Sorry for the long wait! It's a pretty big change from the daily updates I used to do, I know. Thanks for all your reviews and support! I'm determined not to abandon this fic.
Also, sorry about the chicken pox confusion last chapter! As I mentioned in chapter one, there was some British/American confusion. I didn't realise people got vaccinated; in the UK, that only really happens in special cases. Because I don't want to rewrite a whole chapter, let's say that Addison and Henry are allergic to neomycin.
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter Twenty Four
The fire alarm's keening wail finally fades into silence as Meredith joins her husband in the school yard, where every class is lined up together separated by year group and homeroom class.
"That wasn't a drill, was it?" Derek murmurs. "I swear I didn't get a memo."
"Not a drill," Meredith sighs. "But not an actual fire, thank God. Somebody must have set it off on purpose."
Derek shakes his head. "Unbelievable. We must have gone over this with them at least a few hundred times by now. They know why they shouldn't do this."
"Erica Hahn from Seattle Pres. is getting smug," Meredith shares. "We were talking about it at that teacher conference during that week away – you know, the last one, when we went fishing – and she was all, Yes your School may have have the best results of a public school in Seattle, but hasn't your fire alarm been set off by students over ten times this semester? This is a great school. I'm a great principal."
"You're the sun," Derek assures her. "Dink, get back in line!"
He slides his phone out of his pocket, checking the notifications. "Zola says she's good," he tells Meredith. "Amy's keeping Ellis entertained, and she made them all lunch."
"That's good," Meredith says. "Tell your sister thank you. We really can't afford to take any more time off work. Although I bet Hahn would love that."
Derek continues swiping. "There's a new arrival on Netflix," he adds. "And Addison says she should be fine coming back to work tomorrow."
"Henry must be better, then. He got over it quickly. Quicker than Ellis, anyway. It's a good thing we immunised Zola and Bailey, or I can't imagine what we'd be dealing with now otherwise."
"Ellis is milking this chicken pox thing," Derek tells his wife. "She could have easily gone back to school today."
Meredith frowns. "So why didn't you send her?"
Derek runs a hand through his hair. "I reckoned it wouldn't hurt to give her a break. She might still need some recovery time. And if she doesn't want to go to school there must be something wrong, right?"
There's definitely some truth to it.
Finally, the last of the teachers finishes taking roll call and Meredith steps forward to address the student body.
"Students," She says. "I would like to inform you all that this fire alarm was not a drill. However, there is no reason to panic; there was no fire. Somebody pulled the alarm on purpose. I'm asking for that person to step forward now and take responsibility for their actions. If they don't, we'll review security footage and find out who it was anyway. The penalty will be worse if nobody steps forward. For anybody who wants to report someone privately, please tell either your teacher or me and we'll keep you anonymous."
She looks around the yard. People are yawning. Stepping from foot to foot impatiently. Muttering things among themselves. Nobody steps forward.
"Last chance," Meredith states. "For the perpetrator to come forward now before we hunt them down."
Meredith sighs. "Alright, single file, no talking (Rachel), everybody get ready to come back to class. Seniors leave the yard first."
"So much for that," Derek mutters.
She sighs, for a second allowing herself to relax, let her body lean against his. "So much for that."
Then Caroline Freedman falls into hysterics and the moment is over, Derek is gone to comfort the girl from his homeroom class. Everybody's accusing me, Caroline wails, I'm not dumb enough to set off an alarm, I was disrupting Mr. Sloan's lesson when it happened, it couldn't be me!
Meredith leaves. There's a lot of camera footage to cover.
Hattie shifts from foot to foot uncomfortably.
"Are you okay?" Sam whispers, glancing at Ms. Robbins, who is walking past shushing people.
"Cold," Hattie tells him, hugging her arms to her chest. "And in need of a pee."
Without a word, he shrugs off his jacket and passes it to her. He's always been good at bearing the weather, anyway.
"Thank you," Hattie gushes eagerly, pulling the jacket on. "You're the best!"
"No problem," Sam tells her.
She smiles, before once more becoming distracted by doing her awkward, little jig.
"Distract me," she tells him desperately.
"You know," Sam says thoughtfully. "Thinking of sex is supposed to make you wanna pee less."
"Great," Hattie says. "Distract me with something else."
"Um," Sam says, his mind suddenly devoid of any and all discussion topics.
He's about to turn to the weather when Hattie blurts out joyfully, "I forgot to tell you! I have a Sloangomery conspiracy theory!"
He shoves his hands in his pockets, intrigued. "Go on."
"So… Miss Montgomery supposedly has chicken pox, right?"
"Except who even gets chicken pox these days? Everybody's, like, vaccinated. So…."
"Maybe she doesn't have chicken pox."
Sam looks at Hattie cryptically. "You think Miss Montgomery's pregnant."
"She's been with Sloan for like, three months. They only just started holding hands, and now you have them pregnant! You're moving a bit fast, don't you think?"
"It only takes once," Hattie declares wisely. "Oh god, when can we go inside? Sir, I need to use the bathroom!"
"And I guess it's unlikely she genuinely has chicken pox, even though both Henry and Ellis have it, which we know for sure?"
"Okay," Hattie plays along. "Why doesn't Ellis have her vaccination?"
"She missed it the first time 'Cause she was sick, I think. Remember, she had all those surgeries and they had her in a – whaddya call it? In…"
"Yeah! They had her in an incubator, and she missed all her vaccinations and stuff 'cause she was too sick. Then by the time somebody thought hey, we should vaccinate her, she was aware of everything that was going on around her? She made it through a few vaccinations, the big ones, with only some minor fainting and biting of doctors, but by the time it got to chicken pox they decided it wasn't worth it."
"I didn't know Ellis was afraid of needles!"
"Oh, yeah," Sam says, "even the fake ones," having learnt this the hard way.
"But what are the odds that Ellis and Henry and Miss Montgomery are all afraid of needles?"
"I don't think they are."
"They don't have their vaccinations."
"They probably have other reasons."
"Sure they do…" Hattie smirks. "Sir, please can I leave!"
"I don't know, can you?" One of the teachers reports, and Sam nearly has to restrain Hattie.
The other junior classes start filing out of the yard, splitting off from their classes into cliques quickly despite teachers' reprimands.
"Finally!" Hattie sighs, before turning to one of the girls nearby. "Liv, tell Ms. Robbins I went to the bathroom if she notices I'm not back in class!"
She jogs towards the school ahead of everybody else, and Sam searches out Tuck for somebody to talk to.
"Can I scratch now?" Henry asks his mother while scratching one of the fading chicken pox marks on his arm.
"No, honey," his mom tells him, gently pulling his hand away. "Not yet. You'll scar."
"I don't mind scarring," Henry persists. "It's cool."
He doesn't necessarily think so – although Ellis definitely does, only because she has so many scars – but he knows his mother can't argue otherwise, because that would be saying people with scars aren't cool, and she's taught him that's discrimination.
"Well, yes," his mom says. "Scars can be cool, but sometimes it's not a great idea to get them on purpose, because you might regret it later on in life."
"You've got a scar," Henry says.
"Yeah," his mom says, scribbling something down in red pen on one of the essays she's always marking, with a frown that makes Henry think whatever she's writing isn't good.
"'Cause a girl, um, bit you."
His mother moves on to the next essay, some of the light in her eyes dimming as she skims over the first paragraph. "Yes, Henry. But you shouldn't bite people, remember that."
"I only did that once. Ellis bit Harper Connelly today. Are you allowed to bite people in lacrosse? I think I'd like that."
"No, you aren't allowed to bite people in lacrosse. It's like how you get a foul in football by doing things you aren't supposed to. Is Harper Connelly the Harper with the long hair?"
"No, that's Harper Adamson. Ellis bit the other Harper."
"Right…" his mom says, in a tone suggesting the opposite. "Tall Harper."
"No," Henry repeats impatiently. "Tall Harper isn't one of my friends. Harper Connelly is the Harper who had a donut birthday party and everybody threw up afterwards."
"Why aren't you friends with Tall Harper?" his mom asks, concerned, as she sets the pen down for a minute. "I hope neither of you are being mean."
"Can I have a donut?" Henry asks.
"Not today, sweetie. How about some apple slices instead?"
"Can I have apple slices and a donut? Uncle Mark can stop by Dunkin' Donuts on his way home."
"You can have a donut tomorrow after school if you clean your room and eat your dinner today," his mom bargains.
"Deal," Henry says, shaking her hand vigorously. "But I get a milkshake with my donut."
"But the milkshake is homemade, not from Dunkin' Donuts."
He thinks it over, then finally decides, "Ok."
His mom picks her pen back up.
"Can we play Scrabble?" Henry asks.
His mom hesitates. Scrabble is her and Henry's favourite game. Uncle Mark likes it too, but he's a better Monopoly player; Henry and his mom always win Scrabble.
She pushes her papers away and slides onto the floor beside Henry, making him beam. "Alright then, bud," his mom says. "Best of three. Only English words, no proper nouns."
"Yeah!" Henry roars, jumping to his feet. "Mom, I'll get the game, you get the apple slices."
He thunders up the stairs, searching through the baseballs and mismatched socks under his bed for the familiar game. Somewhere downstairs, the front door slams. "Honey, I'm home!" Uncle Mark shouts jokingly, as he does sometimes.
Finally grabbing the game, Henry races back downstairs. "Hi, Uncle Mark!" He exclaims, and then his face brightens as he sees the girl stood behind Uncle Mark.
Henry loves Sofia. She has nice, long hair and is good at climbing trees.
"Sofia!" He shouts joyfully, rushing past Uncle Mark and his mom to grab Sofia's hand with his spare one. "Come play! Me and Mom and Uncle Mark are playing scrabble!"
"I have a whole new respect for your job," Uncle Mark murmurs to Henry's mom as they all enter the living room. "I've never worked at a public school before this, and working with an actual class…"