The sound of the clock ticking fills David's ears as he sat in the waiting room. He was fortunate that Gwen was waiting with him or his mind would go rampant with negative thoughts. She was talking to him but he couldn't focus on what she was saying. In actuality, he wasn't really trying to focus on what she was saying. After all, it was hard to think of anything else since Max was currently being attended to in the emergency room.
It started as a usual day in Camp Campbell with David rallying all of the campers, and saying, "Alright campers. Who's ready for another fun activity?"
And as usual there was a slight mix of silence and groaning before Max interjected, "Just tell us what we're doing this time Camp man."
Needless to say, David went through the usual routine of encouraging Max to adopt a better attitude while he explained the activity. The activity for that day was a crafting activity for all camps. What the activity was specifically, he'd forgotten by now. But usually he would make sure to keep an eye on the troublemaking trio of Max, Nikki, And Neil Which wasn't very hard most of the time. However, this time his enthusiasm for the crafting activity got the better of him.
He lost track of the three after about half an hour in. He only remembered when it was time for them to have lunch, and they weren't accounted for. So both counselors rushed to find the three missing children to discover that they had used crafting time to build a canoe. They discovered this fact by finding pieces of the wrecked canoe on the beach with all three kids. And while Nikki and Neil were perfectly fine, Max was bleeding badly.
"What happened here?" David had asked as he checked Max's injury to see how severe it was.
"We were on our boat until we crashed into a rock," Nikki explained, fearing for her injured friend.
"We thought Max was struggling because he couldn't swim," Neil finished explaining, "And then we saw the blood."
It wasn't hard to see how that happened. Truth was that they had called an early lunch because of heavy winds coming up. Mostly because it was causing crafting projects to fly off the table, and it would've been a hassle to try to continue. David examined the wound, and paled when he saw how bad it really was. One of the canoe boards had apparently impaled Max when it crashed, not too badly but bad enough that the bleeding wouldn't stop.
"David?" Gwen said, bringing his mind back to the present.
Since everyone was concerned for Max, and the counselors couldn't leave them at camp without a responsible adult, they all went with David to the hospital with the exception of Quartermaster who objected going because of something about science and stuff. They all stayed close, and under supervision of one of the two counselors. Usually Gwen was watching them since David refused to even move until the doctor said that the boy was cleared to leave. This time though, they were all asleep when Gwen went to get a cup of water for her friend. When she handed David the cup, she said, "He'll be okay."
"I know," David said, not completely believing his words, "I just want him to be okay."
Eventually the doctor did arrive to speak with them. However, before the person could speak, David was quick to his feet, and asked, "Is Max okay?"
"Mr. Pine, Miss Douglas, I think you two should sit down for this," the doctor said as she began explaining the small ten year old's condition, "The injury caused Max to lose a fair amount of blood so he will need a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, he has AB- which is very rare-"
"I can donate if I need to," Gwen interrupted, "I have AB- blood type as well."
"That only solves part of the problem," the doctor continued, "We also noticed several fractures in the boy's bones and quite a number of scars on his torso area. Do either of you have any idea as to how this might've happened?"
Both adults looked to each other with concern. Since parent's day, they tried to be easy on Max given his situation with his neglectful parents. But it felt pretty obvious that they were much worse than neglectful at this point. Of course, they couldn't make assumptions without any evidence so they chose to keep their opinions to themselves for now. Not that they wouldn't pursue this train of thought later. Instead, David replied, "We'll pay for what operations he needs."
"Very well," the doctor said, "First we'll need to check to see if you are cleared to donate blood. Follow me."
The two followed the doctor into another room where they ran tests on both David, and Gwen. The tests felt like they took maybe a little longer than they should, and it wasn't clear what they were looking for after the first one. However, none of the medical professionals would say what they were all even for. At least until the last one entered the room with a clipboard. As soon as the last doctor entered the room, he began explaining, "Good news is that you're cleared to donate to help Max. But I think there's something we should discuss with the two of you."
A couple days passed by before Max woke up again. Though groggy, he could feel bandaging around his side. And he was pretty sure that there were some stitches there as well. Weirdly enough he felt no pain, which was probably because he was on painkillers at the moment or whatever it was that was hooked up to him in the IV. Eventually his attention shifted to three figures entering the room.
It was clear to him that the first one was the doctor while behind her were Gwen and David. The doctor looked pleased to see that he was awake. The camp counselors however looked like they were trying to find the best way to break some serious news to him. Which only pissed off the ten year old since he hated people keeping secrets from him. Since he was still tired, he decided to take things slow and asked, "How Long was I out?"
"Long enough Maxwell," the doctor said, "I just need to clear some things up outside and then you'll be free to go."
As soon as the doctor left, Gwen and David sat down next to Max with Gwen on the bedside, and David in the chair next to the bed. David spoke first, "How do you feel?"
"Teach me to craft better shit," Max remarked sarcastically, "Let's just get out of here."
"Max," Gwen placed a hand on his shoulder just as he was about to leave, "You need to hear this."
Normally Max would object, but something in Gwen's expression told him to stay seated. He also noticed bandaging on her arm which was probably done for his sake. He decided to listen since he was grateful for their assistance. But that didn't stop him from making another retort, "Can we make it quick please? Hospitals aren't exactly the best place to be in."
Gwen gave a light chuckle, "Yeah. Reminds me of when we were at the hospital once."
Max looked confused, "We?"
"Gwen and me," David answered, "But mostly Gwen."
"I'm surprised it wasn't because of you," Max gave a slight roll of his eyes before commenting.
"Actually, in a way, it was because of me," David replied with a guilty look.
Max felt his sarcastic demeanor fade as he asked, "What do you mean?"
"Did you know that Gwen and I were once a couple?" David asked in response.
Max shook his head, "At first I figured that maybe you two f #$ed once but I didn't think that was true."
"It's more true than you think," Gwen replied, "We were seventeen and both a little stupid-"
"Wait a minute. David, you lost your virginity in high school?" Max asked with serious disbelief, "Bullshit."
"It's true," David replied, "There's actual living proof of that."
It took Max a while to figure out what that meant. He had to deconstruct the sentence a little but he caught on eventually. What clued him in was David's emphasis on the word 'living'. That was coupled with what was confirmed earlier, known thanks to Max catching Gwen watching trash TV for the first time, and he connected the dots. Max spoke once more, "You two have a kid?"
"We have a son," Gwen answered, "But we weren't ready to become parents and we figured that he was better off not knowing who we were."
"So we gave him up for adoption to be cared for by a better family," David chimed in, "We never knew who he would be."
Max never knew that it'd be possible to feel bad for these two. For the longest time, he felt nothing but resentment towards them both for being in his life. This eased up since parent's day since they did bond over knowing Max's family situation. It didn't stop Max from giving them hell whenever he had the chance to do so, but he was more lax compared to before. But it still felt like there was more that they were trying to say, and didn't know how to say it.
"Look I'm sorry that happened to you guys," Max started to say, "But why are you telling me this?"
David let out a heavy sigh, "Because we just found out that setting our son up for adoption was a mistake."
Max still looked confused. To him the long enough statement made by the doctor sounded like a couple of days. It hardly seemed like enough time for them to figure out what happened with their kid. Then he looked at Gwen's arm with the bandage on it. And that's when he figured out what they learned.
He realized why they covered the whole story with their child. Why Gwen was able to help out medically speaking when Max needed it. Why he always looked so different from his parents who never really cared for him. And all he could do was stare in disbelief. After a moment of silence, he asked, "So you guys…are my…biological parents?"
"Yes," David answered as he put an arm around the boy's shoulders, "And we're so sorry for ever allowing you to be cared for by those horrible people."
Gwen said nothing. Instead she was struggling to fight back tears as she tightly hugged the boy who was just confirmed to be her son. Needless to say, she failed in keeping the tears from running down her face. And she eventually began crying more heavily as the hugging went on. Between the sobs, she kept saying how she was sorry and that she loved Max. But they were both a little surprised by Max's reaction.
At first Max wanted to scream at them both. He wanted to yell at them for having him cared for by a family who never gave a damn. He wasn't even really considered a part of the family in the minds of his caretakers who called themselves his 'parents'. He wanted to rip out his stitches because of what he just heard. But that feeling lasted for a moment before being replaced by another.
So instead of yelling, Max hugged back with his own tears coming down his face. Because for the first time in a long time, he felt a sense of hope in his life. Hope that things will finally get better now that he met his real parents. Eventually the two calmed down and released their hug before noticing David's happy grin, yet they were shocked that he managed not to shed a single tear. After they released, Max looked to both of them and asked, "Does this mean you'll take me back?"
"Of course," David answered, "Camp Campbell is a place for-"
"No," Max interrupted, "I meant take me back as your kid…please."