Chapter Five: How Bitter The Taste

Bryce was taken back to the emergency room pod. His mind was fully wrapped around the news Dr. Pike had given him. He barely noticed the movement of the wheelchair he was in.

"Bryce?" Cheviot asked as they arrived. "How did it go?"

Bryce moved from the chair to the bed and just cried until he was spent.

"Just leave me alone," he said. "All of you. Just get out. I don't want to see you! Not one of you!"

Cheviot ushered his other employees out of the room and led them to the waiting room.

followed them. "He's pretty upset right now."

Edison frowned. "It took hold, didn't it?" he demanded, angrily. "The cancer took hold."

"I'm not at liberty to say," Dr. Pike said. "All I will say is that your friend is in great need of emotional support right now."

"So, when does he start chemo?" Murray asked.

"He doesn't," Dr. Pike said.

"What do you mean he doesn't?" Cheviot exploded. "That boy is sixteen! How dare you deny-"

"He has personally refused treatment," Dr. Pike said. "If you wish to discuss the matter further, you must take it up with him. Otherwise there is nothing that can be done."

"Given the pain the so-called cure caused him, I'm not at all surprised that he doesn't want you people to treat him any further. Is there someplace nearby we can take him where he might feel comfortable getting treatment?"

"I can give you a list of cancer treatment centers in the area. However, I cannot promise you that he will agree to accept care at any of them."

"It will have to do," Cheviot said, cutting off any protests that Murray or Edison were about to make.

Edison walked toward the door of the pod only to be stopped by Dr. Pike.

"I cannot allow you to upset my patient," he said, firmly. "You will have to wait here. I will speak to him and ask if he wants to talk with you. If he says no, then I will have to refuse you entry."

Edison started to follow the doctor, but Theora put a hand on his shoulder and he stopped.

Dr. Pike walked into the pod and closed the door.

"Your friends are very worried about you," he told Bryce.

"They want to force me to get treatment, don't they?" Bryce asked, bitterly. "I don't want chemo. I don't want to be tired all the time. Or lose my hair. Or always be sick to my stomach. Don't save me from cancer just to give me radiation sickness."

"There are other treatments," Dr. Pike said. "Not all of them are equally effective. You can even try holistic medicines or Reiki. Just don't tell the other doctors I said that. We're not supposed to recommend non-traditional treatments. I don't see anything wrong with them, but this hospital forbids recommending them."

"Will this Reiki stuff cure me?"

"There are some unconfirmed cases of full healing through Reiki," the doctor explained. "But it is more commonly used as a method of reducing pain by lowering anxiety through relaxation techniques."

"I can accept that," Bryce decided. "Just as long as it doesn't cause me any additional pain."

"I wish I could promise you a cure," Dr. Pike apologized. "Now, do you want to see Edison or should I tell him you'd rather wait."

"I'd like to rest first," Bryce said, "Tell Edison I'll speak to him in an hour."

Dr. Pike nodded and backed out of the room, closing the door.

"Well?" Edison asked.

"He wants to rest," Dr. Pike explained. "Give him an hour, then you can see him."

"An hour lost," Edison muttered as he stomped off to the hospital cafe, his friends and boss following close behind.

In the emergency room pod, Bryce closed his eyes and wished he could fall asleep.

Chapter Six: The Pain of Friends

Edison slammed his fist into the wall of the hospital waiting room. He wished that Dr. Quack, as he liked to think of Dr. Buxton, had never shot Bryce with his stupid dart gun or peashooter or whatever it had been. He wanted to sue the man, to make him suffer for the pain he'd caused Bryce.

"Why Bryce?" he demanded to nobody. "What did he ever do to anyone? I have other friends, too. Reg was right next to Bryce."

"So, you're saying that Reg should've suffered instead?" Theora asked.

Dominique was giving him a bad look.

"I'm sorry," Edison apologized. "I didn't mean that. I just meant that that so-called doctor deliberately picked on Bryce. And I want to know why he chose him."

'That's easy," Murray said. "It's because he's so young. He knew that Edison would be more likely to be desperate for the cure if the victim was a friend who had their whole life ahead of them."

"So he was deliberately chosen for his age," Edison growled. "That is so unfair to Bryce. How dare that jerk treat him that way!"

"Let's not talk about him," Reg said, in a would-be-soothing tone. "He's not worth our breath. Let's talk about Bryce instead. We need to talk about our feelings."

"My feelings about Bryce only having cancer because he was infected with it ON PURPOSE?!" Edison exploded. "I THINK IT STINKS!" he stormed out of the hospital waiting room, the others watching, but not following. They didn't know if he'd go outside to cool off, or try to force his way into Bryce's hospital room.

"Murray," Theora prompted.

"He won't listen right now," Murray explained. "He's too angry."

Cheviot nodded in agreement, a thoughtful look on his face. "If I know Edison, he's probably going to try to talk Bryce into some kind of treatment plan."

"The last thing Bryce needs right now is Edison screaming at him," Theora told her boss. "And I don't think Edison is in the mood for a quiet chat."

Bryce was just giving up on getting any sleep when Edison stormed into the room.

"Bryce!" he said, a bit more calmly, but still clearly not okay with the prospect of losing another friend. It was only a month after Paddy Ashton's death after all.

"Edison, I'm not going to put myself through any more suffering," Bryce told him. "I have dealt with more pain in this past day then I would care to for the rest of my life."

"I saw how much it hurt you," Edison said, backing down a little.

"Yes, you saw," Bryce replied. "But you didn't feel it. You have no idea how much it actually hurt. If someone injected boiling acid into your skull, it probably wouldn't have come close. I'm still not certain why the pain alone didn't kill me."

"I did war correspondence during the Big 3," Edison said, "I saw people being tortured, saw people with limbs blown off by mines who dragged themselves several feet just to die next to the remnants of their son's or daughter's photograph."

Bryce winced.

"It takes a lot more than just pain to kill the human will to live, Bryce," Edison said. "You don't want to refuse treatment because you want to die. You want to refuse treatment because you're afraid it will kill you faster."

"No," Bryce shook his head. "It's because I think it won't make a difference either way. I don't want to be too tired from chemo or some other treatment to enjoy the last few days, weeks, or maybe even hours that I have left. I want to be fully alert and to have as much fun as possible with the few people I count as friends."

"Do you want to leave the hospital now, then?" Edison asked, wondering if Dr. Pike would release Bryce under the circumstances.

"I'd love to," Bryce agreed, a hint of his old smile back on his lips.

"I'll see what I can do," Edison told him, turning and exiting the room in a much better state of mind than the one he'd entered in.

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