so was I. My fears that it could have been worse, much worse, had just been justified. I think I could have thrown up there and then if I hadn't been trying so hard to keep a straight face for his sake. I moved closer and hugged him in silence for a while.

"I should have come to meet you at Baker Street. I'm so sorry I didn't. I'll never listen to anything you say when it comes to this sort of thing again."

He shook his head. "And got yourself involved in that accident as well? No."

"At least you wouldn't have been alone."

"I'm OK," he said again, stroking my face. "To be honest, it happened so fast that I don't think I really registered it for a while. All I was worried about was getting in touch with you because I knew you were waiting."

Despite everything, I managed to chuckle at that. But there was something I'd meant to ask almost as soon as I'd got there and I finally worked up the courage to do it as I moved back a bit.

"Have you called your parents?"

"Even if I'd wanted to, I lost my phone," he said, looking down at his hands. "That's why I couldn't call you myself while I was waiting for the X-ray, so I begged Susan until she couldn't stand it anymore."

"But you asked her to call them afterwards, right?"

He didn't need to answer; the way he kept his eyes firmly on his hands was more than enough. 

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Michael, you have to call them. Or let me do it."

"No," he immediately protested. "I don't… What happened at lunch—"

I moved closer again and forced him to look at me. "Listen to me, you idiot. No matter what happened, your parents need to know that you're in hospital, so you're going to let them know! I'm gonna go to the bathroom down the corridor because the last twenty-or-so minutes have been a bit too much for my bladder," I added, taking my phone out, unlocking it and giving it to him, "and when I get back you'll have called them, right? Right?"

"Right…"

"And don't leave a message on an answer phone like yesterday," I said, ignoring the pain in his eyes when he realised I'd known all along. "Call as many numbers as you need to until you speak to one of them. OK?"

"OK…"

"Good. I'll see you in a couple of minutes," I said, placing a hand on his good shoulder and a kiss on the part of his forehead that was bandage-free.

I came back a good five minutes or so later since I figured he might need to stare at the phone for a while before actually making the call. When I walked up to his bed, he was sitting crossed-legged, staring at the phone resting on the blanket in front of him.

"I called them," he said softly. "You can check your recent calls list if you want."

"I don't need to. I trust you."

"It didn't go too bad, I guess," he said a while. "Mum answered. She sounded relieved to hear from me. At first… And then she was upset so Dad took the phone. He said they'd be leaving right away, but who knows how long it's going to take them on a Saturday afternoon."

The curtains drawn around the bed suddenly felt as oppressive as if they'd been solid walls and I cleared my throat uncomfortably. "Do you want me… gone by then?" I asked half-heartedly.

"No way," he said in a heartbeat, reaching out for me.

I smiled, took my jacket off and sat down right next to him. He shifted as close to the edge of the mattress as he could so there was enough space for the two of us to cuddle. He remained silent and I felt him shaking a few times, and each time he'd try to get a bit closer so I sort of ended up lying down as well. I didn't mind in the least, of course, but I made sure to keep an eye on my watch so that his parents didn't find us like that. The very last thing I wanted was to make a scene here. So about forty-five minutes later, I told him my legs had fallen asleep and I really needed to get up — which wasn't a complete lie, but I think he saw through it anyway. He frowned and sulked a bit, but he must have known it was for the best.

 

*


Mr and Mrs Darlington showed up some time later, and by then I'd made sure I'd moved over to the chair.

His mother appeared first, her eyes landing on me for a mere second before she rushed by his side with the sort of "Oh, Michael!" that clearly showed how worried she'd been. His father, on the other hand, stared at me as I slowly rose from the chair, and didn't say a word. His features were a lot sharper than Michael's, but I could see the resemblance — meaning he wasn't too hard on the eyes. He probably could have looked quite friendly if he'd smiled, but he was scowling. Big time.

"So it's you," he said at length, still staring at me from where he was standing.

"Dad, please," Michael said, interrupting his conversation with his mother.

I felt so intimidated. After my initial freak-out, I'd played it cool as long as it was only the two of us, but this was big for me too. It was so much more important than meeting Claire. And for all I knew, they were probably blaming me for Michael's accident…

I didn't like the way Mr Darlington was looking at me, sizing me up like that with a sneer on his face, probably making all sorts of assumptions when he knew nothing about me. Shit, could someone like that really have been involved in bringing up someone as kind-hearted as Michael? I was seriously tempted to tell him to go fuck himself and leave us alone.

Forget it, I had to be on my best behaviour. For Michael if nothing else. I took a couple of steps towards Mr Darlington and almost held out my hand, stopping myself at the last minute. There was no way he would shake hands with me, and to be honest I wasn't sure I wanted to either.

"My name's Josh. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. Ma'am," I added, turning to his wife and giving a small nod. I was proud of the fact that my voice wasn't shaking, but I didn't know how long I'd be able to keep it up for. So once introductions were out of the way — if you can call them that — I walked back to the chair to grab my jacket. "I should leave you guys alone."

I hadn't taken two steps that Michael lurched forward and across the bed to grab my wrist with his good hand. "No! Please don't go," he begged, and I heard his father clear his throat rather loudly behind me.

I wasn't really running away, I mainly wanted to give them some space. It was obvious that his father didn't want me there while they resumed their unfinished conversation, and I wasn't going to make anyone feel awkward unnecessarily. Well, even more awkward, that was…

"I read somewhere that you're not supposed to have more than two visitors at a time. It's only fair I give the three of you some time alone. I'll… come back later," I reassured him, placing my hand on his arm — I just couldn't bring myself to do more than that in front of his parents. "Can I get anyone anything to drink? I'm sure they won't stop me popping in and out if I do it quietly."

His mother was clearly hesitating, but she gave me a simple: "No, I'm all right, thank you."

Hmm, I could see where Michael got it from…

"It's really no trouble," I insisted, quite desperate for something to do.

"Tea would be nice," she finally admitted with a small smile.

Ha ha ha, looked like the tea thing ran in the family!

"Do you take it with milk and one sugar as well?" I asked automatically.

"Yes, please."

I turned to his father. "Sir?"

"No thank you."

Right, that was my cue to get out of there, and I'd have been lying if I'd said that I wasn't glad to go, even if it did seem like I was abandoning Michael.


"I'll be back in a bit," I said, throwing him one more look before I left his side and walked out of the ward.

 

[...]

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