this roleplay is moving and being rebooted!! righteousblades and karmicwheel.
One of the first things Artie did Friday morning, naturally, was call his mother. Even if they had been holding up totally solid since all of this happened, she still should be the first person he notified that they’d lost the baby. However, Tina wasn’t holding up so solid, and it was making Artie nervous. He rolled out into the living that morning to see how she was doing, and all he got in return were dead eyes. She barely looked like she’d gotten a wink of sleep last night, and she wasn’t interested in anything he offered her to eat. And when Artie was in doubt, his mom was the first person he went to — after Tina, typically, but alas…
It had been her idea to come up and pay them a visit, against Artie’s advisement. Sometimes, he could be such a man. Sure, he called her to ask what he should do, but he didn’t want his mom to have to fly in and fix all of his problems for him. It was really not doing great things for his ego. And of course, being his mother, another huge part of why she wanted to be there with them physically was to make sure someone was looking out for Artie as well. He knew this. He was a grown ass man, damn it, and he could take care of his own self and his wife just fine on his own. But any effort in trying to argue with Nancy Abrams after she’s made up her mind about something was nothing more than breath wasted. She arrived early the next day.
"Hey, baby," she greeted him in the kitchen, kissing his cheek per usual and wrapping her arms tight around his shoulders. He was very reluctant in admitting it to himself, but Artie really appreciated the hug. She ran a hand over his back when he heaved a shaking breath, her head nodding. "I know, honey. You’re okay." She held the embrace an extra few moments before pulling back, her palms on either side of Artie’s face. It’d been a few months since they’d last seen each other in person, which was weird to think about considering all the time they’d been together when he was still living at home. Or even just in Ohio, when she’d visit him nearly every weekend.
Eventually, she stood up straight again and dropped her suitcases down on Artie’s lap. “Were you able to sleep at all last night? Are you and Timmy both eating?” she started, following Artie down the hall to the bedroom where he unloaded her luggage down by the dresser. It had already been decided that Timmy was going to start spending some nights at Jeff’s apartment until this all blew over. Jeff was almost too eager to accept him, which gave Artie an uneasy feeling, but knew it was better if he just didn’t ask. Nancy continued her game of twenty questions as they moved around the apartment, picking things up off the floor as she spoke or opening dressers just to fold the things in its space. When they made it back to the kitchen, she pulled a chair out at the table and sat down.
"I mean, she’s not—" Artie’s lips slanted, shoulders shrugging as his mom asked him about Tina. "I can’t hardly get her to look at me. It’s like she’s turned into a zombie, I don’t know what to do. Did she get up at all this morning?" He turned his head to pose the question towards Timmy, his voice low in an attempt to keep their conversation from traveling to the living room. The two of them had basically turned into cohorts these past twenty-four hours, reporting back whether or not she would eat an offered saltine, or if she even got up off the couch at all while the other one wasn’t there to watch. Timmy just shook his head.
"She’s in the living room," Timmy responded quietly, nodding in the direction with his arms crossed over his chest. "She’s almost got a full layer of dust over her."
Artie and Timmy both followed their mother into the living room, eyes wide. The two of them had been acting so carefully to tip-toe (proverbially speaking) around Tina as of recent, being cautious not to make any sudden movements out of fear that they were going to set her off. It was like having an active bomb in the house. They felt like she could just go off at any moment, and that this — whatever this was — was just the calm before the storm. But Nancy just walked right in like it was no big deal and took a seat on the cushion right next to Tina. The boys stayed back and observed at a safe distance from the doorway.
"Is that it?" Artie asked, eyebrows crinkling together as his mom walked back into the kitchen. Nothing even happened. Tina was still broken. Why was she already coming back into the kitchen? He turned back around and stayed a step behind her as Nancy pulled open the fridge and began emptying its contents onto the counter, still answering any and all questions she offered.
"I don’t think she’s hungry, mom," Artie said slowly, still looking confused after seeing all the shit she was laying out on the counter. He wouldn’t even eat a lot of the questionable things she was getting out of the back of the fridge. "I gave her some cereal last night but she just let it get soggy on the table after a few bites."
"That’s exactly why I’m going to cook something. We’re not going to let her starve. I wouldn’t be too quick to eat anything you handed me either," she said, inspecting a plastic container full of what may have been Chinese food at some point before promptly throwing it in the trash.
Nobody bothered Tina for a long time. It seemed that Nancy had delegated the task of chopping vegetables or something to Artie because he hadn’t come into the living room in almost half an hour, which is pretty much the longest time he’s left her to her own devices in two days. She sat quietly, flipping the television on and off. Part of her wanted to drown out her thoughts with mindless television, but the other part of her knew that a marathon of even the most mind numbing shows wouldn’t do anything to shut off her brain. It was a constant loop of "you did bad, you did wrong."
From what she could hear in the kitchen, Nancy was on the phone. She was speaking very forcefully to whoever was on the other end. Tina drowned it out, closing her eyes. Despite not being able to shut her thoughts off, it had become very easy to drown everyone else out. It seemed like Artie’s mother was setting up shop in their home, from cleaning out their fridge to taking on essentially any task that her son didn’t know how to handle. She wondered how long this would last.
After another half an hour or so, Nancy returned to her spot next to Tina on the couch shortly after adding whatever Artie had chopped up to something she was cooking on the stove. She didn’t feel like it was necessary for her mother-in-law to cook anything for her. Food was the absolute last thing on her mind. She just wasn’t hungry. She couldn’t even muster up the will to feel hungry or even just eat something that was put in front of her because it was there. A few bites of cereal earlier had literally almost made her gag. Her mind…her body…it was rejecting everything.
"He worries to much for his own good," Nancy said, looking back toward the kitchen as she crossed her legs, "I love everything about all my children, but his worrying can be annoying as hell. I’m sure you know that, especially after the last few days."
Tina nodded in agreement. Artie was like that. If he couldn’t grasp something, he would obsess over it. And he clearly didn’t understand what she was going through fully. He could only see his side and part of his side was making her better as quickly as possible, but it really wasn’t as simple of a task as he intended it to be. From their conversation in the kitchen, it seemed that Artie thought seeing Nancy for ten minutes would cause her to snap out of all this. But she was steadily bleeding out a baby, her mind was going in this downward tailspin that she couldn’t stop, and she could hardly find the will to get off the couch to go pee or get a drink of water.
"Tina," Nancy said, "I’m not going to let my son push you into getting better when you’re not ready. It’s okay to be upset for a while." She got up, squeezing Tina’s shoulder before going back to the kitchen.
Nancy Abrams showed up on Tina and Artie’s doorstep with two suitcases on Saturday, exactly thirty-six hours after they arrived home from her short stint at the hospital. Tina stayed in her place on the couch, her eyes closed as she heard her mother-in-law walk around their apartment, boots cackling against the hard wood floors. There was a good half an hour where Tina was alone, knowing that Nancy was in the house, and dreading the moment when she had to see her. She was in no condition for company. She didn’t want to see anyone. She just wanted to be alone. She was hoping Artie would go to work as normal today and Timmy would make himself scarce.
Tina had heard Artie talking to his mother on the phone the morning before, but she hadn’t been paying attention enough to remember if she’d heard him ask her to come to New York. Her husband still seemed to have this certain dependence on his mother, in her opinion, and she could totally see him begging her to come help with his practically catatonic wife. But she could also see Nancy offering and him being very adamant that he didn’t want her here right now and she showed up anyway. It was a pretty even split between both options.
Tina could hear them back toward the bedroom. They weren’t really talking about anything in particular at first. Nancy and Timmy reunited and she asked him how he was liking living with Artie and quizzed him on whether he’d gotten a job yet or planned on going back to school. Then, of course, the conversation turned to her. How was she doing? That was such a loaded question. She was not doing well. She could hear the general tenor of Artie’s voice, tired and defeated, but not what he was actually saying. Finally, she heard Nancy say, “Well, where is she?”
Tina braced herself as she heard footsteps slowly get closer. Nancy Abrams was a strong woman. She altered her entire life to raise Artie after his accident. She would never have this kind of reaction to anything. Her mother-in-law, always a straight shooter, entered the living room without a second of hesitation, and sat down on the couch next to her. She flinched as the older woman pushed her hair out of her face and asked, “How are you doing, honey?” Tina tilted her chin downward. Nancy turned to Artie, “Has she eaten yet today?”
They both left the room after a few minutes. “I can’t fix anything in five seconds, Artie,” Nancy said, “Have I ever forced you to be happy when you weren’t? Exactly. So we’re going to make lunch and you and your brother are going to help.” Tina could see the fridge door swing open from the couch, a pile of their food building up on the counter. Vegetables…leftover pasta from Wednesday night…a half eaten rotisserie chicken from Thursday. She even sent Timmy on a grocery run. What was she planning? Tina didn’t even want to eat anything. Her stomach hurt. She felt nauseous.
Artie’s lips were pressed tight together as he transferred back into his chair. He voiced no objections to waiting outside while Tina changed into her new clothes — it’s not like he hadn’t seen her naked before. In fact, they wouldn’t even be here right now if that were the case. Timmy had apparently found his way up here on his own during all of this and was now waiting in the hall when Artie wheeled out of the room and shut the door at his back. “Well?” Timmy asked. It made Artie that much more sick that his brother had no idea that they’d just lost their baby. You would think the whole world would be different right now. How could you not just feel the depressing atmosphere around here? Artie just shook his head, the loss painted on his face way past tears unshed. Timmy understood. He didn’t say anything.
"Hey," Artie spoke up eventually, his own voice sounding foreign to his ears. Nothing was the same anymore. "Thank you."
"For what?" Timmy’s stare flitted, confused.
Artie tilted his head to the side briefly, taking a second to turn his words over in his mouth before he said them — which was something he never did. “For taking care of Tina when I wasn’t there,” he answered. “It’s… It was really cool of you. Thanks.”
"Oh." Timmy nodded slowly. Then, as if he only just remembered now who he was talking to, he half-heartedly scoffed and turned his head away. "Well, I didn’t do it for you… asshole."
Tina emerged from her room then, and Artie’s head perked up in her direction. He wanted to say something to her, but he couldn’t fathom the words. His eyes trailed after her as she made her way down the hall, and both Artie and Timmy took the cue to follow her into the elevator. It felt so wrong for them to be leaving already. You were supposed to go to the hospital to get better — not come out worse than when you walked (or rolled) in.
The car was quiet as they rode home. A palpable silence hanging over them as the cab carried them through the city, back towards their apartment. Even Timmy, who practically lived for kicking people when they were down, had nothing to say. For this, Artie was again thankful. Going to prison for killing his brother today would have just been the pickle on the giant crap sandwich that was this day. Maybe Tina was right about him. Maybe he wasn’t actually the spawn of Satan. It was a shame Artie could only find this out under these circumstances, however.
Are you okay? The words danced on Artie’s tongue once they were back home, he and Timmy watching Tina stand in the doorway. Her eyes were out of focus, and she was looking around the room like she’d never been here before in her life. Except, of course she wasn’t okay. He wasn’t okay. They’d just lost their damn baby. But what else was he supposed to ask her? His prowess in this kind of situation was totally non-existent.
Artie and Timmy exchanged a look as they both watched Tina take off for the bedroom, both of them thinking the same thing. She was far from a decent enough state of mind to walk into that kind of blood bath right now. “Honey…” he called after her, pushing forth on his wheels and rolling down the hall several paces behind. In the doorway, he paused, observing his wife strip the sheets of their horror-film-set of a bed and shove them into a plastic trash back. “Tina, don’t,” he said, sighing as his patience waned. Not even completely out of wanting to protect her from seeing this, but because he didn’t even want to deal with this himself right now. This day was stretching him real thin. He rolled up to Tina’s side and carefully put an arm around her waist. “Sweetness… Come on, we can deal with this later,” he said. “Please just come sit on the couch with me.”
His eyes closed as she revealed the state of the mattress, and he had to turn his face away. Never had he been the kind of person who got queezy at the sight of blood, but this was making him ill. “Babe,” he tried again, peeking up at Tina. Her whole body had gone stiff, hands shaking. Things were getting worse and worse by the minute. “It’s okay,” he whispered, and he gently guided her onto the chariot that was his lap. “Come here. It’s alright, don’t look at that.” His free palm pulled hard at his right wheel and he turned them around in a 180. “I’m gonna deal with that later. We don’t need that right now.”
"I have to," Tina said in an attempted protest, trying to get up off Artie’s lap. Her husband had never been any good at changing bedsheets. Firstly, there was the fact that he was a man, and perfectly content with sleping on a bare mattress as long as he had a blanket and maybe a pillow with an actual pillowcase on it. And also, even if he did try to do it the way she did, he couldn’t get into tight corners with his chair, and he couldn’t kneel on the bed to coax the sheet on. It wasn’t a job that he could do himself, but he still ignored her multiple pleas of "I have to."
She moved onto the couch when they arrived in the dimly lit living room. She sat sat up straight, her feet almost flat on the floor. She crossed her arms tightly over her chest, her chin turned away from Artie. She stared out the window. Outside, it was pitch black, and the only things she could see was a few car headlights and a couple lights on in the apartment building across the street. Otherwise, their street was completely dead, which never seemed to happen. Was it always like that? Had she never noticed how quiet it got at this time of night? She didn’t even hear any sirens, which was a near constant sound in this city.
She felt the cushion next to her dip, snapping her out of her thoughts. She felt Artie’s arms wrap around her and she stiffened, but let him hold her anyway. Despite her haze of shock, she knew that he was just trying to help. But there was really no way that he could help her right now. She felt completely hollow, like she’s fallen into a huge, empty pit, and she didn’t know how to get out. Being a mother had never been that important to her. This baby was a complete and total accident. It wasn’t like they’d been trying for years and this was like a miracle or anything. So why did she feel this way?
After a few minutes, she shrugged Artie off her. “Can you get me some water?” she asked. She wasn’t actually thirsty and she knew he was just trying to comfort her but she really just wanted to be alone. She balanced her head in her hand after he left, closing her eyes for a few moments.
Timmy came up behind Artie when he returned. He leaned against the door frame as he dried his hands with a towel from the bathroom. “I cleaned up in there and changed the sheets,” he said, his voice quiet, “You guys should go to bed now. Get some sleep.”
Tina didn’t want to go back in there. The stain may be covered up, Timmy could’ve literally scrubbed it with bleach in the half hour Artie had her in a death grip, but she would still know it was there. She couldn’t sleep on top of it. She tensed up a little, gripping the arm of the couch. “I think I’m going to sleep out here tonight,” she said.
Artie placed a palm at the back of Tina’s neck, the matted mess of bangs he called a forehead pressing against her own. He heaved a small sigh of relief against the pounding in his chest. Obviously they weren’t out of the woods yet - he didn’t even know what she was doing here - but any small victory in a hospital is a big one. He knew this from experience. He was just so happy to see that she was still in one piece. The amount of blood left back at the apartment left him nearly expecting to find out that Timmy had tried to saw his wife in half.
"Are you okay?," he asked, the panic blue of his gaze meeting her eyes. The lenses of his glasses needed a decent wash, but suffice to say his mind was a little more occupied with some other pressing matters at the moment. "What’s going on? How’s the baby? What did I miss?" He tore away from her warm maple stare and gave the room and all its occupants a once-over. Why hadn’t anyone given him answers yet? His mouth was already starting to go dry. Holy hell, did he hate hospitals more than anything else in this galaxy? Yes.
Both of his hands encased Tina’s palm in a death grip as the doctor came into the room, with the technician following close behind. With complete honesty, he could probably say he’d never been more nervous about anything in his entire life. And that was saying something, as he briefly recalled that time there ostensibly was a gunman roaming the halls of their high school back in the day. However, this baby’s life was so much more important than his own. Artie did not believe in God, but he was sending out a million silent prayers as the ultrasound was being set up. Someone had to be listening to him. Please let the baby be okay. He would give up everything in the world - literally everything - for this baby just to be alive.
He offered Tina a tight smile, feigning confidence. They sure as hell were taking their sweet time running the transducer back and forth across her abdomen. Were they lost? Her uterus could only be so big. Find the thing that looks like a fetus. Find the little beating heart. Emphasis on the beating part, for fucking Christ’s sake. It was taking a very strenuous effort on Artie’s part not to start yelling at this woman who barely looked old enough to be working at a hospital in the first place. She was giving him a stomach ulcer with all the waiting.
When the doctor eventually did speak up, Artie wished she hadn’t. They were exactly the words he’d been praying he wouldn’t have to hear today. He felt his heart fall into the pit of his stomach, and his throat went as dry as cotton. His head fell forward. “No, damn it,” he said, voice broken. He was so…. fucking sick…. of getting bad news… in hospital rooms.
Artie was shaking his head as the doctor started spieling of statistics that were maybe supposed to be comforting, in a very twisted kind of way. He couldn’t imagine how knowing someone before them had already lost their baby today was supposed to make him feel good at all. “You have to do something else,” he said. He felt Tina pull away from his grasp, and frowned. “We can’t lose this baby… Please. Don’t give up on it. There’s gotta be something else you can do to save it….. Get someone to do something.”
Everyone in the room just stared at him, each sporting their own versions of a condescending look. Why were they staring at him? Weren’t they listening? This was only pissing him off. "DO something!" he yelled, his words and his body alike swelling with anger. He waved a hand towards the ultrasound machine, that was now showing blank. The swooping and flippant actions of his hands were illusive, trying to make him seem bigger than he actually was. "The baby can’t be dead! What the hell are you all working here for if you’re damn USELESS?!" His voice only raised in volume between every moment that passed. Still, nobody moved. Nobody said anything. Nobody was listening to him. What the fuck was wrong with these people??! "What do I have to do for anyone to care?!!" he shouted, one particular sweep of his arm knocking over the blood pressure stand that was at his side.
"Please, calm down," the doctor said to him, no signs betraying total calmness. "We don’t want to have to call security on you. You need to understand that these things just happen. We did everything that we could. We’re all very sorry."
Artie’s chest was breaking, his eyes stinging, his lungs searching for air. He stopped yelling. “You’re not sorry,” he said, tone catching in his throat. If they were sorry, they would be helping them right now. This couldn’t be happening to them. They did everything they were supposed to do for this baby. Timmy and Jeff weren’t even allowed to smoke in their building because they’d been so afraid of hurting the baby. This wasn’t supposed to happen. His hands grabbed at the back of his hair desperately, racking his brain for some kind of solution.
Tina and Artie were left alone shortly after. He finally cast a look over to his wife. “Babe,” he whispered, wheeling his chair closer to mattress’ edge and transferring up next to her. She was just staring off towards the wall, expression completely blank. He had no idea what to say to her. His arms snaked around her frame, chin pressed into her shoulder. Instinctively, his hands found themselves almost resting over her belly, until he remembered…. There was nothing there. They had no baby left to protect. Everything they were so excited for, was gone. Just like that.
Tina was only vaguely aware of Artie practically screaming at the doctor. And she let him because he was not as aware of the finality of the situation as she was. He yelled at them to do something, that there must be something they could do that they hadn’t done already, but eventually he conceded when they threatened to remove him from the building entirely. The doctor left with the ultrasound technician and within a few seconds, Artie had transferred up onto the bed next to her and wrapped his arms around her. She let out a small sigh, her cheek pressing briefly against his forehead.
They were alone for quite some time when a nurse finally returned. She gave Tina some clothes wrapped in plastic—black sweatpants, huge white underwear that she herself would never, ever wear at her own volition, and a white t-shirt. Unlike the doctor, this nurse tried to provide slightly more comfort. “I’m sorry there wasn’t more we could do,” she said. She then got more clinical, explaining where Tina was to go from here. Like the doctor, she had that there were procedures to speed the process along, but it wasn’t really necessary to get her vagina scraped out when the worst of it had transpired quickly. It could take up to two weeks for the process to be fully over. She was told that she shouldn’t treat it like a regular period but it would be similar. Sex wasn’t recommended until a doctor deemed it okay. She could return to her normal activities, such as drinking coffee or alcohol. She should consult a doctor in two weeks, or when the bleeding stops completely.
"Can you wait outside?" she asked Artie as she ripped open the plastic on the pair of sweatpants. She waited until the door was shut to get out of the bed, pulling the underwear—which was about two sizes too big in everywhere except the waistband over her hips. She stuck one of the pads that had been given to her on the inside, then put on the pants and the shirt. She sighed the discharge papers.
When she stepped out of the room, Artie and Timmy were watching for her. She crossed her arms over her chest and walked a few steps in front of them until they were out on the street in front of the hospital. They took a cab home and she was the first one out when they pulled up to their building. She lead the way upstairs to their apartment.
She unlocked the door, entering the apartment slowly with Artie and Timmy following behind her. She heard the door shut as she looked around, unsure of what to do. Even though they were only gone a few hours, their home seemed like an entirely different place. Her eyes were a bit glazed over, unable to keep completely focused on her surroundings. She didn’t know where to begin. She stood in the entryway for a long moment, feeling the eyes of the boys on her. She knew they were waiting for the moment when she would snap. She was waiting for it too.
After a minute or so, she walked toward their bedroom. She made a stop at the hall closet, getting a fresh set of sheets and a garbage bag. She set her things on the floor next to the bed as she silently began to strip the soiled fabric off the mattress. She averted her eyes away from the darkening red spot in the center and felt a surge of nausea in her stomach when she felt her hand touch a spot that was still slightly damp when her blood.
"I liked these sheets," she said, almost silently as she shoved them in the garbage bag. Artie was in the door. She knew he could hear her. She picked up the new ones and looked up, her eyes falling on the stain that had now taken up almost half of the mattress. It was soaked in. It would be impossible to get out. It would be there forever. A constant reminder. Her hands began to shake violently, the new sheet trembling against her legs.
Artie let out a long, loud, indistinct groan at Tina’s final parting words. The surge of anger that came with the sentiment urged his gloveless palms to start wheeling faster, putting as much distance between himself and the apartment as possible. Fuck the argument, fuck “growing up”, and fuck Tina. As if he didn’t already know he could barely take care of himself most of the time as is, that he couldn’t even get things out of the freezer on his own, and that he was barely confident enough about his ability to take care of his wife. So she goes and tells him to grow up? Questions what kind of dad he’s going to be? He didn’t know why he put up with her crude and bitchy attitude all the time. She was pregnant, sure, and he did love her to death. However, sometimes he never wanted to talk to her again.
The rain and the heat were quick to fog up his lenses as soon as Artie flew out the front door of their apartment building. He had absolutely no idea where he was going, and, as Tina oh so eloquently pointed out, “going for a run” was not exactly on the agenda of a man who didn’t (that is to say, couldn’t) even notice he’d forgot to put on a pair of shoes before he left until he was already three blocks away from home. His mind was so clouded with anger, the destination didn’t matter to him. He just needed to calm down a bit and try to get this throbbing headache to go away. “Damn you, Tina,” he said to his phone, after pulling it from shirt’s pocket and seeing that his wife was trying to call him. As rich as he found it that she was already crawling back, he wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. He silenced the ringer.
Fifteen minutes and one massive burrito that really hit the spot later, Artie was already back home. Not because he was ready to forgive Tina, per say, but mostly because he’d run out of things to do and he at least didn’t feel like choking someone anymore. He figured that was a good enough improvement that he could go back home. “Hello?” he called into the apartment, closing the door at his back. The couch was empty — no Timmy. Maybe Tina had sent him on a craving run or something. She did get pretty rowdy when she had the fever for some watermelon. Artie set his wallet down on the counter and pushed off down the hall. “Where we at?”
No answer. That was weird. He took the short-cut to their room through the bathroom, just to be sure the coast was really clear. It was hella cool that he had the place to himself now (he still wasn’t exactly in the mood to deal with Tina), but he couldn’t imagine her and his brother had headed out for a round of bowling. She may have taken his side earlier, but Tina didn’t like Timmy that much. Maybe they’d been abducted by flying space aliens while he’d been out… Damn, he’d always wanted to meet an alien. Figures they’d only stop by when he wasn’t around.
Wheeling into the bedroom, Artie soon came to a dead halt. Their whole mattress was covered in blood, like something out of a Nightmare on Elm Street film. “What the hell?” He spun around, eyebrows rought together in confusion. His stomach dropped as he frantically pulled out his phone. Fourteen missed calls. He dialed, mid-roll, his brother’s number and sandwiched the phone between chin and shoulder as he made a streneous effort to put on a pair of shoes. “Timmy, where the fresh hell—?!” he started, but his brother cut him off, talking fast as he explained what happened and where they were. Artie rolled back downstairs and out again into the shit weather. Somewhere deep inside his soul, he found the patience to actually hail a cab for once and hope someone was feeling Christian enough to pick up a man in a wheelchair through the pouring rain. His hands were shaking, yet he was amazed to find himself able to transfer into a taxi and fold up his chair. “I’ll be there as fast as I can,” Artie said. “Tell Tina I’m on my way.”
Hypothetically, Artie would have always pictured himself to be a crazy, little mess should he ever receive a phone call that left him disbelieving and speechless. Yet, here he was, sitting calmly in the backseat of this taxi cab as they drove the fastest route towards St. Vincent’s hospital, holding up totally solid. The only sign betraying panic the fingers kneading into the thigh of his pants. The normality of this moment was the spookiest thing of all. How many times had he been down this very street? You would think everything would feel different when the lives of your wife and your unborn baby were hanging in the balance, but everything seemed exactly the same. He hated it.
Artie tossed a handful of bills from his pocket up towards the front of the car and threw his wheelchair out onto the sidewalk when the cab finally parked in front of the hospital. He’d already transferred and was approaching the building’s front entrance as fast as his arms would take him by the time the cab driver had had the time to count the very generous tip he’d just accidentally received.
"Yo!" Timmy jumped out of his seat as soon as Artie wheeled into the waiting room, with his hair sticking on end and eyes wide and red. Timmy also looked like he had seen better days. "Where the hell have you been?" he shouted. "It only took me six dozen tries to get a hold of you. I’m not about blood and hospitals and that shit. This is not my wife, I never asked for this. I— I tried to fill out these forms they gave me, but… Shit, man, I don’t fucking know. It’s asking about allergies and her birthday and I have half a clue to zero as to what the fuck her middle name is." He said all of this very quickly.
"Just tell me where she is," Artie said, waving his hands at the papers. Tina wasn’t allergic to anything they would give her here. He did not care about any damn forms. Just someone please tell him where they took his fucking wife.
He was in Tina’s room in less than three minutes, not even pausing a moment to yell “I’m not a fucking patient!" to some nurse trying to ask where his gown was, or where he belonged. On the plus side, hospitals were very handicap friendly. Then again, everyone assumed you were sick or injured. "Tee," he said, upon pushing open the door, his breathing labored. She was laying on a bed that looked way uncomfortable, and she was so pale… From what he’d seen in there room, she’d lost hella blood though, so he wasn’t sure why he was so surprised. He rolled up to her side and grabbed her hand, bringing it up to his mouth to press a long kiss to her knuckles. He was so relieved to see that she was alive.
It seemed like only thirty seconds had passed between the time Tina was whisked away from Timmy and in a hospital room. She wasn’t exactly sure where they’d gone—they weren’t in the normal emergency room area, which was just a large room with a bunch of curtains separating each bed. They went through a corridor and she was taken into a private room, where a nurse helped into a gown, wrapped a hospital bracelet around her wrist, and hooked her up to an IV. She was then told to get in bed and wait for an ultrasound technician to be found. Despite the fact that she literally went all horror movie on a perfectly good set of white sheets from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, it apparently wasn’t pressing enough to put a rush on that.
Tina was scared. Probably more scared than she normally would’ve been in a situation like this. Firstly, she was alone. She had to leave Timmy in the lobby and Artie was nowhere to be found. Second, she had no idea what she was suppose to be afraid of. The blood? Something being wrong with the baby? No one had given her any answers. She didn’t even know the right questions to ask. Being this in the dark and this scared, it was hard to be the strongest person in the room. And she was the only one in this fucking hospital room.
Another nurse entered the room and checked the bag of clear liquid that was pumping into her arm through the IV. She asked Tina few questions about the bleeding, her stomach pain, and the basics of her pregnancy. As she put her pen down on her clipboard, the nurse asked, “Is there anyone you need us to call?”
"Um, no," Tina stuttered, "My husband is on his way. He went out for a run before I started bleeding. His brother brought me here. I’m sure he’s on his way. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Yeah.” She down at hands, twisting her rings around her finger. She felt a hand on her back for a moment, then the room was empty again. Where the fuck was Artie?
The pain in her stomach had stayed steady, almost to the point that she’d forgotten about it until she had this moment of stillness. She didn’t understand what was happening to her or why no one was telling her anything. She’d seen two nurses so far and no one had given her any kind of explanation, even a theory as to why half the blood in her body was now soaking into her mattress at home. She was sick of waiting. It couldn’t be good news. She needed to prepare herself for the worst possible outcome.
She reached up, rubbing her tired eyes when she heard her name. She looked up toward the door. “Hey,” she said weakly to her husband. She was still kind of mad at him for storming out of their apartment earlier, but she was glad he was finally here. She closed her eyes as he pressed a kiss against her knuckles. She couldn’t totally relax, but she felt a little less tense with him next to her.
A doctor came in not long after that, a young and clearly distraught ultrasound technician following behind him. Tina was sure this girl was hardly called downstairs to the ER, let alone at night. She instructed Tina sweetly to lay down and pull up her gown. Tina did as she was told, feeling Artie barely loosen his grip on her hand as she pulled the gown up. She made sure she was covered adequately by the blanket because, no underwear or anything, you know.
The technician squirted some of the cold goo on the small bump protruding from her abdomen. She shivered at the coolness of the gel before she looked over at Artie briefly. There was a few minutes where the wand was just run back and forth over her stomach as the doctor whispered to the tech. The lack of communication between the medical professionals and herself was limited and it was upsetting her. There was no “everything’s fine” or “we’re just making sure everything’s okay.” They didn’t smile at her, they didn’t do anything to make her confident in the slightest. It was bad.
"Mrs. Abrams," the doctor said finally. Tina looked up. "We can’t find a heartbeat. We’re very sorry."
Tina had one of those moments where her ears started ringing and her mind went hazy as she lost all focus. She had read enough baby websites to know what that meant. She pulled her hand away from Artie’s, crossing her arms. “This is very common,” the doctor continued, “One in four pregnancies result in a miscarriage. You’re not even the first person in this hospital to experience one today and…” She tuned out even further as the man went on tactlessly. She wasn’t interested in hearing about the collective, she just wanted to know about her.
She felt numb. The doctor went on and on and on, it seemed. To Artie, considering she’d stopped listening and could only hear the general tone of his words. Eventually, she was told that she was free to go home in a few hours after they replaced all the fluids she’d lost and wait out the rest of the process, unless she was interested in a procedure to speed things along. Not that it was needed apparently because for her this all happened fast. It took weeks for some people. Apparently, she was lucky in that respect. But how could any of this be called lucky?
Artie rolled his eyes. “How the hell would you know what kind of reaction he is trying to get out of me?” he returned, trying to match the softness of her tone, but not doing a very good job. He got loud when he was angry. “He’s only been living here for two weeks, and he’s already playing you! You haven’t known him as long as I’ve known him. You don’t even know him at all! He’s got you wrapped around his finger, but if I had had it my way, he would have been out of here a damn long time ago. We don’t need some douchebag kid living with us when we’ve got our own stuff to deal with on our own.”
Frowning, he watched Tina ease herself down on to the bed. If he wasn’t already pissed, he probably would have been more concerned. She always stood when they were fighting, making big gestures with her hands to try to physically match the size of her argument. It was unusual for her to take a seat, but Artie did not pay much mind to it. He just continued ranting and cursing.
"I never told you to worry about me," he answered, dismissively shaking his head. The only reason she should need to worry about him is if Timmy was going to bash him over the head with a frying pan - which, mind you, they came within inches of actually happening before in the past. Artie was not the one terrorizing his brother here. All he was doing was trying to get him to cut the bullshit so he didn’t have to keep checking his shoes for thumb tacks or something. It was completely unfair that Tina was throwing this all on him.
He scoffed at her next words in something close to disbelief, pushing the hair out of his face with the back of his wrist. “Wow,” he said under his breath. There was another silent beat, where he could practically hear his heart pounding in his ears, before Artie shoved the blankets off of his legs and pulled his chair up to bed’s edge. She was toeing the line of seriously hurting his feelings before, but that one would do it.
"Wow," he repeated, ducking and shaking his head as he transferred into his chair. His voice was stone, trying to void it of showing any emotion. The ‘I am a grown man’ argument wouldn’t sound so strong coming from him his tone started cracking like he was going through puberty. "That’s just great, Tina. But what exactly does growing up mean to you? Excuse me if I don’t want to turn into some cold, cynical bitch. I’m looking forward to seeing how well it bodes over when you keep telling our kid that they just needs to grow up whenever he or she is dealing with something. Forgive me for not so readily taking leafs out of your book. Screw you.”
"I’m going out for a run," he said. He grabbed his jacket off the back of the hook on his way out, slamming every door he wheeled through at his back. Hopefully Timmy would wake up and settle for turning Tina into his verbal punching bag if he wasn’t here to take the brunt of it.
Tina stood up as Artie transferred into his chair, following him toward their bedroom door. “Screw me?” she snapped back at him, “Fuck you, Artie!” She reopened their room after he slammed it, continuing to trail him as he grabbed his jacket off the hook and proclaimed he was going for a run. In his pajamas. With no shoes, only socks with palm tress on them. As he slammed the final door between them, she yelled after him, “You can’t even walk!” By the muffled response, she was sure he heard her.
Well, Timmy was definitely awake now if he hadn’t been already. She held up a finger when she saw him in the doorway of the kitchen, stalking back to her and Artie’s room with loud footsteps. She got into bed, signing as she fell back against the pillows. She heaved a heavy sigh. All of those things needed to be said, but she wished he hadn’t left. But he would come back to when he cooled down a little. Everything would be fine soon.
But she didn’t feel so fine. The pain in her stomach didn’t feel like it was just nervousness anymore. It felt like actual pain, like someone was stabbing her. She tried to ignore it, closing her eyes. It didn’t feel any different than the usual cramps she had during her period. This was just like a normal pregnancy thing, right? Pregnancy was like eighty-seven percent discomfort, right? Right?
She just kept telling herself that everything was normal until she got up to see if she could spot Artie returning out of the their bedroom window. Their sheets were covered in blood. Not just her side, it had apparently spread halfway to Artie’s too. She gasped at the amount. She looked for her husband out the window again as she scrambled for her phone. She dialed his number. An automated voice told her that the voicemail box of Artie Abrams was full. She threw her phone down on the bed and quickly picked up her wallet off the dresser, her mind in a haze as she went for the door.
Timmy stopped her as she was opening the door. “Artie’s going to come back,” he told her, “He’s a dumbass, but he loves you.”
"I’m not going to look for him," she replied, "Something’s wrong, I think. With the baby. I don’t know. I just know that I’m bleeding and I need to go to the Er or something so either wait here for Artie and tell him where I went or come with me or something." She started for the elevator, feeling her brother-in-law following behind her closely. They rode down to the lobby, hailed a cab. Tina checked behind her to make sure she hadn’t left a path of blood from their apartment to the sidewalk. She didn’t see anything, but she could feel it soaking through her pants. Thank god she was wearing black. She was already alarmed enough, she didn’t want to scare a random passerby with white pants stained with blood.
As they rode to the nearest hospital, Tina bounced her leg up and down. She pulled on her fingernail with her teeth, staring out the window. “What were you and Artie fighting about?” Timmy asked her.
She looked over at him, “If you have to ask, you obviously weren’t doing a very good job eavesdropping.” She turned back to the window.
Within two minutes of arriving, she and Timmy were separated. He was left at the front desk while Tina was whisked off in a wheelchair, her parting words being: “Don’t stop calling Artie until he answers. And when he gets here, be nice to him, or I will fucking end you.”
So, so tired. If there was one word to describe Artie’s current emotional state, it would be tired. The entire scope of his persona had been made up of nothing but exhaustion for what was almost two weeks now. Physically tired, because if he dared trying to get a full night’s sleep, he was so sure Timmy was going to listen all the bolts on his wheelchair or swipe the memory drive from his laptop. And even more-so, emotionally tired, from just simply having his brother around so much. He’d never had to deal with him so much in his life. In the past, Timmy was either away at school, or their parents were always around to act as a buffer. But now that he was staying in their apartment, all bets were off. Artie was getting really tired of all this shit.
The only time he felt like he could stop stressing out so much was after Timmy had passed out on the couch, but even then, there was always the chance that he would wake up. Or, alternatively, that he was faking and just biding his time until Artie’s guard was down enough so he could put his sliding board (the thing he used often to help him transfer out of his chair when he needed it) on top of the refrigerator. It was surprising that Artie’s hair wasn’t starting to turn grey.
His eyebrows crinkled together at Tina’s words, and he tore his gaze away from his computer screen momentarily to give her a look. Really? His own wife had been pulled into the dark side of the Force now? Could he trust no one? “I’ve tried that,” he said. He pushed his glasses up nose’s bridge and went back to typing on his computer. These days, he couldn’t even roll into the same room as his brother without getting flipped off. At least. Small talk kind of went out the window a long, long time ago.
A moment later, he closed the screen of his Macbook and pushed it off his blanket-covered lap. He crossed his arms over his chest. “It takes two people to have an argument, Tina. I don’t see you telling him to grow up. He’s in our house, driving me up a wall - proverbially speaking, and you’re here.” Honestly, he wasn’t an idiot. He knew obviously that he wasn’t entirely innocent in all the fighting that’s been going on around here lately, but he wasn’t entirely to blame either. And l’awd knows he is not going to be the first one to apologize. He’s tired of always having to be the bigger man. He deserves the right of way in his own damn house.
"Excuse me?” he asked incredulously, the tone of his voice getting pretty up there in octave. He continued to stare at Tina, his expression changing from annoyance now to surprise. He needed to grow up? Please. “I am grown up. I’m not letting that straight ass walk all over me,” he said, his jaw set. Artie had a lot of nerves that didn’t like to be pressed, and questioning his maturity was definitely one of them. He was quick to hop on the defense. “You stick up for yourself all the time. You drag anyone on the street who dares to give us even the smallest of second looks. But when I do it, I’m immature. Oh, right.” He nodded sarcastically. “That makes sense.”
"I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend yourself, Artie!" Tina said, a lot louder than she intended to. She paused, trying to hear if her volume had woken up Timmy. The last thing they needed right now was for him to interject with his sarcastic comments while they were having an argument. When she didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary, she continued in a softer but still forceful tone, "You and Timmy have been at each other’s throats for two weeks now. I want you to come out on top more than anyone but that will never happen if you don’t show your brother that you can be flexible too! You’re giving him the exact reaction he wants!"
"And that’s so different," Tina added, crossing her arms over her chest in a match to his body language. "Me defending our relationship to people that are misjudging us is a completely separate situation from you having petty arguments with your brother in our living room!" She wanted to try to stay calm throughout this discussion, but she was really getting heated. She and Artie weren’t really very argumenative with each other, but when they disagreed on something and got into it—it could get bad. They’d had arguments in the past that were like this before, with just shouting at each other and being on totally opposite sides, but it was never clear where they would get in the end. One time they got married. Another time they had wild angry sex. There was no way of knowing how this argument would end.
Since they were already married and Tina wasn’t feeling that turned on at the moment, despite seeing the bulging vein in Artie’s neck that she actually thought was kind of sexy, she didn’t think this argument was going to take one of those good turns. She actually felt…kinda weird. Her stomach felt strange. She normally would’ve stood her ground but she needed to sit down. She sat on the edge of the mattress, bracing herself on her hand as her husband shot words back at her. As she listened, she quickly brushed off the feeling. She figured that arguing with Artie was just making her upset.
"You are making this house so stressful, Artie. I feel so stressed and hyped up all the time now because I’m always worrying about you. You are putting our baby at risk by being one yourself and creating an environment you should’ve grown out of with Timmy years ago. Are you going to have this kind of attitude with our baby when they aren’t the first one to apologize during a disagreement? Are you going to be this big of a fucking brat all the time now?"
She could tell that was a low blow, but she didn’t exactly feel bad because he really needed a kick in the head.
It quickly became clear that Tina’s speech had a limited effect of Timmy. It scared him at the time, but in the few days that had passed since then, nothing had really changed. Sure, there was a lot less punching, and Artie’s bruises were starting to heal, but the fighting had become more verbal and sneaky. She spent hours listening to them argue over the stupidest shit and it wasn’t really like she could step in. She wasn’t their mother and she didn’t want to be. She just wanted them to shut up and get along for ten minutes. The tension was making her crazy.
After a long day, they had all retired to their seperate corners. Timmy was passed out on the couch, Artie had been working in bed for a while, and Tina was dragging heavy baskets of laundry from the dryer to the closet. She and her husband had hardly spoken all evening, which was unusual for them. Having Timmy around wasn’t the best thing that had ever happened to their relationship, to say the least. And she wanted to fix that. She and Artie needed to be on the same team. She felt like she was being stretched between her loyalty to Artie as his wife and her desire to try to understand Timmy.
Tina stood in the doorway of their closet, holding a shirt that was halfway on a hanger. “You know,” she began, “things would be a lot easier for you if you’d just spent five minutes trying to be a good brother to Timmy and attempt to get a long with him. Just asking him a question about his life isn’t that difficult. He’s not that closed off a person. We talked yesterday and he was perfectly pleasant.”
She loved Artie to death, but the last thing he’d been acting like for the past week was a grown-up. He’s a twenty-four year old man. Timmy’s eighteen. She understood that siblings have fights but isn’t there a certain point where they’re suppose to become friends? She was getting sick of breaking up fights and calming Artie’s delusional suspicions. She was trying to stay steady through of this to ease his stress and she’d been defending him for days, but it was starting to get to the point that deep down, she knew he was just as guilty as his brother. And there was only so much she could do. She only had so much patience.
She set down the hanger, stepping further into the room. In a way, she was aware that this conversation was going to turn into an argument, no matter when it occurred. It wasn’t something that could be avoided. They couldn’t go on like this for much longer, there was just too much unease in their home because of it. Their lives were already stressful enough, with their jobs, and the impending birth of their child so it was the worst possible time to throw a rebellious teenager into the mix.
After a few conversations with Timmy, she didn’t think that he was that bad of a kid. The only thing she could really say was that she thought he used the amount of attention Artie got when they were children as a valid excuse to rebel. She didn’t know him enough that to pass any judgments but she could see the similarities between Timmy and Artie. They were smart and driven and endlessly stubborn. She doesn’t think Artie realizes how similar he is to his brother.
Tina could tell that Artie was pissed at her for voicing this particular opinion. Let him be, if that was what had to happen in order to move forward. “Don’t give me that look,” she told him, crossing her arms over her chest, “I know I can’t fully understand your relationship with your brother, but you’re twenty-four years old. It’s time to grow up. You need to be the example here.”
Artie wasn’t sure if he had fallen asleep again. Or how long his nap had been. Or if he’d even fallen asleep at all really… But the next thing he knew after Tina got up and walked away (“Boooo,” he whined), his brother was standing over him. That is to say, Timmy was literally looming over the couch and staring down at Artie like he was some new breed of human under a microscope that no eyes have ever laid upon before. In his normal state of mind, Artie would not have taken kindly to being woken up like this. But now, he just giggled. Like— actually giggled, as embarrassing as that even is to admit.
"My bruthhaaaaaa," he said through a laugh, words still moving like molasses. Ain’t no rush on the vocab when u got nothing to be stressed about, ya feel? Everything had just slowed down for a bit and it was phenomenal. He couldn’t even remember that he was still hella pissed at Timmy. His clothes were dry at least so the milk thing apparently was waaay behind them. Like, eighteen years at their backs. Probably. How long had he been laying on this couch? Maybe nineteen years. Who knows. "Sit down, little liiiime. I’ve got a lot of years of brothering to catch up on with you." Artie scooted over towards the back of the couch a few inches to make room for Timmy — though in reality he didn’t really move at all. Just wiggled a bit. "Let me explain you a thing about life."
Though apparently the idea that their fight was long behind them was not mutual. It was a stretch, but Artie was starting to think the forgiveness only went one way when Timmy hauled back and kicked him square in the nuts and bolts. No words, no arguing, just a straight-up heel-to-testicle show-down. He picked up his (thankfully, bare) foot and went all STOMP on Artie’s tingly bits — not-so-thankfully making rull contact with his balls.
The meds Artie was currently under the influence of totally worked in his favor here, but not even five Valiums could wholly dull a man’s worst kinda pain. Artie let out a long keen, groaning as he rolled over onto his side and curled into some sort of half-assed, make-shift ball type thing. His face hung over the sofa’s edge. In case he were going to throw up (and the chances of which were rapidly increasing by the second), it’d be best not to let himself choke on it. Even his way clouded mind-set could figure that one out. The entirety of his internal organs was about to make an appearance today, in this living room.
"Tenderoniii…" he said after a moment, hearing Tina’s voice somewhere in the room. His eyes were closed so he couldn’t tell exactly where. Maybe it was in his head. He hadn’t actually noticed that her and Jeff had taken seats in the kitchen to grub up on that sauce they’d been working on for so long. Tina did sound pretty pissed though, so he couldn’t imagine that his own subconscious would play that card on him. She only got like that in a few of his sex fantasies, and considering that his balls were about to fall off, he couldn’t ideally see this getting hot right now. "Whhhhhyyyyy is you so angrryyy," he thought out loud, taking a second to spit onto the carpet. The pitch of his voice was surprisingly high. "I’m just a giiirl…. Tell Jeff to pass around some Bennzzzzz and chill out at meehhh."
Just as Tina was about to take her first bite of pasta, the front door swung open and Timmy entered the apartment. He was sweaty and smelled like sour milk. She nor Jeff acknowledged him as he stalked into the living room. Her fork remained suspended a few inches from her mouth, listening in on what was going on in the living room. It was mostly just Artie babbling until she heard a loud, pained groan. She shot up immediately, leaving her dinner in the dust as she bolted to the living room. She found her husband curled up in a ball. She grabbed Timmy by his shoulder and turned him to face her. He had a good six inches on her, but that didn’t intimidate her one bit. “What the fuck did you do?!”
"That drooling doucher is sleeping on my couch!"
"No, he’s sleeping on my couch. This is our home, Timmy. And you’re lucky we didn’t put you on a plane to whatever military school your parents wanted to send you to the minute you got here. You’re not my brother. I have no moral issues with sending you someplace where they’ll buzz your hair and make you clean a toilet with your own fucking toothbrush. I repeat, this is my home. And if you ever lay a hand on my husband again, I will end you. You’re an adult now, whatever childish shit you’re harboring is getting old. The Bart Simpson style shenanigans are over now. We’re giving up a lot of freedom by letting you stay here. Your leash is short. Are we clear?” Tina was so angry. Yeah, she was a passionate person, but she wasn’t necessarily confrontational. She didn’t want to yell at Timmy, but this bullshit was getting on her nerves. He literally kicked her husband in the balls. In what universe was she not going to defend him? He was not in a state that he could do it himself.
She looked over at Artie, “I’m angry because it’s bullshit that an eighteen year old man is acting like a child when we were kind enough to open our home to him.” She narrowed her eyes at the puddle of spit on the ground, “And don’t spit.”
Timmy did actually look genuinely afraid of her at this moment. That was good. She didn’t want to blow up at him like that, but it seemed necessary. She wasn’t going to let that shit slide in her home. It was clear that he needed boundaries. She was sure that he was told his entire life to be nicer to Artie, but probably for the wrong reasons. Like your-brother-is-disabled reasons and not that he just needed to be respected as a person. She couldn’t really fault anyone on that because it was an easy place to go to. “Are we clear?” Tina repeated to the boy. He nodded quickly. She waved her hand, “There’s a sleeping bag in the closet. You’ll have to sleep on the floor or in the chair because Artie won’t be able to move until the medication wears off. And you’ll apologize to him then. I’m not dealing with this shit, Timmy. I already deal with a manchild from 9 to 5, I’m not coming home to two more.”
At this point, Tina had totally forgotten about Jeff until she heard him shout, “Boom!” from the kitchen. She laughed as she rubbed her husband’s chest in a soothing motion.