Tricks and Treats
Summary: Clay does Ray a favor on Halloween, and thanks to a clown, things go awry.
This story is a one-shot for Whumptober2019. It includes prompts: #1 Shaky Hands, #4 Human Shield, #8 Stab Wound, #10 Unconscious, #11 Stitches, #12 Don't Move, #13 Adrenaline, #14 Tear-stained, #17 Stay With Me, #20 Trembling, #23 Bleeding Out, #24 Secret Injury, and #31 Embrace.
"Hold on. I'm coming," Ray hollered at the door as he fiddled with the wing, unsure how Naima got them to be equal. Jameelah gave him a pouty face as it drooped again. "I'll fix it before you leave." He stood and hurried to the front door, yanking it open.
"Trick or treat?"
Ray burst out laughing. "A little old, aren't you?" He opened the door wider as he allowed Pirate Clay to enter. "Thanks for doing this last minute. Hope I didn't ruin your night."
"Nah. Never been trick or treating before."
Ray scrunched his eyes in disbelief. "Seriously?"
"Yeah. Was six when I got shipped off to my grandparents in Africa. Halloween's not such a big deal there." Clay entered Ray's kitchen and smiled at Jameelah. "What a lovely fairy."
"Not a fairy. I'm a butterfly." Jameelah eyed her dad. "With a broken wing."
"Trying to fix it, but it keeps falling." RJ's cries from the bedroom, had Ray turning to the hall.
"Go. I'll give it a try while you take care of RJ. Poor kid is probably miserable with the ear infection." Clay crouched in front of Jameelah as Ray booked it to his son's room. "So, what kind of butterfly are you?" He adjusted a strap and bent the wire as Jameelah jabbered on about her costume as only a seven-year-old could.
"You really haven't been tricking or treating before?" Jameelah asked as Uncle Clay stood.
"Truly. I'm looking forward to taking you."
Jameelah beamed as her wing stayed where it should. "I just gotsta grab my bag, and I'm ready." She raced off to her room as her dad came out, holding her little brother. She wished RJ hadn't gotten sick, and her father could take her out, but once she learned Uncle Clay had never trick or treated, she wanted him to have fun too.
Ray sighed as RJ quieted down. "Naima and I appreciate you dropping everything to help us out. She couldn't get off work, and we can't take RJ out in the cold."
"Happy to do this. This will be loads of fun."
"Why'd you wear a pirate costume?"
Clay chuckled. "To be honest, always wanted to dress up as one when I was a kid, but never got the chance. Perfect opportunity."
"Sonny's gonna razz you."
"Not if you don't tell him. Remember, I'm helping you out."
Ray laughed. "Okay. Okay. This stays between us."
Jameelah raced out and shoved one bag at Clay while she held another. "You can trick or treat for RJ. And you guys can split the loot."
As the two were heading out the door, Ray called out to Jameelah, "You stay with Uncle Clay and watch when you cross streets."
Jameelah whispered to Clay, "He worries too much."
After his initial embarrassment when Jameelah made him hold out the bag and accept candy in the name of her sick little brother, receiving suspicious looks from those handing out said candy, Clay decided to just go with it, and he was having a blast. Jameelah was a powerhouse of excitement, as she almost ran from house to house. In many ways, she was her father's daughter, but there was so much of Naima in her too.
It had been an hour, and the little girl showed no signs of fatigue. He enjoyed her innocent banter and learned more about barbies, stuffed animals, and the latest goings-on in Jameelah's world. She talked about her friends Carrie and Kendall and hoped they would run across them tonight.
Clay smiled as he scanned the road before they crossed at the intersection, as Jameelah dutifully put her hand in his. Little traffic moved through the family neighborhood, most either staying home or out walking with their children. He stepped off the curb, and they crossed without incident. Jameelah tugged her hand out of his and raced for the walkway to the next house. He let her go, but serious about keeping Ray's daughter safe, followed as she approached the semi-dark entry with what appeared to be a stuffed clown sitting in a chair.
The clown jumped up.
Jameelah screamed, turned, and ran as the figure chased her.
Clay raced forward, reading the terror in her eyes as she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Jameelah jumped for Clay as his arms went wide and enclosed her in a solid embrace.
Clay gave the teenager a death glare as he began laughing and said, "Geez, you're a wimp." The teen backed up upon viewing the deadly eyes. "Sorry. My bad. But it's um, Halloween … sorry."
Though he wanted to pound the little shit into the ground for scaring the wits out of Jameelah, Clay only pivoted and strode away at a rapid pace as Jameelah cried into this shoulder. Several houses away, he took a knee, and although she didn't want to let go of him, he gently pulled her from his embrace as he said, "I'm here, and you are safe."
Sniffling, and her tiny body trembling, Jameelah raised her eyes to peer at her honorary uncle. "I'm scared of clowns."
Clay tenderly wiped Jameelah's tear-stained cheeks. "I won't let anyone or anything hurt you … not even some mean clown."
"Jameeeeelaaaa," a high pitched voice rang out in the night. They both turned to find a mermaid running towards them down the sidewalk.
Wiping her eyes, the clown seemingly dismissed, Jameelah hopped off Clay's knee and called back, "Keeeendall."
Amazed at how quickly Jameelah switched from frightened to happy, Clay rose and met the eyes of the adult with Kendall. "Suggest you skip the house three doors down if Kendall doesn't like clowns."
Beth took in the man, dressed as a pirate with Jameelah, and her motherly instincts wondered if he were a predator, but then again, with Ray Perry as a father, if this guy was a threat, he wouldn't be within a hundred yards of Jameelah. Relaxing, she said, "Good to know. I'm Beth, and you are?"
"Clay. I work with Ray, and I'm on trick or treat duty tonight."
Jameelah turned to Kendall's mom. "He's never gone trick or treating, so he's doing it for RJ."
Beth chuckled. "Well, have fun. We've already been the way you are going."
The girls jabbered a few more moments, and then Clay and Jameelah were off again, Jameelah skipping ahead as if the clown incident never happened.
Forty minutes later, bags almost filled to the brim with all types of sugary treats, Jameelah finally began to wind down, and Clay chose a route which would allow them to hit a few more houses on the way back to Ray's.
"Why didn't you go trick or treating when you were a kid?"
"I lived with my grandparents in another country."
"Oh. Did you have fun tonight?" Jameelah peered up at him with expectant eyes.
"Absolutely. The best part is spending time with you."
"My dad says that all the time."
"Cause it is true. You're awesome." Clay grinned as the smile on her face grew. He hoped one day he might be lucky enough to have a daughter. He thoroughly enjoyed tonight. Much better than going to the bar, which had been his only plans when Ray called to ask for help.
Unfortunately, Clay was in his own thoughts as they strolled hand-in-hand, and didn't recognize the house they approached … the one with the clown. Jameelah, however, did. Fear taking hold, she jerked her hand out of Clay's and started to dart across the street, not wanting to be anywhere near the scary clown, unaware of the car coming down the road at too fast a speed for a residential area.
It only took Clay a fraction of a second to realize the issue, kick himself for being inattentive, and race after Jameelah. Tires screeched. People screamed. Clay scooped Jameelah in his arm as he sprinted, turning his body to become a human shield between the car and Jameelah. Upon impact, he curled around the girl, protecting her from both the front bumper and the asphalt.
Clay rolled, over and over, coming to rest in the gutter, Jameelah safely ensconced in his embrace. His adrenaline pumping through his veins, he didn't feel the metal shard on the ground as it stabbed into his left flank on the back. Before Clay could unfurl, he was surrounded by several parents as they ordered their kids to stay back.
"Don't move," a male voice said. "I'm calling 911. Stay still."
"Oh God, she was just in the street. I didn't mean to hit them," a distraught female said.
"I'm alright." Clay pushed up to a seated position, encircled by the adults. Keeping his voice smooth and calm, he said, "Jameelah. Hey, sweetie. Are you okay? Do you hurt anywhere?"
Trembling, her hands shaking, crocodile tears streamed down Jameelah's face. "I'm sorry."
"Hey. Hey. It's okay. Are you hurt?" Clay began running his hands over her, using his field medical training to search for obvious injuries, and luckily not finding any.
"No. A rrrre yo u okaaay," her voice shook.
"Yeah. I'm fine." He peered up at the guy who was on the phone with 911. "No need. I'm just going to take her home."
"I can drive you home." Clay turned his gaze to the woman who offered. "No, thanks." He kept it simple, but there was no way in hell he would get into a car with the woman who drove too fast and nearly killed Jameelah.
Holding onto Jameelah, Clay rose with the assistance of the man who hung up his phone as the guy asked, "Are you certain? You both should be checked out."
"Jameelah's mom is a nurse. I'll take her home, and her dad can decide."
Clinging to Uncle Clay, Jameelah's tears renewed when she spotted all her treats strewn around on the ground. She knew it was silly to cry over candy, but this was Clay's first time, and she wanted this to be special for him, and now it was all ruined. "Your treats, you lost them to save me," she sobbed.
"Oh, sweetie … there is no comparison between you and some candy. That's replaceable … you aren't."
"But this is your first trick or treat … wanted it," she hiccuped and swiped at her tears, "… special."
"It is special. I got to do this with you, butterfly. A night which will be one of my best memories." He smiled and dried her cheeks. "How about we get you home and let your dad and mom decide if you need to be checked out further."
Jameelah nodded and buried her head in the crook of his shoulder. Most of the people around them dispersed, but the gentleman offered, "My home is across the street. You could wait there and call someone to pick you up."
Clay eyed the clown house. "Thanks, but no." He turned and began walking. As his adrenaline ebbed, the aches and pains of being clipped by the car and hitting the ground started to make themselves known. For Jameelah's sake, he would pretend nothing was wrong, but halfway to her home, the pain in his back left flank became more noticeable and uncomfortable.
Reaching around with one hand, he pressed on the area and realized he was bleeding … heavily. Shit. He kept pressure on the wound as he chatted with Jameelah to distract himself from the pain and keep her unaware of his injury. Keeping secrets typically wasn't a good thing, and he didn't do it with his team, but he refused to tell a seven-year-old girl and cause her any guilt.
Clay was never so happy to be wearing all black as tonight … it would hide his blood. Reaching Ray's front door, still carrying Jameelah, who now dozed, he couldn't decide whether to knock or just go in. The decision was taken from him as Ray opened the door. "Spotted you coming up the drive. Looks like you wore her out." Ray grinned and stepped back to allow Clay to enter.
A little lightheaded, Clay faltered as he entered. "Um, Ray, can you take her? Don't want to drop her."
The tone of Clay's voice alerted Ray to something wrong at the same time he realized neither carried a candy bag, and Clay's face appeared too pale. He reached for his daughter. "What happened?"
Relinquishing Jameelah, Clay took a few more steps into Ray's place, scoping out the kitchen chair, hoping he could make it there without keeling over. The sofa was closer, but he didn't want to stain it with blood. "Um. I'll stay here and watch RJ if you want to take Jameelah to the ER to be checked."
"I didn't find any apparent injuries, but well, she was almost hit by a car."
"Almost?" Ray wanted to shout but didn't want to rouse Jameelah. "Weren't you watching her?"
The bite in Ray's timbre hurt almost as much as his back. "Clowns and cars … sorry." He lowered himself into the chair and drew in a shaky breath.
"What?" Ray moved towards Clay is ire increasing. His teammate needed to start explaining clearly, and soon, or he wouldn't be able to keep his volume down.
"Jameelah is the priority … call Naima … see if she wants you to bring her in. She never lost consciousness … I grabbed her before the car hit, but we landed hard, and I rolled several times. Don't think her head hit, and she didn't appear dazed … only scared." Clay's eyes lowered. "I'm sorry. I should've realized we were near the clown house, and if I had, she wouldn't have darted out into the road to avoid walking by it. And the idiot driver was going too fast to a residential street. I barely got to her in time."
Jameelah roused as her uncle explained, and she peered up at dad. "Daddy, it's my fault. Uncle Clay saved me. I shouldn't have run into the street. He said he wouldn't let mean clowns hurt me. I should've stayed with him."
Ray's gaze went from his daughter to Clay and back. "Clowns?"
"A mean one. He chased me … Uncle Clay made me feel safe after."
Fighting his pain and the encroaching lightheadedness, Clay forced himself to explain entirely as if providing an AAR.
Ray calmed when he realized the chain of events, the role his daughter's fear played, and Clay's swift action, which saved his daughter's life. "Okay. I'm going to call Naima. She will be home in about thirty minutes, so if you can stay a bit, we'll decide if we're taking Jameelah in."
"Daddy, I'm alright. I don't hurt anywhere."
Clay swayed slightly and hoped he could stay upright for a little longer.
"I'll be back in a bit, Clay. I'm going to take Jameelah to her room and call Naima."
"Okay." Clay slumped a bit in the chair as he pressed hard on his wound.
Twenty minutes later, Ray returned, minus Jameelah, and spoke as he approached the kitchen, "Naima says we'll just watch her tonight and take her to the pediatrician tomorrow if anything seems out of sorts." He noted Clay's head lolled to his chest, and for the first time, his worry for his daughter now taking a backseat, he realized Clay took the brunt of the hit. "Hey. Clay?"
When his teammate didn't respond, he crouched, and as he did so, he spotted a decent-sized puddle of crimson on his tile floor. Another drip caused a ripple in the pool. "Shit. Clay!" He tapped Clay's cheek. "Hey. You with me?"
Clay opened his eyes "Yeah. Don't want Jameelah to know … no guilt …" he trailed off as his lashes lowered again.
Ray moved to the side and noted Clay's hand pressed to his back, trapped between his body and the wooden spindle. He removed it and lifted the black shirt, noting what appeared to be a stab wound. Putting the kid's hand back where it had been and pushing him against the chair to help apply pressure, Ray pulled out his phone and debated between Naima and Trent for only a second. When the call answered, he said, "Get over to my house now. Bring your med-kit. The kid's gone and got himself stabbed … bleeding like a stuck pig."
He hung up and tried to rouse Clay again. "How'd you get stabbed? Thought a car clipped you."
"Dn't kn," Clay mumbled and began to tilt over.
"Hey. Stay with me." Ray stabilized him, keeping him upright and pushing on top of Clay's hand, adding more pressure as blood oozed between his fingers. He cringed when Jameelah called out from the living room.
"Daddy, what's wrong with Uncle Clay?"
"Stay where you are, baby girl."
"Srry," Clay whispered.
Jameelah defied her dad and moved into the kitchen. "He's hurt. Did the car do that?"
"Grab me the dishtowel, please." Ray decided to put her to work to stem the questions for now. He would deal with Jameelah after he got Clay's bleeding under control.
She handed over the towel and said, "I can get mommy's first-aid kit from the bathroom."
"Good thinking. Please."
Jameelah raced out of the kitchen.
"I understand why you didn't say anything, but secrets have a way of coming out, Clay."
"Sry." Clay's head dropped against Ray's shoulder as he fell unconscious.
As RJ's cries filtered in from the other room, Ray hated not going to his son, but he couldn't leave Clay, or his brother might bleed out. When Jameelah returned, Ray said, "I need you to go to RJ." He glanced at the clock. "Your mom should be home in about ten minutes."
"Okay." Worried eyes turned to her uncle. "Is he going to be alright?"
"Yes, baby girl. Uncle Trent is on his way. Please take care of RJ." Ray said a silent prayer he didn't just lie to his daughter. Five minutes later, RJ now quiet, likely being rocked by his older sister, Ray heard the door open. "Thank God you're here. Must've broken speed limits getting here."
"Ray, baby, what are you—" Naima halted for only one second as she took in the scene. Her nursing mode took over, and in less than a minute, she had Ray move Clay to the floor on his stomach and applied a pressure dressing as her husband explained the little he knew. Trent arrived four minutes later.
Allowing Naima and Trent to take charge of Clay, Ray washed the blood off his hands before going to check on his kids. His mind running in circles how his teammate got stabbed while being hit by a car. Once he tucked Jameelah into bed, RJ finally sleeping too, he returned to the kitchen to find Clay stripped down to his boxers, his ruined pirate costume thrown to a pile.
A knock at his door, had him wondering if Trent called Jason, but on his way to answer, he realized Jace would just walk in … and likely start asking questions … ones he didn't yet have answers for. But the teenager and older man at his door surprised him. "May I help you?"
When silence reigned, Barry nudged his teenage son. "Explain."
"Mr. Perry," his voice cracked with trepidation.
"This is all my fault. I scared your daughter. I called her a wimp when she ran from me." He swallowed a lump. "Thought the pirate guy with her would kill me by his glare. Um. I'm real sorry." He held out a large plastic bag. "I picked up all the candy that got spilled … I hope Jameelah is okay, and the car didn't hurt her too bad."
Ray accepted the bag, but asked, "Did either of you witness the accident?"
"We both did. My name is Barry Miller, and this is my son, John. I was outside, telling him to stop frightening the little kids when your daughter bolted into the street. Beth, Kendall's mother, told me who her parents were and where you live. The blond guy sure runs fast. If he didn't well, tonight would've ended terribly."
Naima's voice filtered in from the kitchen, "Ray, baby, Trent needs your help. We're going to take Clay to the ER. We've got the bleeding under control, but he really needs to be thoroughly checked out."
"Coming in a moment." Ray turned back to Barry. "Was he, Clay, the guy with my daughter, bleeding after the accident?"
Both shook their heads. "Not that I saw," Barry said.
"He did roll several times and ended up on the far side of the street," John added.
"I need the address of where this occurred." Barry provided the details and left after another apology from John. Ray went to help Trent put Clay in Trent's car, and when they finished, he said, "I'll meet you at the hospital. I need to stop at the accident scene first."
"Sure." Trent moved to the driver's side. "Better text Jason. The kid's not operational if we get a spin up."
Moving slow, his bruised and abused muscles revolting with each step, Clay shuffled from his bedroom to his living room under the direct glare of Trent, who brought him home in the wee hours of the morning and then crashed on his couch, unwilling to leave him alone. He glanced at the clock and noted it was already four in the afternoon, and realized he slept the entire day away. "You didn't need to stay with me. I'm not an invalid."
Trent snorted. "By the way you're moving, I beg to differ." Trent rose and ambled to the little island separating the kitchen from the main room. He popped the cap off a pill bottle and shook out one tablet. "Take this, and I'll make you a sandwich."
Clay downed the pill and chose his chair … the armrests would help him lower his body without jarring his back. "How is Jameelah today?"
"Perfectly fine … not a scratch or an ache. She's still worried about you, though. Called Ray while you were in the bathroom. Are you up for a little visitor?" Trent opened the fridge and began pulling out deli meat, sliced cheese, bread, and other fixings.
"Yeah. I didn't want to frighten her. I didn't want her to know. Didn't realize it was so bad. Never felt it happen." Gingerly, Clay sat back, trying not to put too much pressure on his sutured wound.
"She handled it like a little Naima. A nurse in the making. Mustard or mayo?"
"Mustard. Thanks." Clay turned to his door when it opened without anyone knocking.
"Yo ho ho, Blondie Beard. I hear ye lost your treasure last night when ye did battle with a car," Sonny said with a fake pirate accent after he let himself in.
Clay chuckled. "RJ's treasure."
Sonny grinned and brought his hand from behind his back. He carried a six-pack of beer, and a mega bag of gold-foil covered chocolate doubloons. "Loot's yours … beers mine. Ye be banned from brew while taking pain meds." He dropped the candies on the table and took the beers to the island.
Shortly after Sonny arrived, Brock and Cerb showed up with a bag of Clay's favorite sweets. Jason followed, and like the other two, he plopped a plastic sack filled with a mix of candies down on Clay's table with a grin and a quip about reverse trick or treating. The last to arrive were Ray with Jameelah, Naima, and RJ.
Jameelah tentatively approached Clay. "Are you alright?" She sucked in her lower lip and chewed on it.
Clay opened his arms. "Yes. I'm sorry I scared you. Come here, butterfly."
She moved into Clay's embrace. "I'm sorry I scared you too." Stepping back, Jameelah peered in his eyes. "Will you come trick or treating with me and RJ next year?"
Clay grinned and nodded. "If I'm not spun up … I'd love to. I had fun."
Jameelah smiled and hugged him again.
"Well, we will leave you boys to your devices," Naima held her hand out to Jameelah. "We only wanted to pop in for a moment."
After Naima and the kids left, the guys gathered around Clay in a semi-circle, and Clay cringed, wondering what lecture he would receive. He blinked when Ray produced a jagged piece of metal. "What's that?"
"This happens to be what impaled you. I found it in the gutter before I joined Trent at the hospital. Thank you for saving my daughter, and for trying to shield her from your injury."
Jason raised a brow and eyed his rookie. "You should've called me when you first realized you were hurt."
"Um, adrenaline—" Clay halted when Jason gave him the look.
"Did you listen? I said when you realized, not when it happened. Fifteen stitches to close the deep laceration, nearly bleeding out, and being hit by a car aren't things you are allowed hide. I find out you try to keep another injury secret … even for good reason … you're running the hills with a fifty-pound rucksack."
"Don't you mean Jolly Roger?" Sonny chuckled, and the pirate jokes began in earnest.
Clay munched on his sandwich and let the razzing roll off his back. Nothing could bring his mood down. He had a blast trick or treating for the first time and got to dress up as a pirate … and most importantly, one sweet little girl was hale and hearty today. He would shield her again in a heartbeat, with no hesitation, even if it cost him his life.
FYI ... I haven't abandoned Alphabet Injuries ... just working real hard on finishing my next novel in the Beauty of Life series. So very close (a couple of chapters left), but this little story wanted to come out and so I took a short break to write it down. Hope you enjoyed.