ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story came out of the May 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "healthy touch" square in my 5-2-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This story belongs to the Don't Try This at Home series of Schrodinger's Heroes.


"Touching Scenes"


At first when Eric and TeJay touched, TeJay would flinch, and Eric would cringe, and it was awful. Eric had screwed up so bad, he didn't know if anything could ever fix it. So he tried to stay on the edges sorta, letting TeJay know he was there and was sorry, but not trying to chase after him. It was hard.

And Eric couldn't even tell if it was working.

* * *

The first time they touched and TeJay didn't flinch, it came as a shock. They were both rooting in the cooler full of ice for cokes and cold fruit. Their fingers closed around the same can. Eric yanked his hand out of the way. TeJay just put the coke in front of him and went back for another.

Eric looked at the two red apples he'd pulled out, and silently nudged one toward TeJay. They ate, barely speaking, not touching, but sitting on the same bench.

* * *

After that it got a little easier, slowly, in fits and starts. They handed each other things, picked up what had got dropped, pointed out this-n-that. Working together in the compound, they had a lot to do, and it was just easier to figger out how to work as a team than try to do every job alone. Some of what Pat and Uncle Chris set them to do was really a four-hand chore anyhow, and Eric didn't think that was no accident.

It was just a summer job, but it was a good one. Eric knew it could help him get his foot in the door somewhere else, if he wanted to.

He wasn't sure he wanted to.

* * *

The first time they really touched each other on purpose was after a frog-strangler blew up out of nowhere. As the first fat drops spattered into the dust, Eric threw a tarp over TeJay -- who didn't like water so much anymore -- and said, "Run for it."

The storm soaked them both before they could get into the basement. The compound siren yowled its tornado warning as they clattered down the stairs. Behind them, hail hammered on the door.

"You okay?" Eric asked. He grabbed a towel from the supply shelf and started rubbing the water off TeJay.

"I'm fine," TeJay said, using another towel to dry Eric. His hands were brisk but not rough as he gave Eric the same quick rubdown.

They were still staring at each other, panting, when Uncle Chris came down the indoor staircase and said, "Good, you're both here safe. Eric, fetch a mop and clean up them puddles 'fore somebody slips. TeJay, fold up that tarp, we're like to need it later."

They went to work.

* * *

There were books on it. Eric had read some, or tried to. Lotta that stuff went clean over his head. But Pat talked about healthy touch and Uncle Chris said something about monkeys going crazy, and Eric just nodded along like it made any kind of sense to him when it mostly didn't.

He was learning, though, in a hands-on way that worked for him like book-learning usually didn't. Eric watched how Alex and Ash cuddled up on the couch, how Uncle Chris and Bailey worked on the truck together, how Pat rubbed Morgan's shoulders after too long at the telescope. It was there when Uncle Chris put his hands over Eric's to show him how to handle a rope, and when Pat hauled Eric and TeJay into the kitchen to make bread dough.

There was something to it, and Eric didn't get it yet, but he sure-fire was trying to.

* * *

They were patching potholes in a back road when Eric's vision started to go fuzzy and dim at the edges. Next thing he knew, he was flat on the ground.

Something cold touched his face. Eric twitched, trying to pull away. "Hey, dumbass, you keeled over on me," said TeJay, looking worried. "You need to drink more water in this heat."

Eric blearily agreed that he'd been a dumbass and would be more careful. But when he tried to take the water, his hand shook so much that couldn't hold onto the slippery bottle.

TeJay cracked it open for him. Then he cupped one hand behind Eric's neck and helped him hold the bottle with the other. That way more of the water went into Eric's mouth than down his front.

Then Uncle Chris rolled up in the truck. He looked just as worried. "Up you get. Time to call it a day," he said.

"The hell?" Eric mumbled as they bundled him into the truck.

"Dude, you fell flat on your ass. Course I called your uncle!" said TeJay.

Uncle Chris made them both spend the rest of the day indoors with the air on, and Pat made mint ice cream, so that didn't suck as much as it could have.

* * *

Eric and TeJay spent one day splitting and stacking wood for the smoker that Uncle Chris and Bailey had built out of scraps. They took turns, one splitting and the other stacking. They made good progress breaking down what's left of some mesquite trees what came down in the storm.

Then the cut logs went and shifted, tearing up TeJay's right hand. Eric grabbed him quick and wrapped a bandana around his hand. Just looking at it made him knot up inside. Then he slung TeJay's left arm over his shoulder and hauled him inside. "Uncle Chris! Pat! TeJay's done skinned his hand," Eric hollered.

"I'll get the first aid kit," said Uncle Chris.

"Sit down, TeJay, and put your hand on here," Pat said as he pulled a towel off his shoulder and refolded it to pad the coffee table.

Eric had to sit down too, because TeJay wouldn't turn loose of him and wasn't too steady anyhow.

"Well that's a right mess," said Uncle Chris as Pat unwrapped the bandana. If it'd been him, Uncle Chris would've been howling his head off. TeJay just had his lip bit so hard it turned white.

"Don't scare the boys, Chris. It looks worse than it is," Pat said in his deep calm voice. That unknotted some of the tight feeling in Eric's chest. "TeJay, do you want me to take care of this here, or drive you in town where a real nurse can do it?"

"Here's fine," TeJay said. He had to let go of his lip to say it. His left hand tightened so much on Eric's shoulder that Eric was like to have bruises from it, but damned if he'd make a peep about it. Not when TeJay's sitting there with his hand scraped all to hell.

Pat took his time picking out every last splinter and cleaning the ugly scrape. "You know, TeJay, it's okay if you yell."

"Ain't," TeJay said through his teeth, and Pat didn't say no more about it.

TeJay's fingers dug in even tighter. Eric put his free hand on TeJay's knee and gave him a little squeeze back. After that TeJay let go his grip just a bit, and leaned into Eric's side.

Maybe this is what those books were talking about, how having a friend to lean on could make things hurt a little less.

Finally Pat wrapped up TeJay's hand all fancy, and TeJay gave a sigh like letting the air out of a tractor tire. "Thanks, Pat," he whispered.

"Anytime," Pat said as he packed up the first aid kit.

"I'm for a movie," Uncle Chris declared, and popped in something Eric didn't catch the name of that had a lot of helicopters and car chases.

Pat made pizza rolls, easy to eat with one hand and not messy. The rest of the team piled into the living room to help polish off the platter. Eric listened to the lazy, familiar chatter and tried to relax. When the first movie ended, Ash stuck in a horse one.

Nobody said anything about how TeJay still hadn't let go of Eric, not even when TeJay fell asleep and started to snore. Pat reached down to drape an afghan over them. Uncle Chris picked up Eric's feet and gentled him into a better position so's Eric could hold onto him without getting his neck all stiffed up.

Eric looked down at his friend and wondered at how, if you worked at it hard enough, sometimes you could fix what you broke.

* * *

Notes:

Healthy touch has many benefits. Experiments have shown that touch starvation makes primates crazy. By this time, Chris has spent enough time with the scientists on his team that he can repeat references to some tidbits of scientific history, and guide Eric through some the same discoveries about diversity and knowledge that he's made himself.

In Texas, "coke" is a generic term for bubbly nonalcoholic beverages.

Frog-strangler is Texan slang for a severe storm, like the kind where it rains sideways.

Some of the books on comfort contact include Touch: The Power of Human Connection by Samantha Hess, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin by Ashley Montagu, and Vitamin T: A Guide to Healthy Touch by Bob Czimbal & Maggie Zadikov. Eric just doesn't have the cultural or educational background to make sense of complex sociobiological topics yet. He's learning, though.

Overheating and dehydration are inherent risks of summer work. Know how to stay safe when exercising in the heat.

Here's a recipe for homemade Mint Ice Cream. Notice this is pure mint, not with chocolate. It makes terrific coolant.

Bailey and Chris made an epic smoker grill.

A deep, messy scrape requires a bit more careful treatment than simpler injuries. Although not life-threatening, this kind of injury can easily become infected if not handled properly. It's in the borderline where you can take care of it at home IF you have good first aid skills, but if not you're probably better off taking it to an expert. Know how to remove splinters and treat deep abrasions.

Enjoy some Pizza Rolls.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-25 01:33 am (UTC)
jeshyr: Blessed are the broken. Harry Potter. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jeshyr
"Frog-strangler" sounds like such fun slang, I've gotta remember that ... not that it rains that way here very often, but it seems worth sharing!

Loving your recent stories - thank you :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-25 07:33 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I really like the way you use bits of the dialect in the narration as well as the dialogue. "His left hand tightened so much on Eric's shoulder that Eric was like to have bruises from it", "Pat didn't say no more about it." That makes me feel more like I'm right there watching it happen.

"Not when Eric's sitting there with his hand scraped all to hell." Confusion: seems as if Eric's hand is scraped up, not (or as well as) TeJay's, though it's clear in the story that it ain't. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-25 11:04 am (UTC)
gingicat: woman in a green dress and cloak holding a rose, looking up at snow falling down on her (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
Agreed on both counts - Eric and TeJay's names seem very mixed up here.

a reminiscence

Date: 2015-05-25 11:15 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I had a classmate in high school whose first and middle name were Thomas John. Sometimes I called him T.J.

Re: a reminiscence

Date: 2015-05-26 01:12 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

O.o. Like that, not John _ III? His legal name?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-24 11:13 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Texas gets "coke" as a generic from the dialect I call Northern Southern, which is centred on Maryville, TN, the boyhood home of one Mr. Houston of some notoriety. "You wanna coke?" "Yeah." "What flavor?" Please to note that despite the *accent* being the same, the *diction* does not apply in North Carolina, being the home of Pepsi&tm;. (This differs from Deep South, which is to say, in Georgia south of the southernmost reaches of Fulton County (Atlanta), all of Alabama and Mississippi and Arkansas, Tennessee west of Davidson County (Nashville), and Florida north of (but including) Gainesville. "Ya wanna co-cola?" "Yeah." "What kind?" Northern Southern uses "Gullywasher"; Deep South uses "come up a bad cloud." "Frog strangler" is Texas-specific (though *may* extend to Oklahoma and Kansas, but definitely not east of the Mississippi.)

I like how nobody makes a big deal about those two, it just *is*...

Their unwillingness to be separated when things gang aft agley reminds me a LOT of a treeecat bonding... Been there, done that, in my own way...

Thoughts

Date: 2015-05-25 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>Texas gets "coke" as a generic from the dialect I call Northern Southern, which is centred on Maryville, TN, the boyhood home of one Mr. Houston of some notoriety. "You wanna coke?" "Yeah." "What flavor?" <<

That makes sense.

>> Please to note that despite the *accent* being the same, the *diction* does not apply in North Carolina, being the home of Pepsi&tm;. (This differs from Deep South, which is to say, in Georgia south of the southernmost reaches of Fulton County (Atlanta), all of Alabama and Mississippi and Arkansas, Tennessee west of Davidson County (Nashville), and Florida north of (but including) Gainesville.<<

Fascinating.

>> "Ya wanna co-cola?" "Yeah." "What kind?" <<

I've heard that one too. :D

>>Northern Southern uses "Gullywasher"; Deep South uses "come up a bad cloud." "Frog strangler" is Texas-specific (though *may* extend to Oklahoma and Kansas, but definitely not east of the Mississippi.) <<

The references I saw provided a variety of terms. Toad-floater was another fun one.

>>I like how nobody makes a big deal about those two, it just *is*... <<

Because everyone's afraid if they call attention to it, that will disrupt the very fragile bond starting to form -- and rightly so. It's not strong enough to stand up to scrutiny yet. The whole team is holding them in protected space as much as possible, hoping things will get better, which is slowly happening. And that's part of what makes the difference in preventing TeJay's acute stress reaction from crystallizing into a long-term case of PTSD. It was a bad thing that happened, but the followup has been good, so he's getting over it.

>>Their unwillingness to be separated when things gang aft agley reminds me a LOT of a treeecat bonding... Been there, done that, in my own way...<<

Aww! Yeah, it's kind of turning into friendship under fire. They've gone through some hell together, and it's starting to stick in their heads so they associate the hell part and the together part. Which makes them start to reach out for each other when something new hits the fan. Eric may have fucked up, but he is by god determined to fix it if it's a thing that can be fixed by mortal hands. That makes him a particularly loyal kind of company, which is starting to blossom into real friendship.

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