Hello, everyone, here's chapter 19 of Family Maintenance. My apologies that I've been missing some updates, I've recently started university again (halfway done with law school! ❤️) and I've been busy getting settled into a new routine, but I'm hoping to update more. Thanks to my wonderful fiancé for putting up with the random medical questions I was asking... It was for the fanfic. And this is one of my favourite chapters, so... I do hope you guys love it!
As usual, leave those comments, I love seeing them!
Her quietness was brutal. While expected, it was still brutal.
Ben just wanted an answer. A small little recognition that she had seen his text. He hadn't even been left on read!
And it was driving him absolutely insane.
Mal did that a lot.
He was in another council meeting, trying not to fall asleep out of boredom, when his phone rang.
Ignoring Leah's huff of annoyance, he glanced at the caller id, expecting it to be one of his friends, and he did a double-take when he read Mal's name.
He answered and immediately knew something was wrong.
Mal was crying.
"Ben? Can you hear me?" Her voice was muffled and Ben stood up quickly, his chair making a squeaky noise across the floor. He shrugged on his jacket, one shoulder keeping his phone to his ear. "Yes, Mal, I can. What happened? Are you alright… Is it-"
"It's Este," she said, letting out a shaky breath. "I don't know what's wrong.. She's burning up and she won't stop crying and she said her throat is hurting, and.. I don't know what to do! Can you please come over? I don't-" She stumbled over her last word, a quiet sob spilling from her lips and Ben hated the sound, hated the way it wrapped around his heart and clenched.
He never wanted to hear her cry.
"I'm on my way."
Ben rapped his knuckles across the wooden door that led to Mal's apartment and it opened as soon as he had pulled his hand away, revealing a puffy-eyed Mal, her cheeks flushed. She crashed into him and his arms looped around her instinctively.
"You came." she whispered and he hugged her tighter, brushing her hair away from her face. Her tears had dried and left a sticky path on her cheeks and he longed to kiss them away.
"You needed me."
She pulled away, wiping her eyes before dragging him into the bedroom, where Este was curled in a ball on the bed. She was wearing blue pajamas.
It looked like a tornado had swept through the room, tissues and blankets were littered all over the floor. Wet clothes and ice packs were stacked on the nightstand alongside a thermometer and two bottles of water and a few children's pill bottles.
Este's voice was quiet and not full of life like it normally was when she spoke. "Ben?"
"I'm here, sweet girl. How are you feeling?" Ben asked softly as he picked her up. He fumbled for the thermometer, trying to remember what Mrs. Potts had done whenever he was feeling unwell.
"Owwie," she mumbled. "And my neck hurts." She whimpered and Ben rocked her back and forth and rubbed her back.
"She needs to go to the hospital, Mal," he said, his eyes meeting her scared ones. Mal was rarely ever scared. "She's sick, but I'm not sure-"
Mal hesitated before replying. "I don't have a car."
"I'll take you."
It was a rush to get to the hospital.
Ben ushered the two of them out to the car he had taken, and informed the driver to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. He sat in the back with them, comforting both.
When they arrived, there were already cameras and Ben shielded both of them from the flashes, cradling the back of Este's head with a gentle hand, as they walked into the white building.
His other hand had been grabbed by Mal, squeezing it tightly, and she was pressed to his side, her cheek against his chest, her eyes apprehensively looking around.
Ben didn't normally pull his king card, but he did in that moment in order to get a doctor to Este quickly. They were shown to a small room with colourful walls and a bright red couch.
The poor toddler was terrified, wailing when the nurse picked her up to take her statistics. Mal looked pained to hear her crying and Ben rubbed her shoulder as they watched.
"The doctor will be in shortly." The nurse said as she placed Este back in Ben's grasp and he thanked her.
"You're okay, baby, they'll help you feel better, okay?" Mal soothed. Este buried her face in Ben's neck and they were reduced to silence, except for Este's sniffles.
The doctor soon came in with a smile, a white coat draped over pink scrubs. "Hello, my name is Ally! And this is Este?" A gloved hand reached out to rub Este's head and Ben nodded.
"Come here, little one."
Ally sat Este down on the bed and inspected her, talking to her kindly and asking how she was feeling.
Este seemed to relax after a moment, especially when the doctor showed her the stickers she could have after the exam, but Mal kept a death grip on Ben's hand, her face concentrated as she watched every move the doctor was doing.
"She's fine." Ben murmured in her ear, but she didn't relax. Couldn't relax.
Not with this stranger poking and prodding at her daughter.
The doctor gave Este a lollypop to suck on, along with the stickers, and she turned, smiling gently at Mal, not seeming to notice that she was worried out of her mind. "Don't worry, ma'am. Este just seems to have a little case of strep throat."
Confusion flickered across Mal's face and Ally pulled up a picture on the computer. "It's a bacterial infection in the throat. Children her age can easily contract it, so don't worry. It's very common. I'll just give her antibiotics to reduce the swelling and her symptoms and she'll be feeling dandy in no time."
"They're a type of medicine. We're lucky to have caught the strep before it escalated into a more serious problem-" Ally began, but was quickly cut off by Ben's hand motion.
He didn't want to scare Mal even further, but she seemed to be okay as her grip on his hand lessened a bit.
Ally cleared her throat. "Well, anyways, I'll get those prescriptions in for you. And this lolly I gave her is a sort of cough drop to help soothe the soreness. I'll be right back."
The doctor shook both their hands before exiting the room and Ben and Mal watched as Este slowly drooped to sleep. Ben discarded the forgotten lollypop and laid Este out so she was comfortable.
"There aren't any hospitals on the Isle," Mal said suddenly and Ben's eyes widened. So that's why she was so nervous. "Este rarely gets sick. It's partially why I got so scared… I thought it was something else."
Ben reached out for her and she placed her hands in his and he squeezed. "There aren't any anti… What did she call them? Antibiotics. We don't have those, we're lucky to even get bandages."
"She'll be okay, though, so I'm not as… You know, scared, I guess," Mal gave him a small smile. "Thanks for being here."
"I'd rather be here than anywhere else."
Mal grew silent and Ben moved to pull away, but she stopped him, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back down. She leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss, on the lips, and his heart almost stopped beating.
It was the smallest touch, but it filled his chest with a warm, warm feeling and butterflies seemed to explode in his stomach.
Ben opened his mouth to say something, but he ended up just gaping like a fish out of water, and she laughed.
A genuine, beautiful laugh he wanted to hear a hundred million times more.
He was cut off when the door opened and the doctor returned with a white paper bag filled with medicine bottles and Mal's attention had drifted away from him.
As the doctor patiently explained the prescriptions and how to feed them to Este, Ben's mind drifted away and his brain suddenly got the memo.
She kissed him.
On the lips.
Oh, Gods of Olympus.
Could he have a replay?
Also, what was that doctor saying again?