For the past couple of hours, Ryder has been curled up on his bed, snuffling sleepily every once in a while, and Daniel’s been holding out the hope that he’ll sleep through the rest of the night.
It isn’t meant to be, however, as the older man soon becomes alerted to the teen’s feeble writhing and the sweat breaking out on his forehead. So it’s no surprise when, minutes later, the kid jerks awake, gazing around in naked terror. Bewildered and taken aback by the pain, Ryder immediately bursts into tears, looking younger than Daniel ever could have imagined. He pushes his palms against his temples and, clearly afraid and borderline hysterical, starts yanking on his short strands.
"Hey, hey," Daniel is quick to intervene, "That’s enough of that, bud. You’re only going to make it worse and we don’t want that, now, do we?" He’s aware of how patronising he sounds, cadenced tone both soothing and compelling, but Ryder’s too frenzied to care.
"Sore," he snivels, "W-want it t-to stop-" To Daniel’s horror, the kid’s breaths start coming in short, wet gasps while his chest heaves under the weight of his panic.
"Ry." He sits down beside him and attempts to lift his chin, but the panic-stricken boy pulls away. "Ryder, look at me," he gently but decisively orders. "You need to calm down, okay? It’s gonna be alright. You’ll make yourself sick if you keep this up."
"Hurts s-so bad." By this stage, his lungs are performing at an unnaturally rapid speed.
"I know, Ry. I know it’s not fair," Daniel says distraughtly, "But I need you to calm down for me, kiddo. Can you do that? Just take a deep breath. Come on, you can do it. Do it for me."
But his words have little effect.
Ryder’s eyes widen and he pants in horror, "I ca-can’t-"
"You can’t what, buddy?"
"Can’t f-feel m-my h-h-hands." Gazing down at his numbing hands, his wheezing only increases.
"That’s because you have an imbalance of carbon dioxide and oxygen," he explains rationally, more than a little worked up himself as he frantically rubs the boy’s back. "Come on, lean back against my chest and just copy me, okay? Listen to my breathing. Good boy. In and out. It’s that simple. You’re doing great."
He keeps up the encouraging mantra until his voice turns hoarse, breathing deeply and exaggeratedly, and while at first, it seems hopeless, Ryder’s cries eventually taper off and he sags in exhaustion.
By the end, all Daniel can think off is getting a nice stiff drink.
With a little more rocking and consoling, the kid almost immediately drops off to his immense relief, and he skilfully extracts himself, heading straight for the liquor cabinet.
The next morning Ryder wakes with a start, darting upright, and pushing his fingers through his slick hair as he absorbs the familiar surroundings.
Glimpsing at his torso, he recognizes the dishevelled clothes from yesterday and struggles to recollect the events leading up to this moment. Another sweep later, the young genius spies what appears to be a note settled amongst the lamp shade along with a hefty bottle of water, which he wastes no time unscrewing the cap and gulping down in quick succession. In that split second, he cares little for its origins, engrossed by the sensations of both the tickle in his dry throat and his cracked lips that are currently bleeding.
Exhausted and weak, he spends another full minute scraping together the will to reach over and seize the handwritten message addressed to him.
Eventually, he does, though not without his muscles protesting, before reading in a pace somewhat slower than usual.
Sorry, got called into work. Please do yourself a favour and take it easy, would you? I’d hate to come back and find you half-dead again.
See you soon,
Ryder frowns. Seriously? Take it easy? That’s a tad over-the-top, isn’t it? What does Dan think he’ll be doing? Since his mandatory time off from school until he gets a ‘full-bill’ of health, he usually just lounges about the house all day doing nothing anyway. Besides, he doesn’t feel that dreadfully. It’s just a minor headache, really; nothing intolerable.
Daniel is overreacting, like he typically does. This is absurd. God, he isn’t some child. He doesn’t have coddle him so darn much.
Well, he juts out his chin. He’ll show him.
In fact… it’s been a while since he’s paid him a visit at work. Ages, really. He’ll show him. He’ll totally show him.