AN: All thanks to theletterelle, my beta, all remaining mistakes are mine alone. Written for chibifukurou, who sponsored a blackout to support Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I'm using up my wild card spot on hc_bingo for this one, subbing in "blood loss" or "broken bones". Whatever, really.
Peter worked at a hospital. He saw blood every day of his working life. It didn't make him nauseated or panicky or faint. Given all of this, it was kind of a surprise that when Ryan fell out of the damn tree and started bleeding from the significant scratch on his forehead and the compound fracture in his left leg, Peter's first response upon seeing him was the intense need to vomit.
He pushed that response down and called 911.
Elizabeth was on a buying trip in Europe. She'd been worried about leaving—neither of them had traveled since the kids had come home with them—but it was past time. She was losing ground due to putting the trips off time and again. It was for ten days, and Harvey had been bringing Mike over so that Peter would have another adult in the house whenever Diana couldn't help out. Things had been fine.
Peter had been scaling back to eight hour days at times when he needed to be home for the kids, so he was at the house by six each night. It was fall and still light until about seven or so, which meant he let them run around or just lounge outside for a while after he was home but before dinner. Diana would probably come over later just so there were two of them with the kids overnight. He was reheating the root vegetable chili Elizabeth had made and left in the refrigerator, when he heard the sound of Ryan screaming.
Peter was pretty sure his heart stopped for crucial moments. The worst part was, after the first scream—an uncontrollable shock reaction if Peter had ever heard one—Ryan went silent. The second worst part was that when Peter came running out to see what had happened, Brendon, Spencer and Bob were all standing in a ring in front of Ryan, as though to keep him safe from Peter.
Peter, who could see Ryan lying on the ground, even paler than normal and biting his lips shut, made himself take several breaths and stay far enough away to seem unthreatening. Softly, he said, "Guys, Ryan is hurt. You need to let me help."
By this time, Mikey and Gee had run over from where they'd been creating rock sculptures, and Neal had come down from his room where he'd been working at schoolwork. Peter glimpsed up and, sure enough, Parker was in the tree Ryan had just fallen from, peering down anxiously. Peter had no doubt Eliot was around and hiding, waiting to see if he'd be needed.
Spencer's hands were both in tight fists, his shoulders up to his ears. Brendon just looked like he wanted to cry. Peter kept his voice low. "C'mon, we didn't hurt you when you were sick, did we?"
Skittishly, Brendon moved to one side, if not terribly far. Peter took one look at Ryan, felt an overwhelming punch of nausea, and knew there was no way they should be moving the kid. He dialed 911 even as he turned to Neal and said, "I need you to call Diana, tell her to get here as soon as possible. You're in charge until she gets here."
Once he'd ordered the ambulance, Peter sat down next to Ryan's head and did his best to see how deep the head wound was. He suspected it looked a lot worse than it actually was, but the sight of the non-stop flow of deep red slashing directly over Ryan's right eye made Peter's heart beat too quickly, his chest tighten so it was hard to breathe or think rationally.
He said, "Hey, Ryan."
Ryan blinked hazily up at him. "Sorry."
Peter's eyes were burning. "We all fall sometimes, kiddo. Sorry I wasn't paying better attention."
It wasn't clear Ryan wasn't tracking all that well. Peter had never thought sirens sounded so good in his entire life.
Peter put Spencer in the ambulance with Ryan, so Ryan would feel safe on the way and Spencer wouldn't die of a heart attack in the meantime. He packed Brendon in the car with him, since leaving him without the others wasn't an option, and carted the two of them to the hospital.
Once there, the doctor informed him it was necessary to operate to set Ryan's leg correctly, the sooner the better. Peter said, "Yeah, I—let me just see him, okay?"
Ryan was barely awake. They'd—thankfully—given him something for the pain. His forehead was neatly stitched up, a jagged, terrifying disruption to his otherwise milk-white face. There was still blood crusted in his hair. Peter closed his eyes and reminded himself they'd gotten the blood stopped and hadn't found a concussion. Everything on that score was fine.
Softly he asked Ryan, "You with me here, kiddo?"
Ryan blinked twice, each blink incredibly slow. "S'rry."
Peter bit back a sigh. "Listen, they have to put you to sleep to fix your leg, okay? Spence, Brendon and I are here, we'll be here when you wake up."
Ryan's eyes were wet and Peter was pretty sure if he could have gotten the energy to turn his head away he would have. Instead, he just said, "'Kay."
Once he'd made sure Spencer and Brendon were settled in the waiting room with a soda and no plans to go anywhere, Peter walked to the nearest exit from the hospital and called Elizabeth. She picked up on the third ring and asked, "Honey, can I call you back?"
Knowing the last thing he needed was for her to panic as well, he said, "Sure, yeah."
He went back inside to where Spencer and Brendon had colonized a corner of the waiting room and were talking quietly. They looked up at him and he said, "Hey guys. Everything okay?"
After a long moment, Spencer asked, "Do you want some coffee?"
"I want you to tell me what's going on," Peter said, tapping his temple. "I know you're freaking out about something that is not the fact that Ryan's all busted up, and Ryan is too, but I don't know what it is."
Brendon and Spencer had a whole conversation with mild facial tics. Finally, Spencer said, "Surgery is expensive."
Right. If Peter lived with these kids for another hundred years he was probably still going to be unable to navigate the fjords of what they thought would get them booted out. "Well, I have exceedingly good health insurance and the state will cover some of the cost as you're still technically wards, but even if this was going to bankrupt us, we'd figure a way to deal with it."
Neither of the kids said anything. Peter allowed himself to sigh. "This isn't making me want to throw you out. It's making me want to keep you inside the house and pad everything you guys could possibly hurt yourselves on."
Brendon frowned a little, while Spencer just looked confused. Peter asked, "Can you come over here? Maybe you don't need a hug, but I could use one."
There was a slight hesitation, but in the end, both of them came to him, settling in tightly against him, one under each arm.
Elizabeth called back just as Ryan was coming out of surgery. Peter let it go to voicemail, since he was conferring with the doctors at the time. The orthopedic surgeon assured him nearly six times that with physical therapy, Ryan would regain full range of motion and be completely fine. It was Brendon who had to ask, "Can we see him?"
Ryan was woozy and only vaguely conscious. Brendon climbed into the bed next to him. Peter looked away from how small they seemed in the hospital bed for a moment to catch his breath. Spencer was sitting beside the bed, his fingers curled in Ryan's. When Peter turned his gaze back to them, Spencer said, "You should call Elizabeth back."
"Yeah," Peter agreed. "Are you—"
"We're okay," Brendon mumbled sleepily. Peter waited until Spencer confirmed this with a nod. Then he went outside to call Elizabeth.
"Hey, you," she said upon picking up. "Crazy day out here. How're the kids?"
Peter shuddered a little bit, the realization that Ryan was going to be just fine starting to settle in and the relief hard to take.
"Peter?" Elizabeth asked, a worried note in her voice.
"Ryan fell out of the tree."
"He was bleeding. There was…there was a lot of blood. Blood isn't supposed to bother me."
"Honey, where are you? Where's Ryan?"
"Hospital. Diana's with the kids, Harvey said he'd come over if needed. Brendon and Spence are here. They had to, he uh, broke his leg. Which I handled a lot better than the blood streaming from his forehead."
"Peter," Elizabeth said softly, "is he all right?"
"Doctors say he'll be fine. Of course, now the three of them evidently think we're going to kick them out over medical bills, but, you know, problem for tomorrow and all that." Peter felt like his stomach had been kicked repeatedly.
"I'm getting an early flight out."
"I wouldn't be any good if I stayed," she cut him off. "I—it's not that I don't believe you, but I need to—"
"See," Peter said. "Touch him. Yeah, I know."
"I'll text you when I've changed my tickets. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Peter felt selfish about it, but he couldn't help the feeling of relief and bone-deep comfort that swept over him at the thought of her being back shortly.
They were able to get Ryan home the next morning, and Elizabeth walked in to the house less than an hour later. He was sleeping, exhausted from the trip home. Brendon and Spencer were in the bedroom with him. Neal had just managed to get the other kids to school, as everyone had wanted to stay and watch over Ryan. Peter had promised, multiple times, he wasn't going to leave unless Elizabeth was there.
He wasn't sure he was going to be able to leave now that she was here. He stood in the doorway, watching her brush a careful hand over Ryan's forehead. She was murmuring, and Brendon and Spencer were nodding, so whatever she was saying was actually reaching them to some extent.
She left the room when both the other kids seemed to be dropping off into sleep. Once they were downstairs, she kissed Peter and said, "You look exhausted."
"It's a good look on me, though, right?"
She laughed a little, her hands stroking his back. "Hey."
His breath shuddered on exhale, and he leaned his forehead against hers. "Every time I try and sleep all I see is his blood. I—I can't stop it."
"Shh," she whispered, bringing her lips to his. "He's fine. Kids get hurt."
Peter swallowed. "They're supposed to be safe with us. With me."
"Baby, as much as both of us might want to wrap them in cotton and keep them in packing peanuts, we can't. All we can do is…what we're doing, I guess."
Deep down, Peter knew that. "I don't like it."
Elizabeth's laugh was more sympathy than amusement. "I suppose this is what being a parent means." After a moment. "Do you wish we hadn't?"
Peter made himself actually consider the question past his gut refusal. He thought about how it would have been not to have had to spend the last couple of days in the hospital, not to worry that the others were getting to school and eating, not to buy a different house and look at schools. How it would be to just be back to his safe, quiet life, with El and his job and not much more asked of him. In the end, "No. I suppose you can't miss what you don't have, but I'm not sure how I didn't miss them."
"Yeah," she said.
"That's your word of wisdom?"
Elizabeth laughed again, this time more amused. "Yeah."