Ryn awakens to a headache.
With a groan, he rolls out of bed, then nearly stumbles as the blood readjusts itself, black spots clouding his vision.
He stands there for a good two minutes, feeling his tongue tingle in a not unpleasant way, but not exactly healthy.
He finally feels steady enough to not fall down the stairs, and he walks out of the bedroom and downstairs.
Jack is in the kitchen/dining room area, the wonderful smell of grease and bacon and butter filling the air.
“Hey Ryn. You’re up early.”
Ryn groans in response, plopping down on a wooden chair and letting his head fall to the table. The movement makes the pain in his head do… something. Moving but not.
A plate is placed in front of him, and Ryn feels sudden rejuvenation in the face of bacon.
“You alright?” Jack looks down on him curiously.
“Mm, my head hurts.” Ryn chews on buttered toast with half of his usual eagerness in the face of Jack’s food. “I’m probably just dehydrated or something.”
Jack presses his hand to Ryn’s forehead.
“Ooh, you’re kinda warm.” He frowns. “Maybe you have that bug going around. We should stay home today.”
“No–” Ryn starts.
“I’m serious, you should stay at home, I’ll take a day off to–”
“Can we really afford a day off?” Ryn mumbles. Jack sighs. “You don’t have to worry about the–”
“Stop treating me like a baby.”
“Yes, you are. I can help.”
“Oi.” Jack’s hand meets the table in not quite a slap, but a warning. “You’re 13. You don’t have to worry about the bullshit.”
“You’re not winning this.” Jack grins. “I’m the adult here.”
Ryn sighs. They’ve had this argument over and over and Ryn never won, and this time Ryn felt too weird to actually do anything about it. “Fine. But go to work.”
Jack opens his mouth but Ryn cuts him off “I’m fine, it’s probably just a head cold, I’m 13, I know how to call 911 in the severely unlikely event that something happens, you have work. You missed two days, remember? I probably just had what you had.”
Jack’s jaw works before he finally says “ok. But call me if anything happens, ok?”
“Seriously, I don’t trust emergency services not to be diverted elsewhere.”
“You work for emergency services.”
“Yeah, and that gives me firsthand experience. There’s not enough resources to go around and too many problems.”
Ryn grabs a glass of orange juice and snorts into it. “That’s the Emergency fuckin’ Task Force for ya.” He slurps it up. “Can’t bear all those resources to go to places with us regular people around.”
“Am I wrong?”
“They’re still dealing with fallout from the Sins.”
“Yeah, from like a century ago.” Ryn snickers bitterly as memories from history class play out in his mind. Seven teenagers, that’s what they were, not monsters or anything, just kids who had been dealt a bad hand in life. Blood-splattered and staring into the camera. Some of those eyes were alight in glee at the carnage they had wrought, others looked dead, as if nothing could hurt them anymore, not even their own murderous tendencies. “They ended a war.”
“Because they were the common enemy.”
“Yeah, I passed history, I know.”
Ryn leans back in his chair. “Whatever. I’ll call you if something goes wrong with emergency services.”
Jack rushes to the door, patting Ryn absently on the head. He turns to a picture framed on the wall. “Bye mom, bye dad.” He says to their parents in the picture. “Bye Ryn!”
“Bye!” Ryn calls back, already grabbing his phone and scrolling through the internet.
Ryn awakens for the second time that day on the couch. He doesn’t even remember falling asleep here.
He tries to sit up and gasps as the world spins. His eyes flit from wall to wall, trying to figure out what the hell is happening.
“Uh…” his mouth is dry. He should get water. Hydration is good, Jack always says. Always drink water when in doubt. Nurse’s orders.
He stands and immediately hugs the wall like a starfish as the room sways in the weirdest rhythm. It’s like… in time with his heartbeat.
It takes a whole five minutes to get from the living room to the kitchen sink, something that should really only take five seconds.
He fumbles with the cabinet, opens it, and squints at the cups inside. He has to be very careful. If he breaks another glass Jack is going to tear him a new asshole.
Slowly, slowly, he wraps his fingers around the glass, and hisses at the temperature. It’s so cold. Was it in the freezer or something? Or maybe Ryn is just really hot. Oh, wow, yeah, he is really hot. He is burning alive.
Water is a really great idea.
He takes the cup and sways to the sink, gripping the faucet handle harder than necessary and turning it. Water pours out and he becomes distracted for a moment before realizing he has to put the cup under the water in order to get the water in the cup so he can drink the water from the cup.
He does just that. The cool water is such a relief to his burning skin when drops bounce out of the cup and onto it.
He removes the cup and puts it to his lips, sipping it. His tongue feels like cotton but he’s just realized that swallowing takes a whole lot of effort.
But Jack said he should drink water, and Jack was a nurse, so he should probably do what he said.
So Ryn slowly drinks the water. Verrrrry slowly. It takes, like, ten minutes.
He sets the cup down, braces his hands on the edge of the sink, and lets his head hang. His head feels really heavy.
He lasts all of thirty seconds before he’s vomiting water and then bacon and eggs into the sink.
Ah, he thinks, maybe it’s time to call the hospital.
Oh fuck, but his phone is all the way back in the living room. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.
“Mmm no.” He says aloud. “I’m not doing that.”
Instead he plops to the floor, then lies down flat on his back.
The tile is so beautifully cold. It’s sooooo nice. His eyes roll back.
“…n, Ryn, RYN, Jesus christ RYN wake UP!” The third time Ryn wakes up today is rather unpleasant. His brain is playing a heavy metal song in his cranium with speakers at max volume.
“..t’fuuuuu,” he says elegantly.
“Ryn? Ryn, are you awake?”
Oh, it was Jack. God, his brother was an asshole, couldn’t he see that Ryn was taking a nap?
“Hi?” He mumbles.
“Ryn, Jesus Christ, why didn’t you call me?”
“‘M mean, was tak’n nap.” He didn’t think his sleep habits were any of his brother’s business.
“Yeah, on the fucking kitchen floor!”
Mmmm, that didn’t sound right. With great effort, he turned his head. Hey, what’d you know, he was on the kitchen floor.
“Hm,” he says. “That’s not right.”
“No.” Does Jack sound a touch hysterical? “No, it’s not.”
Jack reaches for him, probably to prop him up, and Ryn hisses, pulling the taken arm away. “Hot. Too hot.”
“I’m too hot?” Jack’s hand hovers just above Ryn’s forehead. “Holy fuck how are you still alive?”
Well that didn’t sound too good.
Jack sits back on his heels, pushing violently red hair back. “Ok. Ok. Jesus.” He stands up and Ryn doesn’t bother to look, his head suddenly just way too full. He hears the rustle of cloth and the kitchen sink running.
“Come on.” There’s something cool against Ryn’s skin and a soft sound leaves his mouth. His eyes crack open again. Jack has a cold, wet towel wrapped around Ryn’s arm, so Jack can hold him up. “Come on, upstairs.”
“Hnnngh.” Ryn allows himself to be dragged upstairs. At some point he tries to help his brother and attempts to walk normally, but his legs refuse to work properly.
Finally they make it upstairs to the bathroom. Jack topples Ryn into the bath without giving Ryn an accidental concussion, then starts the water.
It’s so pleasantly cold, but then Jack turns the heat dial and Ryn grits his teeth. “No. This is fine. I’m fine.”
“You are so far from fine it should be illegal.”
“That doesn’t…” make any sense but now Ryn was out of energy. His eyes roll again back as Jack yells at him to wake up.
This time when Ryn wakes up it’s to find himself shivering violently. Sweat is glistening over his skin, the evaporation making him even colder.
“O-oh g-g-god,” he chatters, clambering over his bed, when did he get to his bed, to the edge and looking down on the floor, where he had kicked off his blankets. He grabs at it desperately, stopping only in the way-too-arduous task when his stomach roils painfully.
He gags. Nothing came out but a glob of saliva, but his stomach cramped over and over again. By the end of the painful spell, Ryn is shuddering in effort on top of the shivering, and he feels so drained.
Every unconscious movement hurts. It makes him wince all over again, only that movement hurts, and the cycle continues.
He doesn’t have the strength to bring the blanket up to his bed so he rolls, landing with a cut off, pained yelp in the blankets, before wrapping himself up as tight as he can in the blankets.
There are footsteps, thudding up the stairs rapidly. Ryn’s door bursts open. Ryn squints at the shape. Why were his eyes so blurry? The only reason he could recognize his brother was because of the blob of impossible red that was Jack’s hair.
“Shh, shh.” Jack comes down to his knees in front of Ryn. “I’m here, I’m here, you don’t need to cry.”
Ryn was crying? Why the hell was he crying? He was sure he would notice the wracking sobs–
Oh. That was happening. Goddamn, no wonder why he was in so much pain, says the one part of his brain that seems to have held on to sanity.
Jack manages to gather up Ryn, holding Ryn close and rocking slightly. Ryn hasn’t sought out this kind of hug since… he was nine, at least.
It’s nice, actually. Ryn wishes that they did this before Ryn felt like death itself.
“Oh God, am I dying?” The words are barely a rasp of air over his lips, chapped and burning. His body curls tighter into Jack. “I don’t wanna die.”
Jack stills, his grip tightening. “You’re not going to die.” The words are fierce. “You will not die. Do you hear me? You’re not going to die.”
“Ok.” Ryn burrows in deeper to the warmth.
He’s hot again. He’s so hot. He’s burningburningburning.
This, he thinks, must be hell.
Day 5… probably
Apparently, the only thing worse than being delirious is being aware that you’re delirious.
Because then you understand oh I’ve gone off the fucking rails and then can’t do anything about it and its an overall sucky situation.
Oh, and Ryn knows he’s delirious because he can feel his fucking organs. He can feel the ebb and flow of blood. No, it’s not like he can feel the rushing in his ears or feel the thud-thud-thud of an overworked heart. No. If he curled his hand into a tube and placed it into a stream, feeling the current running through the circle of his fingers, that is what he feels right now. Except his fingers in this situation are in fact his veins and the stream is his blood.
The worst part is it doesn’t hurt, it’s just really, really discomforting.
But you know what does hurt?
His organs fucking failing.
Now, usually with organ failure, one passes out, according to Jack, for medical reasons blah blah pain and concentrating energy and there’s a reason why he failed so epically in both health and biology. So sue him he wasn’t a goddamn science person and was squeamish about how squishy and moist the human body was, ok?
So that’s how he knows he’s gone off the deep end. Because he cannot be aware of organ failure.
That and the occasional hallucination of ducks. Seriously, why ducks? Couldn’t it be like, he didn’t know, dragons?
He pukes again. And passes out.
He’s out cold when Jack comes rushing back from his bathroom break to see traces of scarlet in the vomit.
Jack’s little brother had jumped from a headache to early, high-grade fever in a matter of days.
Ryn was barely hanging on.
It was a miracle he was alive as it was, a fever of this temperature should’ve killed him.
This virus had killed. It was so, so rare and so, so new. Constantly evolving. Different for each person.
There had been a constant stream of announcements to all medical personnel in the ETF. How a virus that did not spread but simply appeared was picking off victims one by one.
And then, they stopped. And all the messages were deleted save one, new message.
False alarm. Do not discuss this further.
The ETF wasn’t exactly a good thing. It was incredibly bureaucratic, only acknowledging things that they knew they could solve. To make a good story. But they never left its members in the dark. It was illogical. They needed a constant stream of information, hoping for that next Cinderella story that made them heroes.
So then what the fuck was this?
A sharp sound made Jack look down at his phone, now cracked from his grip strength. He stared, not quite taking everything in.
He was tired. It had been at least a week since Ryn’s body decided to go to war with itself. From the Fever. Capital F. The ETF and the higher government might want to keep this quiet, but the public was never something that could be silenced. Especially not now, with the internet integrated in the latest generations.
He had been barely sleeping.
Part of him recognized the scattered, jagged thoughts. The fact that he was staring at nothing as Ryn heaved ragged breaths. Dissociation, both from shock and sleep deprivation. And grief. Because his brother was going to be taken from him one way or the other.
Because Fever kills almost everyone. And everyone who doesn’t disappears.
It’s not hard to figure out what’s happening. Right when the messages went down in the thread, a new one started, demanding that all patients in hospitals with “discolorations” be given to the government for specialized quarantine.
He stared at the crack in his screen. There was no way he had the grip for this kind of thing. And he didn’t have any adrenaline left in his system to aid his strength.
Ryn’s breathing stuttered for a beat too long and Jack’s head shot up.
Ryn’s eyes were moving frantically underneath the fine skin of his eyelids, purpled from strain. Jack staggered upright, dropping his phone and rushing over to his brother.
Ryn’s skin was draining of color, becoming so white it was nearly transparent. Jack watched in horror as the veins of his brother’s wrist bulged and pulsed against the skin.
What the fuck was this? Jack’s fingers brushed in morbid curiosity against the swollen veins, feeling his gorge rise as he felt the weak, speeding blood flow.
This… he had no idea what this was. He didn’t know what to do.
Ryn’s breaths restarted, but now they were wet and he was half-choking. Jack shook his head, demanding himself to get back into it, just another minute, Ryn needed him, concentrate goddammit. He braced his hand against Ryn’s back, forcing the younger boy to sit up. Fluid in the lungs, keep them from choking. Elevate the body. Increase airflow.
Ruby red bubbles from Ryn’s lips, dribbles down his chin. His nose drips crimson too, steadily becoming a stream. Jack’s eyes go wide, he fumbles for the sheets in an attempt to slow the bleeding.
No time, too many things happening. The veins in his wrists aren’t the only ones swelling.
Inner elbows, the sides of Ryn’s neck, and Jack would bet his femorals as well, all were swollen, pulsing with blood and what the fuck was this?!
There’s nothing Jack can do, think of doing. Instead he watches the blood in the carotid creep up Ryn’s jaw, up and up, the skin under Ryn’s eyes swelling with fine veins and blood vessels.
Suddenly, Ryn goes utterly, horribly still. He doesn’t fall limp in unconsciousness or death, but Jack can feel dread rising up his gullet, knows that something is so, so wrong.
Then Ryn’s head jerks back so fast something cracks. His body starts to shake violently. His jaw oh-so slowly starts to open, as if something is prying the joints apart.
His eyes fly open, and Jack sees an impossible blue where there had been brown before, and then the screaming starts.
Jack starts to shake. He does not notice his own veins start to stand against his skin, or the fact his eyes glow amber. He just moves.