Lost Child


gillian_icon.gif megan_icon.gif



Scene Title Lost Child
Synopsis The first of the Lighthouse Kids succumbs to the flu.
Date February 22, 2011

Bannerman's Castle: Infirmary

The infirmary is a paradoxical room in that it sees more use than the people who work and volunteer there would probably like. Unlike the wooden cots in the castle's living quarters, the beds here are made of metal, lightweight and foldable in case furniture needs to be rearranged in the event of an emergency. Strung up sheets provide patients in severe and critical condition with some privacy, even if this privacy is so flimsy that it can easily be stripped away by someone simply lifting the fabric, but most of the cots here are dressed in their linens only and are visible from anywhere in the room.

At the back is a set of double doors that leads into a storage area where additional bedding, medicine and supplies are kept, and these doors are almost always closed and fastened with a heavy padlock to discourage the theft of painkillers and other prescription drugs that the infirmary is in possession of.

The infirmary's low ceiling is outfitted with cheap incandescent lighting and is one of the only rooms in the castle where electricity is available courtesy of its generators.

No one likes to put sheets over a person's face. It's a universal sign that all efforts to keep that person alive have failed. But people like it even less when the body is so small. Eight years old is too young to leave the world. The boy had been a little bit of a prankster in his days. Once, during a routine nurse visit, he'd made everyone think they were sick by creating colored splotches on their skins, simulating rashes.

Eric Jenkins had gotten in trouble for using his ability that way, the ability to place color onto items, changing the way they look. He won't be doing anything like that ever again.

Even the sheet laid over his face is without color.

And now Megan Young has to break the news to a Gillian Childs, who lays in a bed only half the room away, coughing into a small towel, already stained pink in a few places.

The first of the Lighthouse Kids has died.

Her hand smooths over the boy's head beneath the sheet one last time. Even sick, he tried so hard to make everyone else laugh. In years past, Megan would never have been so attached to her patients but the months of enforced isolation with them…. they are the only family she's ever likely to have. And her heart aches.

Leaving the boy's body to be carefully moved into a locked room, the redhead goes to the sink to wash her hands first. Only when she's done that, dired them carefully, and replaced her gloves does she tread with heavy steps to the woman how has been House Mother to all of the lost children.

"Gillian?" Megan says quietly. There's always something in the tone that gives it away. A solemnity that betrays the sadness.

There's another small child in a nearby bed, fighting with everything she has to stay alive. It seemed likely Mala would have been the first to go, already weakened from years of malnutrion on the streets, reliant on her ability to maintain a semblance of normalacy— but she's grasping the puppet princess in her arms, and fighting like a prince might. Only she's the damsel.

"Megan," Gillian says hoarsely, a fever flushing her skin, blankets pulled up to her neck to try and ward off the chills that wrack her body periodically. It doesn't help much. Just opening her mouth sends her into another fit of coughing, which she covers with the small hand towel so as not to spread the germs too much.

Once she's done, green-flecked hazel eyes meet the nurse's. "Guessing not good news." She's been bracing herself for the bad news. Eight children she spent over a year with all in danger.

Megan moves to the edge of Gillian's bed, her hands absently tucking. "Eric's gone," she says with a gentle finality. It's not as if it should come as a surprise. The illness has spread much more quickly this time, much more virulent in its presentation. That the laughing prankster was the first to go is perhaps surprising, but there has already been expectation laid on all the adults about just how deadly this could be.

Why'd you fail us, Gillian?

Megan can't hear the small voice that speaks up. It isn't really there, but at first, the young woman seated in the bed suddenly looks away, towards nothing. Gillian's been exihibiting this symptom the last day or so, like she heard something that no one else did. Hallucinations. Not a good sign, with this particular disease.

"I— I'm sorry. I should have… I should have made you all be more careful— wear masks. Something… You should have been able to get vaccines… You should have never had to go into hiding…"

Megan sighs heavily. "Oh, Gillian," she murmurs quietly. Sorrow weighs heavily on her too. The what-should-have-beens will eat the survivors alive if they let it. She moves to crouch down next to Gillian's pillow and she says quietly, "This is not your fault. This is a disease. You have no control of that." She doubts it will get through to the semi-delirious woman, but Megan has to say it aloud. Not just for Gillian's sake but for her own too. The redhead reaches out and smooths sweat-damp hair off Gillian's forehead, her hand gentle.

Yes it is. Just like you failed me. All you had to do was keep an eye on me better— you let them eat me.

The voice is young, small— and belonging to the first of the Lighthouse Kids to die under her watch. Denisa Mendoza."I didn't mean to," Gillian says with a sobbing gasp as she leans against the hand that's trying to give her comfort. Tears mingle with warm flushed skin as she brings the small towel up to cover her eyes, to try and wipe away the tears. Coughs mingle with sobs, to the point it's hard to recognize them.

Megan soothes Gillian as best she can, glancing toward one of the human volunteers who are in and out of this ward. "Penny, could you bring me a syringe and the vial of sedative, please?" She won't knock Gillian out, simply giving her just enough to force her muscles to relax a bit — keep her from coughing herself into oblivion with her grief. Returning her attention to the brunette, Megan lowers herself to sit on the edge of the cot. She strokes Gillian's face gently, shushing her with a soft sound. "It's okay, Gillian. I promise, somehow… it's going to be okay." Despair shows in her own blue eyes, but Megan is an expert at keeping it out of her face.

Not for me it isn't.

Gillian squeezes her eyes shut in preperation for the incoming sedative that she likely needs from the way she's shaking and struggling. Her breathing difficult, gasping, sobs and coughing mostly. "It shouldn't be," she manages to say outloud, though it may take a moment to figure out what she's said. "Never be okay again."

God knows, the redhead is in the same boat. Because burying the child… the children because there will almost certainly be more… it might just kill her too. Megan holds Gillian tightly and instead of reassuring her again she says softly, "I know. I know, Gillian. I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry." She did everything she could. And Megan knows it wasn't enough. It won't be enough for others too.

When Penny comes over with the syringe, though, Megan reaches up to take it from her with tears in her eyes. The detachment that is second nature to the nurse is in short supply.

Injecting Gillian gently, she hands the syringe back to Penny and then sits to hold the brunette until she eases.

The voice talking to Gillian is imagined, not her own, and not quite one she recognizes anymore. It's been so long since Denisa died during a snowball fight. But as Gillian settles back into the bed, blinking back tears, she catches a brief sight of her in the corner of her eyes, holding the hand of a tiny, young boy, who looks like Eric, but isn't quite Eric.

It's closer to a boy that she never really got to hold.

The last thing she hears is that tiny little voice accusing her: Should have never thought you could be anyone's mom.

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