This is Issue #4 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click on that link and go to DeathWatch, then look for #0 – A Beginning, or look for the # you remember most recently, and catch up!
* * *
A wild punch had caught Jet in the cheek, split it with a class ring. He didn’t even notice until Professor Garrett, one of the teachers who was helping lift Kieron onto a stretcher, said “Harrington. Infirmary. Let’s go.” His voice was calm and quiet, and when he touched Jet’s shoulder, he was gentle, a look of dismay etched over his kind features.
“But Kieron–” Jet began, shaking his head. He had to stay with him. He had to.
“We’ll take him. Right to see the medics,” he promised. “We’ll meet you there. Get yourself cleaned up so you can sit with him, yeah?”
Jet made a mental note he’d have to talk to Mr. Harrington before this was all over; the man seemed kind, and he and Kieron would no doubt need allies — Hoyt Redwell wasn’t an enemy they wanted to keep.
* * *
One hour and four stitches later, Jet dozed in a hard wooden chair next to Kieron’s bed. Garrett had instructed him to stay small and quiet, and said he’d likely get to remain there for now, if he didn’t cause trouble. He did his best to stay out of the way when the medics came in to look at Kieron, to check his eyes, his temperature, his blood pressure and pulse, to write notes on his chart, most of which made little sense to Kieron, who read them all the same.
“How long until his parents arrive?” one of them asked another. Jet perked up, interested in this fact. “Weather’s shit,” the other answered. “Probably will take them a good four hours or more. I’m thinking twelve or later.” Jet looked at the clock. Eight-thirty. He couldn’t decide if it was a whole world’s worth of time, or not enough time at all.
When the medics weren’t around, he kept one hand curled into Kieron’s, an anchor back to this place, this time.
Come home, he thought. Please, just come home.
* * *
Even though the hour was late, nearing midnight, Jet was awake, watching Kieron when it happened. He saw the familiar jerk, the way he seemed to suddenly settle back into his limbs, and so Jet slipped off the chair and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching to put a hand on Kieron’s face. “Hey,” he whispered, when Kieron’s eyes began to flicker open.
He didn’t expect the explosive violence in reaction, as Kieron seemed to tear himself from unconsciousness, just a little shaky at first, but then falling directly into hysteria.
“No!” Kieron screamed. “No, JET!”
He flailed in the bed, even as Jet tried to soothe him. “I’m here — Key, I’m right here!” Jet promised.
The wild look on Kieron’s face was still there as orderlies tore back the curtain and moved to pull Jet out of the way. It was then that Kieron’s eyes cleared, and he realized where he was — that he’d come back. That it hadn’t happened. Yet. Medics and administrators came barging in, to deal with the screams, to figure out what was going on.
Jet was pulled from the room, redfaced and squirming. “No, no, you don’t understand, you have to let me go,” he said, trying to explain, but when he got nowhere, he simply screamed back. “Key, I’m here! I’m right here!” He yanked himself free in a moment of luck and adrenaline, and turned around, to get back into the room, and ran smack into the headmaster himself, who stared him down, furious.
“Mister Harrington!” he snapped. “Report to your dormitory at once!”
“Sir,” Jet responded, “Please, if you’d just–”
The headmaster removed his glove, and lifted his hand up, presenting the back side of it, sneering at Jet. “You’ll land yourself with corporal, Harrington, if you utter one more word. No students at the Academy have received it in years. No one has had to,” the man said with a measure of pride. “I can’t imagine you’d like–”
“You don’t understand!” Jet begged. “He needs m–”
“Headmaster!” came the cry, as Professor Garrett slipped between Jet and the older man, one hand on Jet’s shoulder. “I’m glad I found you. Mister Brody’s parents have arrived. They demand to speak with you. I’ll handle this, here.”
“Get him out, Garrett,” the Headmaster snapped. “Back to his room, or out in the snow. I won’t have insubordination. Not for anything.”
“Yes, sir,” Garrett said, and his hand tightened on Jet’s shoulder as the two of them looked to one another. “He’ll comply. I’ll see to it.”
* * *
It seemed like hours while Jet paced alone with his racing thoughts. Garrett had made good on his promise to the headmaster, taking Jet back to his room no matter how much the young man protested, but he’d promised to check in on Kieron, and bring back news. “How is he?” Jet asked, the instant Garrett let himself in. “Please,” he begged, “please, you have to let me go back.”
“You’re lucky the Headmaster is letting you stay in school, Harrington. Brody is in the infirmary, where he belongs,” Garrett promised. “And you’re here. He’s safe. He’ll be fine. He’s–”
“You don’t understand,” Jet said, clasping his hands, the picture of penitent grief. “He needs–”
“He’s sick, Harrington,” Garrett said, looking exhausted. “Has been, for some time, apparently.”
“What? Sick? No, he–” Jet began, dismissive. He’d heard about it from Kieron, how everyone wanted to paint the ability as nothing more than delusion — just because they couldn’t see it themselves.
“Jet,” Garrett said, putting a hand to Jet’s shoulder. “It’s serious. The medics have done some tests, and his parents have confirmed. He needs treatment.”
“No,” Jet whispered, his expression broken with grief. He turned his head and looked up at Garrett, and the Professor was almost wounded by the misery and horror he could read in such young eyes. “He’s not sick,” Jet insisted. “There’s nothing wrong with h–”
Garrett had released the boy, and turned away toward the window, frowning. “He insists he knows when people will die, Jet,” Garrett said quietly. “Delusions like that aren’t–”
“He’s not delusional!” Jet cried. “Let me go talk to him. This isn’t — it can’t be — ”
“His parents are arranging for his transfer; I don’t think you’ll be able t–” Garrett began, turning around, but the room was empty, and the door was open, and all that could be heard in response to his words was the witty retort of Jet’s booted feet racing down the hall and stairs.
* * *