Ellie, however, just sang along at the top of her four-year-old lungs. After a second, Mikey laughed, and joined in. By the time they got to her school, they were late, but both of them were smiling right down to their toes. Mikey picked her up and took her in. He heard, "Oh, hey, there's Miss Ellie Iero-Way."
"Yeah, sorry--" Mikey stopped upon seeing who had come to get her. Pre-school teachers had evidently begun to come in different varieties of hot since Mikey's day. "Uh, sorry, I'm kind of always late."
Hot Teacher Man held out the hand that wasn't attached to Ellie's. "You must be Gerard's brother. He mentioned Ellie would be staying with you."
"Yes, hi, Mikey."
"I'm Brendon. You look a little frazzled."
"Oh um, no, just-- Just--"
"Yes?" Brendon asked, his smile taking over his face.
"I'm kind of a bachelor," Mikey admitted.
"Okay, well, bachelor-boy. Go to work. She's my responsibility for the next few hours."
"Right, right. Um, thanks." Mikey had a flash of wondering if it was completely inappropriate--and possibly illegal--to proposition your niece's pre-school teacher. Then he knelt down, kissed Ellie and said, "I'll see you in a bit, messy."
When Mikey picked Ellie up from daycare, there was a note pinned right into Dora's forehead on her Dora the Explorer backpack. It said, "If you need anything, 848-492-8743. Brendon."
Maybe there was something to accessorizing with children.
He ended up calling a lot earlier than he expected. Ellie woke up screaming and puking at two and when Mikey couldn't get hold of Frank or Gerard on their international phone, nor his mom, who had evidently turned her phone off, he panicked and called the last person he'd seen who knew anything about children. Which, as it turned out, was Brendon.
Brendon answered with an, "Um, what the fuck?"
"I'm so, so sorry, really, you have no idea," because Mikey was well aware he was giving up the best chance he'd had to get laid in over a year, he was tragically sorry, "but Ellie's sick, sick sick, I can't get her to stop throwing up and I seri--"
"Okay, okay, Mikey, hey. Breathe. Breathe. Is she warm?"
"To the touch, is she warm?"
"She's hot. I wanted to take her temperature, but all they gave me was a thermometer that goes in her mouth and I'm afraid it will make her puke even more."
"Okay. Um. Where are you?"
"Home, I'm at home."
"Right, I meant, where's home?"
"Oh," right, that made sense. Mikey wasn't really loving feeling like a moron. He rattled off his address.
"Okay, I'm about fifteen minutes from you. I'm gonna stop at at all night pharmacy and grab an ear thermometer and then I'm gonna come and see if I can help, okay? Give me, I dunno, half an hour, and try and make sure she has something to puke up if it starts going into dry heaves."
"Okay, okay," Mikey said and hung up to try and make sure that he hadn't accidentally killed his niece.
Brendon made it in twenty six minutes. His hair had no semblance of order and he had two different shoes on and he was literally the hottest, best thing Mikey had ever seen in his entire life. He let Brendon in and they popped the thermometer into Ellie's ear. She was crying weakly at this point, in between bouts of sickness. Mikey soothed at her back and Brendon cooed to her, calming things that Mikey should have thought to say, but was too scared to. Brendon looked at the number on the screen and said, "Okay, we should take her in to urgent care. Are you insured?"
Mikey nodded. Brendon asked, "You wanna drive, or you want me to?"
Mikey asked, "Um, do you mind?"
Brendon shook his head. He gathered Ellie up in his arms and handed her over to Mikey, who held her tight and followed Brendon down to his car. Brendon took them right up to the door of the hospital and then rejoined them in the room once he'd parked his car. He said, "I kinda told them I was your brother, so the thank you I have in mind is probably going to have to wait."
For the first time since Ellie had woken him up, Mikey managed a smile. He actually managed a whole laugh. Brendon said, "There you go."
Mikey soothed some of the hair from Ellie's face--she had finally fallen into a troubled sleep--and said, "Thank you, I mean-- If I didn't think I would sound like a total sleaze who was just trying to get it on with his niece's pre-school teacher, I would totally offer to buy you dinner--"
"I go for sleazebags all the time. Really, you should offer me dinner."
Mikey was about to respond when the doctor walked in and said, "Hi, I'm Dr. Bryar."
Mikey held out the hand that wasn't keeping him anchored to Ellie. "Hi, please tell me I haven't killed my niece in the two weeks that my brother entrusted me to keep her alive."
Dr. Bryar took a quick look. "Nope, still breathing. Was there anything else you needed?"
Brendon laughed and drew Mikey away from her. "Why don't you let the nice doctor take a look, okay?"
"Dinner and dessert," Mikey said under his breath.
"Yeah," Brendon told him, "you're a definite step up from my usual kind of sleaze." He kept right on holding the hand that he'd used to draw Mikey to him. As small as it was, it fit surprisingly well.