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Original ficlet: 'Visiting Hours'

Title: Visiting Hours
Rating: PG-13
Length: 430 words
Warnings: Angst and possibly triggery mention of past violence
Author's Notes: Thanks to luzula for the beta. Written for the NPR Three-Minute Story contest, for a prompt that involved one character telling a joke, and one character crying.

The distant ache in Jessica’s arm was ramping up, throbbing nauseatingly with each heartbeat. She should just press the PCA button; get a dose of morphine before the pain got too bad. But there was another 45 minutes left until visiting hours were over. She could butch it out until then.

The TV had a reality show with some idiot spilling his secrets to the camera. She turned it off.

Mom had come by yesterday. ‘Have you remembered any more about the attack?’ she’d asked quietly. Jessica, floating on a cloud of pain meds, had almost told her. Told her how bad it hurt, how his breath smelled like beer. How she’d thought that she was too young to drink, and maybe this was it, maybe she’d never get to be old enough. ‘Nope,’ Jessica had said. Then she’d closed her eyes and pretended to sleep until Mom got up and left.

“Hey squirt,” someone boomed from the door.

Jessica flinched, but it was just her dopey big brother. “Hi Nate,” she said wearily.

“I brought chocolate chip cookies,” he said, balancing the plate as he struggled out of his pea coat and perched carefully on the bed next to her.

“I’m not really hungry,” she said.

Nate gaped down at her, and then stuffed a cookie in his mouth. “Wow, you must be dying,” he said, spraying crumbs over the sheet.

“Oh my God, you’re disgusting,” Jessica complained.

Nate grinned and opened his mouth, flashing her with half-chewed cookie before swallowing. “Got some fresh material.”

She arched an eyebrow at him. It tugged at the stitches on her cheek.

“Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding,” Nate offered.

“Lame,” she said. They’ve been playing this game since she was ten.

“When the Boogeyman goes to sleep at night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.”

Her lips twitched. “Come on, that’s an old one.”

“There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but they had to change it.” Nate paused. “After all,” he whispered seriously, “nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.”

Jessica bit her lip, but a giggle escaped. Nate snorted like a horse. She started laughing; laughing hard and she couldn’t stop, laughing so hard it hurt. Then somehow she was shaking and sobbing. Nate pulled her close, getting tears and snot all over his khakis.

“I got you, Jess,” she heard him say over the hot metallic ringing in her ears. He was petting her, long firm strokes down the center of her back as she cried herself out. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
akamine_chan
Jan. 24th, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)
Oh, that's painful and perfect, K. Well done.
keerawa
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
Thanks, aka. I was hoping for something a little more cheerful, but you gotta write what the Muse sends, you know?
isiscolo
Jan. 24th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Aww! I love sibling relationships.
keerawa
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
Nate's pretty damn awesome, isn't he? Thanks, Isis!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )