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physician, heal thyself

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Once upon a time, a nice, bright, middle–class boy has his eyes opened. Then he wants to save the world. 

Peter’s words burn like bitter incense in the back of Jared’s mind, steaming out his nares and fogging up his corneas, and their meaning is too obtrusive to ignore, too truthful to deny, and it feels somewhat pointless to indulge his psychologist coworker because really, all he had wanted to do was help. The abysmal conditions in the tunnels shocked Jared out of his slump and gave him a mission he was actually determined to pursue, so to hell if it was a “crusade” to everyone else. 

But some people don’t want help. Some people—in their abject loneliness and desperation—want to drag you down with them. You must never go out to save someone in the deep end without proper floatation gear yourself, lest you wish to drown with them. They’ll latch onto you and never let go, even as you both begin to sink to the bottom; it’s one of the less favorable human responses of the lot. 

Jared, knowing this, was always taught to help where he could. And when he reached his limit, he knew to hand it over to someone else; let them bear the weight once he did his part. He’ll do what they couldn’t and they’ll do what he couldn’t. 

Perhaps it was selfish of him to nick the syringes. Perhaps it was arrogant to assume it would make a difference in these addicts’ lives. But if he got here sooner and if the council didn't cancel the bloody needle program, then maybe it could’ve. 

A girl died from septicemia because her arm got infected shooting up. A girl died because her friend feared the cops more than he cared for her health. But it’s been a long time coming, really. These tunnels are the false light at the end of a dozen wrong turns, and more of these addicts are being sent to the morgue than they are to Emergency. It’s so damn preventable, and Jared only wanted to help. 

I have to do something. 

A girl is dead, and now Jared will be, too. This is what Peter had been going on about. Jared can see it now, in Laura’s empty eyes. He can feel it now, too, because a man he hardly knows has got him by the neck and is groping him through his daks and he can’t even say no, all he’s got going for himself is struggle. 

“That’s the problem with little poofs like you,” Mick says gruffly, grappling with his belt. “You don’t even know you want it.”

Jared doesn’t want to believe what’s happening, but his intentions become evermore clear as Mick wrestles him over to the bed and Jared is thrown down like a sack of flour. He can hear the huff of laughter on Mick’s lips; a sick, sadistic thing, and the only thought left rattling loudly in his head is This is where I die. 

It’s futile to fight back because Mick is built like a brick shithouse and Jared hardly has time to hit the gym on top of his job, which was never meant to go this far. His job should have stayed in the halls of All Saints. His job shouldn’t have him here, screaming and writhing into the pillows Mick has him pinned against. 

He’s becoming one of the victims he and his coworkers nurse on a regular basis. There is so much fear and his vestigial disbelief is repetitious because it’s happening and it’s happening to him because he didn’t listen. He just wanted to help. 

He walked into this lion’s den of his own volition. He ventured too deep when he asked to see Diana. All of this over a packet of bloody syringes. When Jared is no longer preoccupied by his body’s overwhelming sympathetic response then perhaps he’ll be of a mind to feel as worthless as he reckons he should feel by that. 

Mick is uttering something to him, cruel and gravelly, almost like he’s trying to rip out more with his words than he is with his hands. Jared reckons it pointless to answer because the only thing his vocal cords are allowing him to do is sob his guts out. 

In some deep corner of his mind he wonders if anyone nearby can hear him being raped, if they’re listening to him get his insides carved out. But even by chance that someone is, he doubts they would be willing to help. The poor bastards rotting in these tunnels are either too high, too afraid, or both, because the guy raping him runs this place. Or maybe it’s just because nobody here cares. 

He should’ve left once he saw to Laura. Or what was left of her. He’s a bloody idiot. 

God, he should’ve just left, why didn’t he leave, he’s so—

It takes Jared a moment to realize it’s over because Mick is doing up his zipper, snorting nonchalantly, like he didn’t just…like that wasn’t…and then he gropes Jared’s bare, abused backside for a second that lasts too long, leaning in to whisper, “Come again, sweetheart,” and then Jared waits, shivering, only lifting his stinging face from the sheets when he hears Mick’s echoing footsteps diminish. 

A girl is dead and Jared feels like he should be dead, too. And from how severely he’s hyperventilating here, that may very well happen soon enough. 

He shakily sorts out his bunched–up clothes, hands trembling as he tries to free himself from his med bag semi–choking him, still slung across his shoulders. It only takes a few fruitless tugs before Jared is crying again, his face a fixed grimace as he swallows his sobs, too afraid to let out the scream of frustration in his throat. He has to leave before Mick comes back and decides he wants another go. 

Jared limps his way through the tunnels, trying not to think about the slickness between his legs. He feels like he’s been peeled, skinned, uprooted—like the walls have grown eyes and he must shy away, let no one else witness his pathetic state. Escaping this place comes to him like muscle memory despite only being here a few times before. 

It doesn’t have a happy ending, mate, Peter says sternly, and Jared wants him to shut up. 

The pulse in his forehead is radiating like a bomb about to detonate. He’s paranoid and scared shitless and the tunnels are terrifying and when something brushes against his hip, Jared bites back a scream before realizing it’s just his bag. His brain then helpfully supplies the fact that Mick took absolutely nothing from it. 

The syringes and the antibiotics are still snug in the big pocket, staring up accusingly, but Diana and the others are a weak, waning reminder curled up in his mind. Mick took nothing but his dignity and Jared just has to crawl back home, back to Scott’s, back to his friends, even if he can’t dare to let them see him tonight. 

When Jared finally climbs to freedom, the night sky up above looks like pitch black tar, and the clinic is close, so close, but he can’t go there… No, they’ll all know. He doesn’t want them to know because it’s irreversible knowledge. It’s a brand spelling out I told you so. They’ll never look at him the same again, and then he’ll have to find a new place to work and he may be a shoddy nurse, but he doesn’t want to go through the trouble of applying to another hospital right now. 

Terri would ask why, anyway. Someone would figure out what’s happened in two weeks. Someone would see him break and they’d see Mick on him, and fuck, fuck, never has Jared so fiercely loathed having friends and coworkers who know how to read him, who know how to read rape victims, because that’s him now.