Ten

It had been three days since his appointment and Julian was alone now. His father had gone to work the day after Julian’s doctor appointment and as promised, his mother came and helped him get his car back home. He’d insisted that she carry on about her business after that, though. He honestly felt fine for the time being, but he promised he’d get some rest over the next couple of days.

Naturally, getting rest for him meant pulling out all his books and trying to catch up on his reading for the week. He spread his papers and books across the table, tucking one pen behind his ear and chewing on another while he worked.

He had to admit, it did feel good taking a couple days off from having to rush around, trying to get to class and work and rehearsals. For the first time in he didn’t even know how long, Julian was allowed to just sit and breathe and work on his reading at his own pace. But he also had to admit that sitting around would be a lot more fun if Teddy was there to keep him company.

It didn’t take long for the silence to become distracting rather than helpful. When Teddy wasn’t here, Julian was usually busy elsewhere. He wasn’t used to being alone for any length of time—not while awake, anyways—and so this was all starting to be get lonely. He almost regretted sending his mother away. Almost.

Deciding the lack of noise was unbearable, he rummaged around in the couch until he could find the remote, then pulled it out and turned on the television. When was the last time he’d even watched television? He honestly couldn’t remember.

Julian threw his bare feet up on the coffee table and sat back into the couch cushions, flicking through the channels. He needed something that wouldn’t be too distracting, so any sort of reality show or drama wouldn’t work. A moment later he found himself on a marathon of some ghost show. That would do just fine.

The words were quiet and the underlying music was soft, making it the perfect mix of ‘noninvasive’ and ‘not too interesting,’ since he didn’t believe a word of it anyways. That decided, he settled into reading.

But as he read, the words seemed to dance across the page and none of them were making sense. He found his attention being pulled away from the reading and instead his dark eyes focused on the show despite his justification for why he’d picked it in the first place.

The story was about a young girl, who kept hearing voices through her vent calling out to her at night. As he watched, an echoing voice called out “look behind you” and in that precise moment he heard the door open behind him.

Julian squeaked and nearly toppled off the couch in his fright—he really wasn’t used to being alone—only to find that it was only Teddy at the door, with Grey right behind him. She was carrying a crockpot and the smell wafting out of it was downright criminal in its deliciousness.

His cheeks burned and he quickly turned off the television (somehow the fact that he was not only watching but getting frightened by a ghost program was especially embarrassing) before standing from where he’d fallen on the floor. “Teddy, I wasn’t expecting you back yet,” he said with what little dignity he could manage to locate.

Teddy was fighting not to smile. “I can see that,” he said.

“What are you doing home already? Usually, you’re gone a few days longer. Also, you look like shit,” Julian said, wanting to get the attention off of his own flop.

“I think I got a touch of whatever you have,” Teddy said, stepping the rest of the way into the apartment with Grey right on his heels. A smirk was decorating her lips, but she had the good sense not to say anything, instead making her way into their little galley kitchen to set down her goods and plug in the crockpot to keep whatever was in it nice and warm. “So I figured, if we’re both going to suffer, we may as well do it together.”

“How thoughtful,” Julian said, trying to sound sarcastic but it was a little too sincere to come off that way.

“And I brought soup!” Grey piped in. “I figured it was better than killing you.”

“That remains up for debate,” Julian said, going over to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room. He perched precariously on the stool and looked over the bar at the contents of the pot. “What kind of soup is that?”

Julian’s stomach growled a little. Only then did he realize that he hadn’t eaten much at all in the past couple of days. Oops. “My special homemade recipe,” Grey said. “I’ve been making it in the slow cooker for a few days.”

“So it might kill me after all, joy!” Julian teased.

Grey stuck her tongue out at him.

Teddy had removed his shoes and changed into some gym shorts for comfort, then joined Julian at the bar. “So, what did the doctor say?”

“Probably the flu,” Julian said with a shrug. “But he wanted to do blood tests, just in case.” The dark-haired boy rolled his eyes. “I had to actually get my dad to pick me up from the doctor; you know how I hate having blood drawn. It’s all your fault.”

“My fault?” Teddy said, placing a hand over his heart in mock hurt.

“Yeah, you asshole. You set up the appointment without giving me a chance to tell you I was fine.”

“And you went, so obviously it was urgent enough that I’m justified in doing it. My conscience is clear.”

“I hate you.”

“Boys, be nice,” Grey said, but she was smiling right along with the insults. “Do you think the doctor was right to worry? Could it be more than just the flu?”

“Nah, I’m sure it’s just the flu. Nothing a little bed rest can’t fix. The doctor’s just overreacting,” Julian explained. “Either way, we’ll know when the blood work gets back and you know how long that can take. He gave me some meds to take for now so I should be able to head back to class on Monday and make up any work I missed.”

“Did you finish the paper that’s due?” Teddy asked. “I was having a hard time getting it started.”

“Oh my god, you haven’t even started it?” Julian asked, turning wide eyes on his best friend.

Teddy shrugged, smiling a little. “You know how it is.”

“Don’t worry about him, Jules,” Grey said. “One day, he’s going to realize that doing things the night before won’t get him A’s anymore.”

“Not in this lifetime,” Teddy boasted, “I do my best work when I’m under pressure.”

“I would die,” Julian proclaimed. Deadlines were everything; he had them written in both his day planner and the big calendar he kept by his bed, just so he wouldn’t have an excuse to forget. He usually finished the papers a week early, even, just so he could go and visit his professor and make sure he was on the right track before submitting the final draft. In high school, he had been a little laxer with regards to his deadlines, but with college being as expensive as it was, he couldn’t imagine wasting his time or his parents’ money on failing a class because he’d put things off too much. Even if that meant he got teased by Teddy often.

Suddenly, his phone buzzed from across the room, where it sat on the coffee table. He exchanged a brief look of confusion with his friends—usually the only ones that texted him because his parents weren’t exactly tech savvy—and he quickly made his way over to it. He saw then that it wasn’t a text at all, but rather a phone call. The phone buzzed again. He reached for the phone and checked the caller ID.

“Who is it?” Teddy asked.

“My doctor,” Julian said, feeling a chasm open in his stomach. It was a little too early for him to be calling about the blood work, wasn’t it? He’d never had a test go through this fast before.

“Well, answer it,” Grey prompted. “I’ll have this soup warmed up in a couple minutes so you can assure him you’ll be better in no time.”

Julian smiled, then made his way into his room to answer the call. “Hello?”

“Mr. Thorne,” came Dr. Kim’s voice, less reassuring than it had been in the past. The chasm opened wider. “I think you need to come in again. We have some things we need to talk about and it’s better to do that in person.”

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