The Misfits

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Chapter 13 - Elias

ELIAS

Elias finished lunch and played some games on the computer table. Peg Hawking came in a little while after to collect his tray, looking over his shoulder at the game he was playing. She didn’t interrupt him, but he finally paused the game, distracted by her hovering.

“You need something?” he asked.

“No. I didn’t want to interrupt you. But now that you’re free, I thought you’d like to know that your suggestion was discussed and, with some provisions, agreed to. It will take a few days to reconfigure a room suited for a select group of individuals. Precautions have to be taken, I’m sure you understand.”

“Yeah, I get it. You expect us to plot against you, so you want to be ready. Has it really been so long here since those in charge have been kids that they forgot social interaction with peers? Or were they all just loners and outcasts?”

Peg looked at him. “There are other things to consider besides our worry of escape. Staff safety as well as your safety is a concern.”

“Our safety? What would or could happen to us? Other than a guard going too far?” he asked.

“Not everyone has your… temperament. Sometimes abilities come with negative side effects. Anger, rage, depression, anti-social behaviors. We’d rather not have any… incidents between subjects. So, as part of the plan, there will be several groups. Those with known issues will be in separate groups. Some children might be included in all of the groups, depending on testing schedules. Others might be restricted to one or two such groups.

“It will be decided later. Until the room is designed, then, well, you’ll see later. Until then, just know that if this works, then it was your idea. If not, well, at least you tried.”

Elias was confused by all of that and just watched her leave the room. He shrugged and went back to playing his game, knowing that he would find out when they wanted him to. It was too early to start hacking since Peg would be back with dinner soon.

Elias stuck with games that didn’t take any thinking so he could plan out things to try as he played. He didn’t have anything to make notes with, not that he would risk having notes found, but his memory was good enough to remember the things he wanted to try.

Elias was still playing when Peg returned with his dinner. He turned everything off and began to eat.

“After dinner I’ve got a surprise for you. Expect it shortly after I picked up your dinner tray,” Peg said with a smile.

Elias didn’t respond, not expecting much considering he was a prisoner, and they kidnap children.

He ate and then decided to take a shower to pass the time. Elias thought he heard Peg come in while he was in the shower but didn’t bother looking. She would either wait, return later or just drop whatever it was off.

Finishing his shower, he put on his boxers and pants, and was drying his hair when he actually got out of the shower. He didn’t go far with the towel over his head before he thought he heard a giggle.

Sighing, he thought the lack of company was getting to him until he heard a throat being cleared. He pulled the towel from his head and saw Peg and Halley standing in the middle of the room.

Peg held two canvas bags and Halley was trying to cover the grin on her face.

Elias wasn’t big by any means, but he was active enough to be in decent shape and had no shirt on. That must have been what caused the giggling he heard.

Whatever, Elias thought and tossed the towel towards the shower and retrieved his scrub top, putting it on. He looked at Peg and said, “Well? What is this?”

“This, as you clearly know, is Halley. And taking your suggestion, it’s been okayed that she be allowed a sleepover with you.”

This wasn’t what he had been expecting, and his mouth dropped open.

“Tonight, you two can watch a movie or two, along with some popcorn and soda,” she said holding up one of the two bags she was holding. “And get better acquainted. This shall be a trial run Elias.”

Peg handed the other bag to Halley, telling her to set it by the bed while she talked to Elias for a minute.

She took the other bag to the table and set it down, pulling out several sodas in different flavors, as well as several bags of popcorn and a few other snacks. While she was doing this, she said, “This was your idea, remember?”

“Not to babysit,” he said quietly.

Peg raised an eyebrow. “Babysitting? Just a bit earlier you were worried she was terrified. And depressed, and lonely. Now you think of it as babysitting? You do realize she’s made a connection with you, right? Your interaction with her has already made a drastic change in her. Would you rather me tell her that you’d rather not babysit her?”

Elias looked at Halley, who could hardly seem to control her excitement and gritted his teeth.

“That’s cruel. And you know that’s not how I meant it,” he said, upset with himself.

“Good, because it’s not a punishment for either of you. This is just a first step in trying to improve things. And also the easiest it seems. I don’t believe that you would harm her, and she can’t heal you, so she’s no harm to you. So just enjoy it. It certainly seems that she will.

“If nothing else, just think of her as the little sister you never had.”

Elias gave in, knowing that he wanted to help make things better here – at least until they managed to escape.

It wasn’t right for the young girl who could heal others to be so hurt herself.

Peg did something with the computer in the table, and a combination couch/bed rose from the floor between the outer door and the table.

“There, now you can relax and sit or lay to watch movies. When you start a movie, it will project onto the back wall, so it will almost be like being at a theater.” Then, loud enough for both to hear, “Halley has a bag with her things in it, which contains, well, whatever she put in it. If she forgot something, then she will have to wait until tomorrow, unless it’s an emergency. In which case, just call for a guard. Otherwise, have fun and I’ll be back in the morning.”

Peg waited for either of them to say something, and when neither did, she walked over to Halley, who was sitting on Elias’s bed.

She pulled out a small vial and syringe and then drew out some of whatever was in the vial. Halley pulled up her top a bit and looked away as Peg pinched some skin and injected the liquid into the girl’s tummy.

Halley winced but said nothing.

“I’ve given you a little extra but go easy on the soda. We don’t want to worry Elias should something be off. I’ll bring stuff at breakfast to check you. Oh, and don’t forget what I put in your bag for Elias.”

Peg stood and looked at Elias. “I’m trusting you with her, so don’t let me down.”

With that, she turned and left. Once she was out of sight, Halley hopped up, bounding across the floor to Elias, giving him a big hug.

He was slow to respond, but she wasn’t in any hurry to let go it seemed.

“Thank you,” she finally said.

“For what?” he asked.

“For asking them to let me be with other people. They keep me alone. Iso… Iso…”

“Isolated,” Elias said, and she nodded.

He got her to loosen up a bit and held her back just enough to look at her. “Hopefully soon it won’t be just me, but others as well. But at least this is a start.”

She nodded. “I have something for you,” she said pulling him towards the bed where her bag was. Halley had him sit and she pulled the items Peg gave her out of the bag. “Peg wanted me to change your dressing,” she said pointing at his arm with the now soggy gauze around it.

He obediently held up his arm and she removed the wet bandages, dried the area, then put some ointment on the red line on his arm.

“I think Cael used superglue to close it,” she said.

“And how would you know that?” he said, using his other hand to move some hair out of her face, putting it behind her ear.

“I’ve seen it before.”

“Really? When?” he asked.

She turned her head and mumbled, “Maybe I’ll tell you later.”

Elias didn’t want to push her or make her uncomfortable, so he dropped it. He watched as she put a gauze pad over the cut and then wound more gauze around his arm, taping it in place.

“There,” she said, finished.

“Well, so can heal people and take care of them. You ever think of becoming a doctor when you get older?”

She shook her head. “I’ll be stuck here.”

Elias saw her eyes well up. He took her face in his hands, looking into her eyes. “Not if I can help it, you hear me?” he told her in a near whisper.

Her chin wobbled as she tried not to cry.

He pulled her closer, kissed her cheek and pulled her into a hug. “You’ll make a great doctor. You are already, actually. I believe in you, but you’ve got to believe in yourself. Got that?”

He felt her nod. “Good. Now no more crying tonight. This is supposed to be a fun night, remember?” Pushing her back, he said, “So, what’s first?”

With the backs of her hands, she wiped away the tears, then said, “Um, I didn’t get a chance to shower, since Peg surprised me. Can I… use yours?”

“Sure,” he said shrugging. “Go. I’ll stay here so you don’t have to worry about peeking.

She turned red. “I… didn’t think about that.”

“I shouldn’t have brought it up, sorry. But the glass is frosted, and if you look, you can’t even see it from here. I won’t move, promise.”

“Pinky swear?” she said holding out a crooked pinky.

He grinned. “Pinky swear,” he said putting his pinky around hers and shaking.

Halley went into her bag and grabbed a bundle of clothing, and then went to the shower.

Elias laid back on the bed while the water turned on. He smiled as he listened to her trill and sing to herself as she showered.

So, this is what it’s like to have a little sister, he thought.

Relaxed, he nearly fell asleep until he heard Halley. “Ugh! Um, Elias… there’s a problem.”

“What?”

“In a rush, I forgot something.”

“Is it an emergency?” he asked, now concerned.

“No. Not really. But I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, I don’t know what to do either, since I don’t know what the problem is.”

“Oh. Um, this is embarrassing. I forgot underwear,” she said.

Why did I ask, he wondered. Was this typical big brother conversations? He couldn’t tell her to go commando. He wouldn’t. “Um, let me think,” he said.

He grabbed two pair of his boxers and ripped a strip from the hem of one leg of one of the pair. Looking at the second, he tried to picture Halley’s waist to judge her size.

Gathering up the front, pulling it in until it was about his guessed size of her waist, then he used the torn strip to tie the front into a bundle, making it several sizes smaller. Hopefully it would work until she got back to her own room.

“Okay, got an idea, but I have to come over to give it to you.”

“That’s okay. I have my top on and a towel around me,” she replied.

He got up and took the modified boxers to the shower.

She had the slider open a few inches, peeking out.

“Best I could come up with, sorry,” he told her.

She eyes them, then took them, closing the slider. Shapes were blurred, but he could tell she was turned around, and without taking off the towel, she pulled the boxers on.

“They’re a little loose.”

“Okay, well, two choices. One – live with it or two – open up so I can fix it.”

Slower the slider opened. Halley had one hand pressed against her, holding up the boxers under the towel.

“So, here’s what we’ll do. Hold on to the boxers with one hand, hold the towel with the other. We’ve gotta move the towel to fix this mess.”

She slipped a hand under the towel, then let the towel loose, holding it with one hand.

Elias watched her face and saw she closed her eyes and turned red. He held the boxers against her belly and pulled the looped section through the tie, taking the slack out the slack until they were snug.

“Too tight?” he asked.

She let up a little on her hold and they stayed put, so she shook her head, eyes still closed.

Elias spotted several bruises of varying colors on her legs and one on the opposite side of where Peg gave her the injection in her stomach. Without thinking, Elias put out a hand, raising her top a little.

Halley flinched and backed up.

His hand dropped immediately and hs said, “Halley, I’m sorry. That was an invasion of your privacy and… well, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

He stood and went back to the bed, leaving her alone.

Slowly she came back out, dressed, with a bulge that looked like a tumor was growing from just below her belly button.

He watched her without moving from the bed.

She went to her bag, not looking at him, and rummaged in it, looking for something. Letting out a sigh, she said, “I forgot my brush.”

“Rooms are the same I’m guessing. Mine is in the cubby behind the sink. Have at whatever you need,” he said in a level tone.

She went to the sink and got his brush. After a few strokes she got frustrated, dropping the brush, and putting her head down.

Gently Elias said, “I’ll do it for you if you want my help.”

He wasn’t sure how she would react, but she surprised him by bending over, picking up the brush and walking over to him.

He scooted up after he sat up and patted the space between his legs.

She sat and handed him the brush.

Elias began gently brushing her hair back. It was quiet while he brushed and finally Halley said, “Sorry,” quietly.

“You don’t need to apologize. I shouldn’t have done that. You don’t need to talk about it, but I do want to know if someone did that to you. That’s not right if someone did, no matter what they say.”

He kept brushing steadily, giving her the comfort of a soothing rhythm.

“No. No one did it. I haven’t told anyone, and not even the doctors know that when I heal someone, I get hurt. It’s like my body takes some of the damage in exchange for some of the healing. Please don’t tell them!”

“Halley, why wouldn’t you want them to know? They make you heal people just to see you do it. If they knew it hurts you in the process, they would hopefully keep it to a minimum. You’re letting them hurt you by not telling them. And I don’t want to see you hurt.”

She didn’t say anything else while he brushed her hair.

“All done. You have something to put it up with? Band, scrunchie?”

She stood and got an elastic band from her bag, handing it to him before sitting back down.

He put his fingers in her hair at the top of her ears and drew back her hair in a circle, gathering it up and putting it in a high ponytail. “There. Now you look like an anime character, and it’ll be comfy to lay back in,” he told her, getting her to giggle.

“Okay, time for a movie. You get to pick.”

They got up and brought some soda and snacks back to the bed, then Halley picked a movie and moved back to the bed to watch.

It was an animated movie about a family of superheroes.

They shared the popcorn and snacks and drank soda while watching the movie. It ended and they sat there. “Another soda?” Elias asked.

Halley shook her head. “I shouldn’t,” she said.

“Why? You’re so thin, so it can’t be weight,” he said teasing her.

“No, silly. I’m a diabetic.”

“Oh. That’s why Peg gave you an injection then.”

“Yeah, my insulin. When I was smaller, I was in an accident and they had to remove my pancreas,” she said, hesitating before pulling up her top, revealing most of her stomach and ribs, along with an old scar that ran across her most of the way.

It also revealed several more bruises in various stages of severity.

To lighten the mood, he said, “That’s a pretty impressive scar.” Taking a chance that since she was revealing so much, she had eased up a bit, he took a finger and ran it along the scar, getting her to giggle as he tickled her.

He pulled her top down and asked, “So, can you heal yourself?”

“No. It’s like with you, I can’t feel anything.”

“Well dang, that sucks. It would be better if you could heal yourself. But I guess the fact that you hurt yourself when you heal might explain it. What’s the point of healing yourself, only to hurt yourself at the same time.

“So, how did you hide the bruises from Peg if you have to take your insulin?”

“That was easy. You can do it in your arms, thighs or stomach, so I just pick a spot where she won’t see anything.”

Elias took her hand. “Promise me you’ll tell her, so they will limit your injuries. I don’t want you hurting. At all if I had my way, but until I get us out of here, as little as possible.”

Halley looked at him, conflicted. She didn’t want to tell anyone, but it was taking its toll on her physically.

Squeezing his hand, she said, “Okay, I promise. For you.”

“Good. Now, another movie?” he asked.

She went to pick one as he cleared the couch-bed of their trash.

This time it was another animated movie of some princess and a lot of snow and ice. Elias only partly watched the movie, partly went through how to get everyone out of this place before more kids get hurt.

It wasn’t until about halfway through the movie that he noticed that Halley had moved over to him. Their legs were together, touching, so he did what he thought a big brother would do – he put his arm around her, and she leaned into him, putting her head against him.

He had dimmed the lights before the second movie started, and when it ended, she was gently snoring as she laid against him.

Moving carefully so as to not wake her, he slid around and moved her down, so she was laying on the bed part before he got up to get a pillow from his bed and put it under her head. He pulled up the blanket around her and went to the computer to work.

Working with a renewed purpose, he managed to access an editor and began coding tools to help him look for flaws and holes he could exploit.

Several hours later he had managed to create a working port sniffer. He set it to run and log what it found to a text file when Halley whimpered, and then screamed.

Logging out, he moved towards her when she sat up gasping.

“Elias? Elias!” she said in a panic.

“Shh, I’m right here,” he said, moving next to her.

“I… I had a nightmare,” she said.

“You’re okay. Lay back down,” he told her, sliding into bed beside her. “Roll over on your tummy,” he said scooting next to her, laying on his side like she did.

“Relax and think about good things,” he told her, rubbing her back.

He remembered reading somewhere that skin to skin contact had a lot of health benefits in babies and kids. Halley wasn’t that young, but if it would help her… He slid his hand under her top, rubbing her back, the warm contact relaxing him as well as her.

Soon, she was back asleep, and he kept rubbing until he started falling asleep. He removed his hand and decided to stay just in case she had another bad dream, then fell asleep next to her.

A chime went off the next morning and Elias awoke to find Halley curled up into him, her face pressed up against his chest and one of his arms draped protectively around her.

His eye focused and caught movement behind Halley. Moving just his eyes, he saw Peg standing there with a slightly amused look on her face.

“Am I interrupting anything?” she asked.

“She had a nightmare,” he said quietly.

“And I assume that you were a complete gentleman?”

Elias rolled his eyes. “No, we stayed up half the night making out. You’re the one who said to take care of her. This is what she needed. Human contact with someone who cares.”

“So, you care about her now?” she asked, her grin getting bigger.

“Yes, okay. Like a little sister. Since the other people who care about her aren’t here, I’ll care about her. And the others too. Older or younger, it doesn’t matter. Everyone will know that at last that one person here cares about them.”

Peg nodded. “Commendable. It could also be dangerous, so remember the warning. Now, get up. You can have breakfast together before Halley leaves.”

Elias shook Halley gently and she snuggled closer to him. “Wakey, wakey,” he said brushing hair out of her face. “Breakfast is here and so is Peg.”

Halley’s eyes spring open and she turned around.

Peg moved over to the table and was uncovering trays. “Relax, everything is okay.”

Both kids got up and used the bathroom and washed their hands and faces before sitting down.

Peg deviated from the normal breakfast, bringing them French toast, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Milk was on both trays, but only Elias had orange juice.

Both kids started eating and Peg stood behind Halley. “So, did you have a good time?” she asked while she pulled Halley’s hair apart, pushing the band back towards her head.

Peg had never seen the girl do her hair like that, so either she did it for him, or he did it for her.

“It was fun, thank you,” Halley said to her.

“Well, it was Elias’s idea, so he’s the one who deserves the thanks,” Peg told her, rubbing her head.

“Thank you,” Halley said to Elias without looking up from her plate.

Elias could tell she was worried. He kept quiet while they ate and when they finished, Peg took the trays and told Halley to gather her things and she would be back for her shortly.

Halley picked up her things and put them in her bag, then turned, looking at Elias.

He opened his arms, and she went over, hugging him.

“I’m scared,” she told him.

“You’ll be fine. I’ll be here with you to make sure that Peg’s aware at what all’s going on.”

They were still hugging when Peg came back. Halley started to pull away, but Elias stopped her.

“Peg, there’s something you need to know,” Elias told her, watching her eyebrows raise.

“Tell me you didn’t…” she said.

He rolled his eyes. “Stop that. Halley’s been hiding something you really need to know about,” he said, and the girl squeezed him tighter. He put one arm around her shoulders with his hand on her head and used his other to pull up the back of her top, exposing her back.

With her pressed up against him, he wasn’t worried about her modesty since all that would be visible was her back, and possibly her sides.

He watched Peg’s eyes widen in surprise at what she saw. Knowing that she had seen enough, he lowered Halley’s top.

“There are more on her legs.”

Before he could say more, Peg came over and squatted down. Putting a hand on Halley’s back, she said, “Who did this to you?”

“Technically, you guys did. The doctors at least. Whoever does the testing. Apparently, no one caught on that when Halley heals someone, part of the physical trauma gets transferred to her.”

Peg looked up at him, seeing the anger in his eyes. To Halley she said, “Sweetie, why didn’t you tell someone? I need to examine you to make sure you aren’t more severely injured than you know. I’ll also make sure that the doctors are made aware of this so the testing it limited. We don’t want you hurt.”

“How many others are harboring secrets because they are too afraid to tell you?” Elias asked.

Peg didn’t answer him, but to Halley said, “Come on sweetie, let’s go get you checked out. I’ll see about letting you come back soon. How’s that sound?”

“Good,” she replied, muffled by Elia’s chest. She squeezed him again and he kissed the top of her head.

“Thank you,” she said into him.

“You’re welcome. If you have problems and can’t, or don’t want to tell them, tell me and I’ll tell them for you, okay?”

She nodded against him. “Good. Now scoot so Peg can make sure you’re okay, then I can know you’re okay and I won’t worry.”

Halley let him go and walked to her bag. Peg followed, and Elias followed her. Peg stopped at the door, letting Halley go ahead, and turned to Elias and said, “You did a good job. Keep it up with the others and we’ll make this easier on everyone. In the meantime, are you okay with her coming back?”

“Sure. Having a little sister is a challenge, and I like challenges,” he told her.

Peg left before Halley got too far ahead, closing the door on Elias.

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