Actions

Work Header

these boys

Work Text:

Jackson has treated a lot of broken bones in his career. He’s seen his fair share of kids and adults getting wheeled in for a variety of causes to what led to a fractured femur or displaced bone. So, he’s not quite alarmed when an angsty teenager brought in by more teenagers come into his emergency room one afternoon.

By the way the kid was holding his weirdly-angled arm, Jackson immediately knew what had happened. The question is how.

“Hey, it’s gonna be alright,” Jackson soothes as a nurse and friend, Niylah, helps the kid onto the bed. The other nurses have already shooed his friends away, closing up the curtains for privacy.

The green-eyed boy is wincing in pain, but still trying to put on a brave face. He couldn’t be older than 15, but the cuts and bruises on his face add years into him.

Jackson quickly assesses the damage, examining the boy’s left arm gently, trying not to inflict any more pain onto him. The bone hasn’t fractured the skin; that’s a good sign. “What’s your name?” he asks, hoping to avert the kid from focusing on his lopsided arm.

“J–John Murphy,” he manages to grit out. He’s wheezing before he snarls, “Fix me already!

Jackson and Niylah exchange a look. Right at that moment, another nurse comes in and tells Jackson about what had happened. It’s simple: Murphy was in a fight (hence, the bruises), and he got pushed into a staircase (hence, the broken bone).

“Okay, we need to run an x-ray, John,” Jackson says, looking at the boy’s narrowed eyes as he and Niylah hold his fractured arm. The doctor turns to the nurse. “Wheel him up to the lab.” She does.

They work quickly. After Murphy gets an x-ray (with plenty of complaints and pained grumbles), Jackson examines the fractured distal radius. Just like he’d suspected, Murphy only needed closed reduction and he’ll be good as new. They take him to an empty room equipped for orthopedic injuries.

“Okay, John,” Jackson soothes. “We’re going to put an analgesic in you, so you won’t feel a thing while I do the procedure. Can we call you a parent?”

“I said  fix me,” he snarks with venom, still gritting his teeth.

Jackson looks at Niylah and she just nods, saying, “We can call his parents after.”

The nurse hands Jackson the hematoma block, and after cleaning the area of skin, he injects it into the boy. Murphy winces a little bit at the contact, but quickly tries to mask it with a neutral expression. Once everything is set, Jackson readjusts the bone carefully into place. It’s almost easy for him to do so, as he’s done this countless of times before. Murphy just watches him work.

Afterwards, Jackson instructs for Niylah to help him with the plaster cast, and he cautiously applies it on the boy’s arm. While he’s busy, Niylah is tending to the more superficial cuts on the Murphy’s face. He doesn’t seem like much of a talker. He just grunts non-committal replies or snarks Jackson whenever he asks about what had happened.

Like with broken bones, Jackson isn’t a stranger to rude patients. He’s not even bothered by them that much. More so if they were children who had just experienced something extremely painful.

When he’s done, Jackson punctuates his work with a smile. “Alright,” he says. When Murphy only nods a thanks, he turns his attention to Niylah. “Can we contact the family now?”

Niylah only shakes her head, sneaking a look into Murphy’s direction. “We checked his emergency contacts. None.”

Jackson nods. Niylah takes a small phone out of her pocket, and Jackson almost quips that it looks almost as battered as its owner. Murphy immediately grabs it, but not to call someone. He just puts it in his pocket and starts to sit up.

Hey, stop,” Jackson calmly chides, gently pressing the boy back into the bed. “We need to call your parents so I can tell them what happened.”

Murphy rolls his eyes before shooting his green eyes at Jackson. “I don’t have one.”

Oh. Jackson doesn’t let the surprise show on his face. He’s mastered his neutral doctor expression after years of practice. “Well, then, who can we call for you?”

The boy looks annoyed.

“Somebody has to pay the bills, John,” Jackson says. He doesn’t like bringing up money to patients, most especially since most people can’t afford medical treatment. But he only hopes that this will get him to at least an adult he could discuss Murphy’s injury with. It does.

Murphy hesitantly opens his phone and dials a number. He lets it ring; nobody picks up.

He dials again. Same result.

“Old man must be busy,” he just says, shrugging. “Maybe if you call him from your hospital landline, he’ll bother to pick up.” Those words hold a certain edge, but the fact doesn’t seem to bother Murphy that much. It bothers Jackson, though.

Niylah speaks up. “Give me the number, and we’ll get him on the line.”

Murphy extends his phone, and she quickly scribbles the number onto her hand, leaving the room with a swish of the door. Jackson stays.

“You live with your uncle?” Jackson asks, hoping to make light conversation as he opens up a nearby cabinet for a pain reliever.

“Why do you care?”

“I’m a doctor; it’s my job to care.”

Murphy looks at him for a moment before he says, “No. I live in a foster home. Happy?”

Jackson brushes off the sarcasm that seems to be the kid’s only defense mechanism. He finds the bottle of aspirin and closes the cabinet door. “I know what that’s like, you know,” he says.

That seems to pique the boy’s attention. But as quick as it appears, Murphy hides it with an impressive poker face. “Yeah?”

Jackson holds the pill on one hand and a glass of water on the other. “No parents,” Jackson says the fact as if it’s so little. “Drink up.”

Murphy easily pops the pill, washing it down with the water.

He doesn’t say thanks, just grunts and resumes his position.

Jackson doesn’t fully understand why he’s so drawn to this boy, why he intends to share his own life story to relate to him. Part of him thinks that maybe it’s because he’d once wished someone talked to him about it when he was younger.

“I was almost as young as you,” Jackson says. Murphy seems to be listening. “I lost my dad early, then lost my mom at 15.”

“Let me guess, you went in the system, too,” Murphy says. The edge on his tone seems to be smoothing over, something that Jackson thinks is quite a success.

“Yes,” he replies. Murphy looks at him. “I was lucky with my foster family. After a year, they adopted me. They helped me go to college, get to med school. I was lucky to have people like the Griffins in my life. They basically saved me.”

“Gee, I wonder what the moral of the story is.”  He rolls his eyes.

The corner of Jackson’s lips quirks up into a small smile. “You’ll find those people, John.” The boy finally looks up at him again, his big, green eyes softening just the slightest bit.

Just then, his pager starts to beep on his hip. Jackson takes it and finds that he’s needed in the O.R. He turns to Murphy – he looks so small, yet so old in his bandaged face and plaster cast.

“Rest easy, John,” he says. He’s about to take off when the boy speaks up.

“Murphy.”

Jackson turns his head. “Excuse me?”

He shrugs. “People call me Murphy. I don’t like John. Doesn’t suit me.”

The doctor manages a smile. “Okay, Murphy.”

Jackson continues with the rest of the afternoon’s work after telling Niylah to keep an eye on Murphy in case he tries to flee. Luckily, she’d already contacted his foster parent, and he said he’d pick the boy up in the evening.

The surgery he and Dr. Griffin perform is quite tedious. A six-year-old girl had suffered a comminuted fracture in her femur after a car accident. Jackson never enjoyed operating on kids – didn’t like that they were hurt so bad, so young – but he does his very best for his patients. When he’s done, he changes out of his scrubs and walks over to his office.

To his surprise, there’s already someone sitting on his chair.

“Seems like the doctor is in,” Jackson says, a playful smile on his otherwise tired face.

Nate returns the smile, spinning the chair just the slightest bit. “Long day?” he asks, always able to know whatever is on his partner’s mind. Jackson pecks him on the lips before removing his lab coat.

“Just got out of surgery,” he replies. “How was your day?”

Nate waves a hand in nonchalance. “Same old. Still haven’t solved this murder case in Beale St. Got the squad all stumped.”

“I’m sorry.” After Jackson places his coat in his closet, he finally turns to Nate. “Tacos and movie night?”

The mention of their I-had-a-shit-day tradition brightens Nate’s glum face. “Tacos and movie night, it is.” Jackson walks over and places another kiss on his lips, this time longer and with more desire. He’s so tired, all he wants to do is fall asleep with Nate on his office chair.

But, miraculously, he manages to detach himself from the man. “Come on,” Jackson says softly. “Let’s go home.”

Nate recounts his day as they walk along the hallways, shoulder-to-shoulder. Jackson enjoys nights like this – where they both don’t have to work overtime, and Nate can pop in and pick him up. They often can’t do this due to their demanding professions and, generally, both their workaholic nature. So, it’s always a treat when Nate shows up in his office like he did.

Their journey out of the hospital takes them to the emergency room. Jackson notices the familiar boy sitting on one of the seats.

“Jo– Murphy,” he says, catching himself.

Murphy looks up, his eyes flickering in recognition at the sight of the doctor. “Hey, doc.” His tone is bored.

“How’re you feeling?”

“The same as three hours ago.”

Jackson looks over his shoulder to Nate before turning back to Murphy. “Is your foster father here?”

Murphy nods behind Jackson, in the direction of the nurse’s station. A tall man in a black coat stands beside Niylah, filling up papers.

“I’ll get the car started,” Nate says. Jackson nods. His partner gives him a squeeze on the arm before walking out of the emergency room doors. Jackson steals one last look at Murphy before walking over to the man.

“Good evening, Mister…?”

He looks up from his papers and into Jackson’s outstretched hand. “Jaha. Thelonious Jaha.” His grip is firm, the doctor notices.

“I’m Dr. Jackson. I treated Murphy’s injury,” he introduces.

“Yes, well, I’m sorry about the boy,” Jaha says. “He’s troubled, that one.” He has the tone of a man who’s had to deal with a lot of hospital visits.

“Indeed, he is,” Jackson agrees. He ponders for a moment before continuing. “Anyway, all he needs to do is take pain relievers when he needs them, although intake should be moderated. I’ll have to do check-ups every week to make sure he’s healing well.”

Jaha nods as he continues with the form. He signs the last paper with an elegant signature. “We’ll take care of him to the best of our abilities, doctor,” the man says, voice authoritative. “Although I’m not sure if he’ll be as… obedient with the rules.”

Jackson just nods. He bids the man, as well as Niylah and the other nurses farewell. He stops in front of Murphy, who’s just been staring into nothing with that always-present sour expression on his face.

“See you next week,” Jackson informs him. With a playful smile, he adds, “Don’t get into any trouble.”

To his surprise, the boy gives him a smirk. “Yeah, I wouldn’t count on it, doc.”

Instead of replying, Jackson just places a warm hand on Murphy’s shoulder before walking out the doors. He couldn’t see it, but Murphy watches him go, the ghost of a genuine smile playing on his face.

 

+

 

The next time Jackson sees Murphy, he’s one day late for his weekly check-up.

Jackson is just in his office, lounging on the small, uncomfortable sofa near the window when a knock on his door pulls him away from almost falling asleep. He inwardly groans. However, his sense of duty quickly overrides the call of sleep, so he stands and opens the door.

There, outside his office, is John Murphy himself. The boy stands straighter just as the door swings open. Jackson exchanges a look with his secretary behind her desk, who just shrugs, before turning back to Murphy.

“I was supposed to meet you yesterday,” Jackson says, closing the door behind him.

Murphy shrugs. “Shit happens.”

The doctor almost snorts. He instructs the boy to sit on the exam table, and he does, dragging his feet across the floor. Before Jackson could start his routine check-up, though, he notices a purple mark on Murphy’s corner lip that he was sure wasn’t there before.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay away from trouble?” he reprimands, not really having any bite to it.

“I told you. Shit happens,” Murphy just says.

“Yeah?” Jackson assumes a dad pose, both hands falling to his hips. “What kind of ‘shit’?” He tries to refrain from cursing, he does. Even as an adult. So, when he says the word, rolling out of his mouth so unnaturally, Murphy’s mouth twitches into a smirk.

Jackson just gives him a pointed look, and it falters.

“Just kids being assholes, doc. Don’t worry about it,” he says.

Jackson wants him to elaborate, but the doctor knows he won’t be able to pry the story out of the boy’s mouth. So, he just leaves it at that and begins the check-up. He asks the questions: have you been feeling any pain lately, have you been doing any strenuous activity, all that jazz.

The doctor checks the cast, making sure it’s still intact and tight against Murphy’s arm.

There is a silence in the room as he works when Murphy speaks up.

“I’m protected by patient-doctor confidentiality, right?” he asks.

An odd question. Jackson looks at him briefly, brows furrowed. “Yes, of course,” he replies before going back to work. “Why?”

“Do I seem… I dunno, gay?” Murphy says the last word in almost a whisper. And when Jackson turns to him again, he notices that this is the first time the boy has ever looked shy. That’s when something clicks.

“The fights…” Jackson says slowly. “Does that have something to do with…?”

Murphy nods, a tongue on his cheek.

“Oh.” Jackson, even as a gay man, finds it hard to broach the subject to the kid. “Are you gay?”

Murphy’s eyes widen as if the word itself is a slur. Suddenly, Jackson is reminded of himself as a kid, finding that out about himself for the first time. It had felt like such a great epiphany, yet the young Jackson had found himself hiding his secret with shame for years before he finally came out.

“I– I don’t know.”

“You know it’s okay, right? Being gay.” Jackson stresses.

“Of course, I do,” Murphy defends, narrowing his eyes.

Jackson breathes a bit easier. “Good. You should know it’s also okay not to have it figured out right now,” he says slowly. Murphy looks at him intently. “There’s no pressure at all.”

The boy seems to be giving it a lot of thought, staring into his lap with a pensive look. Finally, he looks up, and that youthfulness is back in his eyes.

“Alright. Am I good to go?”

Jackson just nods. “Yes.” He looks at the window and mentions, “It’s late. Will Mr. Jaha be picking you up?”

“I guess.” Murphy rises to his feet. He’s about to walk out of the door when he stops midway, turning to Jackson. “And, uh, thanks.” His smile is clipped and small, but it’s already miles different than the usual snarky smirk on his face.

Jackson smiles. “Anytime.”

And off he goes.

 

+

 

Nate picks him up that night, too. When Jackson steps inside his office after rotations, Nate is lounging on his sofa, feet propped up on the armrest. His eyes are fluttered shut, arms crossed against his chest. He looks peaceful.

Slowly, Jackson wakes him up with a chaste kiss on the lips. When he tries to pull away, Nate’s hands grab his hips, pulling him down into him as he grins into Jackson’s mouth. As Jackson’s weight falls clumsily on Nate, the man lets out a grunt in the middle of their kiss.

The both of them laugh into each other, Jackson’s hand on the armrest behind his partner.

“I missed you,” Nate says.

“Duty called.”

“Mhm,” Nate only purrs, his mouth finding its way on Jackson’s neck. The doctor feels his face heat up, bursts of desire engulfing his chest.

Nate trails soft kisses up Jackson’s neck, along his jaw, until their lips find each other again.

“Let’s take this home, huh?” Jackson whispers in between kisses.

Nate grunts in disagreement. Jackson smiles against his lips. “Remember last time?”

That gets Nate to pause. “I’ve erased all memory of Dr. Griffin walking in on us from my mind.”

“Clearly not that well,” Jackson chuckles.

Nate’s hands go to the sides of Jackson’s face. “Fine.” He presses one last kiss into him before Jackson stands up to his feet, the other man following suit.

Jackson is quick to gather his things, excited at the prospect of doing very explicit activities with Nate once they get back to their apartment. Once he’s done, they take the same route to the parking lot as they always do. As they’re walking out of the emergency room doors, Nate has his arm around Jackson, whispering into his ear about what he plans to do for the night.

The doctor is flustered, holding on to Nate’s hip. This is when he notices a moving figure near their car and the sound of plastic wheels rolling on the cement. Murphy skates quickly past Jackson, blowing air into the doctor’s face.

Jackson turns, Nate’s grip on him loosening. “Hey, Murphy!”

The boy’s skateboard grinds to a halt. He’s a mere silhouette, too far away from the overhead streetlights. Murphy places a hand over his eyes. “Dr. Jackson?”

Slowly, his silhouette grows bigger and bigger until the boy stops in front of Jackson, one foot still on his board.

“Shouldn’t you be home by now?” Jackson asks worriedly.

“I have no home.

Jackson sighs. “Where’s Mr. Jaha?”

Murphy shrugs. “Dunno. Probably forgot about me, which, I don’t blame him.”

Jackson ponders his options for a second. He could not, in his right conscience, leave this boy alone at the parking lot dead in the night. Especially in his condition. He offers, “Why don’t we give you a lift, huh?”

From behind, Nate touches his arm. Jackson gives him a pleading look. The man gives in, letting out a deep breath after a moment of hesitation. He speaks up, turning to Murphy. “Yeah, kid. It’s dangerous out here.”

“I can handle myself,” Murphy snarks.

Before Jackson could talk, Nate retorts with the same bite, “And how’s that working out for you?” He gestures to the boy’s cast.

Murphy shoots him a glare, Jackson standing awkwardly in between their warring eyes.

“Just… please?” he pleads, instead. “As your doctor, I’ll feel a lot better knowing you’re not out here worsening your injury.”

The boy sighs deeply before finally agreeing, “Fine.”

Jackson smiles. The three of them walk over towards the couple’s car, Nate throwing his boyfriend a pointed look before entering the driver’s seat. Murphy slides easily into the back seat, placing his skateboard on the floor.

“Ark Street, right?” Jackson asks as he adjusts the seatbelt.

“Hm,” Murphy just grunts a reply.

“Good, that’s just on our way,” Jackson says, smiling softly at Nate. The other man surrenders against his expression, starting the engine with a familiar hum. Music begins to sound from the radio; Jackson recognizes this as Nate’s own 80’s Pop playlist – the man’s guilty pleasure.

As his partner pulls away from the parking lot, Jackson sneaks a glance into the backseat to find Murphy sitting still near the window, looking out into the distance.

The ride towards the orphanage should take them about twenty minutes if they exclude the constant traffic in the big city. Music continues to blare from the speakers, filling in the otherwise awkward silence that might’ve settled in the car. Jackson’s attention is on his phone, checking e-mails, replying to colleagues, deleting spam.

They must’ve been riding for ten minutes now when a familiar tune suddenly plays, the guitar riff making Jackson and Nate look at each other. They’re both sporting the same nostalgic grin.

God, remember our cross-country road trip? 2011,” Nate says, head bopping along to the beat as the voice of Huey Lewis fills the car,

The power of love is a curious thing

“No, 2011 was the Asian trip,” Jackson corrects, smiling from ear to ear. “We did the road trip on 2012.” Their small group of friends has been traveling as much as they could since college, and although Nate often forgets the specifics, Jackson could remember the details for the both of them.

Really?” Nate furrows his brows in confusion, but that still doesn’t stop his entire body from dancing along to the song. He doesn’t pay the mistake any more mind, continuing his nostalgic journey, “Who the hell knew Lexa had car sickness, huh?”

“Jasper was so upset we had to miss the Grand Canyon,” Jackson supplies, laughing.

I was, too!” Nate says, waving a hand to himself. “We just graduated college, of fucking course I wanted to hike the canyon!”

Make a bad one good, make a wrong right
Power of love will keep you home at night…

They sit still together for a moment, reminiscing, the chorus beginning to crescendo. His boyfriend sings along to the song. Well, it was more uttering the lyrics than actually singing, but Jackson is charmed, nonetheless. Nate could ‘sing’ to him his whole life, and Jackson wouldn’t even dream of falling out of love with the man.

When he’s finished, Nate turns to Jackson briefly, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Remember how upset I was with you when we stopped in L.A.?”

The doctor sneaks a glance at the windshield to catch Murphy’s eyes. The boy quickly averts his gaze the second their eyes meet, trying to hide the fact that he’s listening. Jackson looks at Nate.

“In my defense, I was in my fourth year of med school,” Jackson says, remembering the memory but forgetting the feeling of ever being dismayed at Nate.

“It was Pride,” Nate stresses. “Your first Pride.”

The mention of the event keeps Murphy’s interest. Jackson sees the boy listen in more carefully through the windshield. He just allows Nate to continue the story.

Nate does, either not noticing Murphy or simply not caring, “We were all dressed up in our rainbow colors, all packed up in the RV.”

“The glitter was insane,” Jackson comments, shuddering at the memory. “I think I still have rainbow sparkles in my lungs from that day.”

Nate nods, grinning. “We were all ready to go when we found you sitting at the bottom bunk with those damn books in your hand!” Jackson could feel his face heat up. “I had to haul your ass outta there, and, mind you, your ass wasn’t light. At. All.”

A small noise could be heard from the backseat of the car. Jackson tries not to look.

 “This song was playing,” Nate says. He steals a long look at Jackson as they stop at a red light.

“I was scared,” Jackson says, plain and simple. Purposefully, he looks at the windshield to find Murphy staring back at him. “I was scared… and you pulled me out of it.” He turns to Nate again.

His partner finds his hand, squeezing it tightly. Nate gives him a classic wink before the lights in front of them turn green, and they’re off into the road again. The speaker plays a different song, and the weight of the conversation settles in the air. Nobody talks the rest of the ride, and before they know it, Murphy points to a building, and Nate is pulling into the sidewalk in front of a three-story brick apartment complex.

There is a small cement staircase leading up to the front door of the building, and within the steps is a figure of a tan-skinned boy with thick, black hair.

When he sees the car, he moves to stand up.

Jackson turns to see Murphy just staring outside the window.

“Is he your friend?” Jackson asks.

Murphy swallows, saying, “Yeah.” Jackson doesn’t prod any further.

Murphy pushes open the door and exits, taking his skateboard with him. The two teenagers exchange ‘hey’s and ‘where have you been’s once Murphy emerges from the car. Once they’re done with that, the green-eyed boy turns back to the car. Jackson rolls down his window.

“Thanks, doc,” Murphy says, genuine.

Jackson smiles. “No problem.”

The boy then looks at Nate, all animosity in his eyes gone. He looks like he’s about to thank him when he just nods politely. Nate smirks at him, giving him a mock salute. That makes Murphy’s mouth form a sly smile.

Nate starts the engine again, and Jackson rolls up the window. As they’re pulling into the road, he looks back at the orphanage. Murphy and his friend rise the steps, the taller boy’s arm around Murphy.

 

+

 

It’s been long day after long day in the days leading to Pride. Jackson has had his friends make plans for the parade, while he (and Clarke and Niylah) just send thumbs-ups at their group chat. The usual bustle of the hospital keeps the three of them busy, but as much as they can, they talk about it during breaks.

Jackson is finishing a 21-hour shift when he enters his office and slumps down in exhaustion. He’s used to this type of work. He just needs a little caffeine boost to lift his spirits, but the canteen’s coffee machine is broken, much to the dismay of the entire staff.

He manages with some water instead, downing his full tumbler as he takes a second to rest.

There, he achieves one full minute of peace when he hears a knock from the door.

Jackson straightens his tie before calling out, “It’s open.”

To his surprise, it’s John Murphy on the other side of the door. He walks inside as if he owns the place, closing the door behind him with his foot.

“Is your arm okay?” Jackson asks, worried. Why else would the boy be here without an appointment? “Are you hurt?”

“No need for dramatics, doc,” the boy just says, making himself comfortable on the chair in front of the doctor. There is an air of forced confidence around him. To be honest, he’s always had that with him, but today, it seems that there is something deeper in the kid’s mind.

“Well, then, what brings you to my office?”

Murphy just comes out of it, straight and simple: “I’m bisexual.”

Jackson, briefly, is taken aback. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” he shrugs. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and… I figured it out. So, there.”

“And why are you telling m–?” Jackson begins to question when it dawns on him: “Patient-doctor confidentiality.

Murphy nods, smirking, waving his free hand in a ‘there you go’ type of way. “Yes. And also, you know… while we were in the car.” Jackson raises a brow. “You and your friend are, like, a thing. Which I’m totally cool with.”

Jackson manages a small smile. He doesn’t need the boy’s approval, but he’s grateful for it nevertheless. “I’m glad you trust me enough to tell me, Murphy.”

“I’d probably sue you if you snitched, honestly,” is the snarky reply. That earns a hearty laugh from the doctor.

“Do you plan on telling anyone about it?”

Murphy ponders the question for a moment. “Maybe.”

Jackson’s eyes land on the small, messy scribbled name on the boy’s cast. “Bellamy?”

Immediately, Murphy shifts in his seat, moving his broken arm so the writing isn’t visible to Jackson. His cheeks redden; this is the first time the doctor has seen him so flustered.

“He’s my friend,” Murphy says, voice low. As he talks, he gains more self-assurance, the usual John Murphy coming back. “Guess you could also call him my gay awakening.” He nods to the doctor. “Who’s yours?”

Jackson looks away briefly, an embarrassed smile on his face. He crosses his arms in front of him before admitting, “Harrison Ford.”

Murphy snorts loudly.

What? I watched Star Wars and fell in love.”

The boy holds up his hands in mock defense, a teasing grin plastered on his face.

“I guess I better leave you to it, doc,” Murphy begins to rise from his seat. “You look like shit. No offense.”

Jackson shakes his head, chuckling. “None taken, I guess.”

He begins to walk to the door when Jackson gets an idea.

“Hey, wait.”

Murphy turns around, one eyebrow raised. “Yeah?”

“If you’re ready and up for it,” Jackson begins. He treads his words carefully, not wanting to push the kid into doing something he doesn’t want to. “My friends and I are going to the Pride parade next week. One of them, Lexa, is bringing some queer kids from the local youth group. You should come. If you want to, of course.”

Murphy thinks the proposal through, a slight smile on his face. “I’ll, uh, see if I don’t have plans that day. Thanks for offering, I guess.”

Jackson nods. With a teasing tone, he says, “Bring Bellamy.”

Chuckling, Murphy rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Bye, doc.” He opens the door and quickly closes it behind him.

Jackson is left alone in his office; his spirits immediately lifted. It’s funny how that simple conversation doesn’t make him feel like dying from exhaustion anymore.

 

+

 

“Hey, we’re all here.” Nate has a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. “You ready?”

Jackson checks his watch. “Just… can we wait a couple more minutes?”

“The parade will start soon. You know how Clarke gets with being on time.”

The doctor snorts. He turns his head to look at Nate. “Please? One minute.”

Nate relents, pursing his lips. “Okay. I’ll deal with Clarke.”

His boyfriend leaves him on the sidewalk after giving his shoulder a light squeeze. Jackson cranes his head around the area, phone in hand, as everyone climbs inside the van. He has already informed Murphy of the time and place of their meeting spot, and the boy had texted him he’d probably come. Jackson didn’t push him anymore after that, not wanting Murphy to do anything he wasn’t comfortable with.

Jackson looks back at Clarke and Nate carrying some rainbow banners at the back, they themselves donning their pride apparel. The doctor tries not his gaze linger too much on his boyfriend’s pecs, exposed under his colorful tank top.

Clarke meets his eyes. “Jackson,” she says, authoritative. “We gotta go. Now.”

Jackson concedes, sighing. “Okay. Let’s go.”

Nate puts an arm around him. “Who were you waiting for, anyway?”

He shakes his head. “Nobody. Just… waiting for news from the hospital.”

Nate knows he’s lying, but he doesn’t press him further. Jackson is about to climb aboard when he turns his head and finds a familiar figure walking up the sidewalk. Murphy lazily waves a hand. Jackson quickly notices the boy beside him, too, the same boy he saw at the steps of the apartment building.

Nate follows his gaze. He asks, “What’s the kid doing here?”

“You decided to come,” Jackson smiles, ignoring his boyfriend’s question, walking over to them.

Murphy shrugs. “Why the hell not? It sounds like fun.”

The doctor’s eyes land on the tall boy beside him, who gives him a warm smile.

“My name’s Bellamy,” he says, holding his hand out. Jackson gives Murphy a knowing stare before shaking the taller boy’s hand. Murphy just rolls his eyes, embarrassed.

“Dr. Jackson, but no need to call me doctor outside the hospital,” he says. He feels Nate walk beside him, so he adds, “This is my partner, Nathan.”

Nate shakes the boys’ hands, no bad blood anymore between him and the young troublemaker. He holds out two pride beanies to them, one of them donning bisexual colors. “Here. You kids look like you need more pride.”

They gladly take it, Murphy staring at his purple-pink-blue beanie before putting it on his head. Bellamy sees how skewed it is and helps him adjust it, the other boy heating up at the gesture. Jackson’s heart swells.

“Hey!” Lexa, with lesbian colors painted around her eyes, pokes her head out of the passenger’s side window. “Are we going or what?”

They don’t need to be told twice. The four of them enter the van, Murphy and Bellamy introducing themselves to the other queer kids on the backseat. They all seem to hit it off pretty easily, especially with Raven and Emori, talking and conversing with that type of Gen Z humor Jackson is too old to get.

When they arrive at the starting point of the parade, they are met with all sorts of people of all shapes, colors, and sizes, clad in rainbow shirts, skirts, shorts, and everything in between. Jackson has always loved going to pride; enjoys this beautiful celebration of who he is. The crowd is large and full of energy, and although Jackson isn’t the social type, he embraces this with all his heart.

This right here – these are his people.

He looks back at Murphy and the kids they’ve brought along, all of them grinning with glee. Nate unloads their flags and signs from the back, distributing it among them. He keeps the large pride flag for the both of them, the one they just bought with the black and brown stripes.

Nate wraps it around Jackson, giving him a kiss on the lips.

The parade starts just a few minutes later, everyone coming to life. Lexa and Clarke are in the same position beside Jackson and Nate, a flag wrapping their shoulders together. Niylah is a few steps in front of them, dancing to the speakers from the float and waving her lesbian flag proudly.

Murphy and the other kids are even further in front, chanting along with the crowd, donning their flags and balloons. Bellamy’s arm is around him, their sides pressed together. It’s a heart-warming sight. Jackson has always enjoyed Pride parades, but, he quickly decides, he’s bound to remember this one for a long, long time.

When it ends, they separate from the crowd. Jackson is exhausted, his rainbow sweatshirt sticking to his body.

“Take it off, take it off!” Nate chants teasingly. Niylah instantly joins him, laughing with an arm around Nate.

If this were any other moment, Jackson wouldn’t just change clothes in the middle of a busy crowd. But half of everyone is already topless, so he slides his shirt over his head and takes the tank top Lexa offers him. Nate whistles, making Jackson redden.

“Look how far you’ve come,” Lexa teases, alluding to his first Pride parade. Jackson snorts, putting the clothing on. He remembers the embarrassing memory of him wearing a bland white shirt while his friends donned the entire rainbow.

Just then, a group of people walks past them, setting off confetti, glitter pouring down on their heads. Nate is laughing at Jackson, who seems to have been the most affected by the glitter-filled assault.

“You look fantastic, babe,” he grins, pulling him by the waist and planting a kiss on his lips.

The group enjoy themselves around some more, taking plenty of pictures of themselves and with random strangers around them. It feels good to be with people who are connected in such a profound way that they don’t need to know each other’s names to understand their story. As Nate photographs Lexa, Clarke, and Niylah in pride-inspired make-up, a hand finds itself on Jackson’s shoulder.

He turns around to face Murphy, his skin showing faint signs of glitter. Someone had also painted a bisexual flag on his face. He’s smiling, genuinely. This is the happiest he’s ever looked.

“Thanks, I guess,” he says. “For fixing my broken bone, for hearing me out, for taking me here. I honestly can’t believe you put up with me for that long.”

Jackson feigns ignorance. “Huh? You weren’t that bad.”

Murphy smirks. “Yeah, right.” He then takes out some pens from his pocket – all different colors. “Anyway, I want you to sign my cast.” He lifts his broken arm, and to Jackson’s surprise, it’s already almost full of messages from his new friends.

Jackson recognizes Emori’s skewed handwriting in purple and Raven’s pristine one in red.

He takes the blue marker and writes on an empty spot:

Be proud. –Dr. Jackson

“You doctors have horrible penmanship, you know that?” Murphy snarks when Jackson is signing his name.

“It’s an unfortunately true stereotype,” he replies, giving the boy his marker back.

Murphy gets everyone else to sign, too, and by the end of the day there’s barely any white area on the cast. It’s bright and beautiful, with all those different colors, and Jackson’s not usually this sappy, but he thinks it’s the perfect metaphor.

The young boy has come all this way into full acceptance of himself and his community. Although it all stemmed from a broken bone instigated by an attack against his identity, Murphy is left with a reminder that this is who he is.

Finally, he has found his people.