Chapter 13 - Sanity is in the Eye of the Beholder

Steve drifted off to sleep and woke up a few hours later, no happier than before to discover he was still in a hospital bed. Still tied to a hospital bed. One of the first nurses was standing nearby, changing one of the little bags of not-clear fluid. He lay quietly, letting her finish her work before he asked what was in the bags.

She explained that it was a nutrient solution, designed to replace solid foods until his body could properly process them, a couple of weeks probably. He frowned and asked if it would put weight on him. She narrowed her eyes at him and asked why. He didn't respond. After all, he asked her first. She sighed and said it might. But it wouldn't be much. Just enough to keep him from getting too sick.

Steve nodded. Not too much damage, then. He could probably handle gaining a few ounces. Then they'd release him, and he could get back on track. As long as he didn't go back to 85, he'd be alright. 90, tops.

The nurse watched him for a moment, then told him that if he volunteered to talk to a psychologist, he might be on an outpatient program much faster than if he just stayed where he was. He asked what that meant. She explained they would be more willing to allow him the freedom of going home if they knew they would see him twice a week every week.

He stared at her blankly. Just how the fuck long was he going to have to stay here if he didn't 'volunteer'?

The nurse flinched at his vehement retort, and told him he should take that up with the doctor. When Steve continued to stare, she offered to find the doctor herself. He told her to be quick about it, and next time try not opening her mouth if she couldn't answer a patient's questions.

Just over ten minutes later, the doctor was by his side, listening to Steve's angry demand for an explanation. The doctor shifted uncomfortably, then told him the ugly truth. She intended to keep him until he was no longer in immediate danger of starving to death, which she estimated to be anywhere from two to four weeks, depending upon his body's ability to repair itself and Steve's own cooperation.

He asked just what the fuck constituted cooperation.

She folded her arms and told him that she was trying to help him the only way she knew how, that she was not his enemy and she didn't think it was fair for him to attack her verbally.

He didn't fucking think it was goddamned fucking fair she let her goddamned cocksucking bitches fucking tie him to a goddamned bed just because he removed a goddamned foreign object from his own motherfucking nose. He also didn't fucking think it was goddamned fucking fair to have a fucking foreign object shoved the fuck down his goddamned fucking nose while he was fucking unconscious, goddamn it.

The doctor sighed and said that his current behavior wasn't exactly under the umbrella 'cooperation', and that there was nothing she could do to speed things up if he was going to be too angry to work with her. She offered him a bargain - if he promised to calm down and be civil to the staff, and to wait until he had permission before leaving the bed unassisted, he could come out of the restraints in half an hour.

Steve wanted to tell the doctor to take her fucking deal and shove it up her ass, but he wanted to get out of the restraints more. He could cuss her out later. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and agreed. He felt her pat his arm gently, heard her reassuring words, that she was really here to help and if he needed anything he could ask.

He needed his new best friend.

She told him she'd arrange to have a phone brought to his room. Then she left, reminding him to use the wall pager if he needed something.

He turned over and took another nap. When he woke up again, he turned the television on and was rather surprised to see morning news shows. Where the hell had the time gone?? He counted the hours on his fingers, and realized belatedly he had been there over 14 hours. He shrugged and started flipping channels.

He settled for one of those stupid televised gossip columns that masqueraded as an entertainment news program. He was only half watching when he heard his name. He tried to sit up, but he was still in the fucking restraints. With some maneuvering, he managed to buzz for an orderly, then turned his attention to the television.

Apparently, he was a satanic anorexic faggot. According to the 'news' show, he was starving himself to death for some ritual while trying to recruit new members through sexual favors. He was reportedly attempting to start a new sect of his own, making his latest conquest his first lieutenant. The television flashed a photo of a tall, built, handsome blonde and a short, sickeningly thin person with long hair leaving a familiar restaurant together, both in black, both shading themselves from the sun (or something more wholesome), both holding their stomachs. The report claimed that the couple had been holding secret nightly meetings for over a month, and have just recently come out to Steve's bandmates. They even somehow managed to get their original rhythm guitarist fired so that the as yet unnamed blonde in the photo could become his replacement.

Steve gaped at the television screen. What in the name of all that is sensible and true was that crap?? He'd never seen anything so ridiculously... ridiculous in his life. Just when he thought it couldn't get any more absurd, the report took a frighteningly personal turn.

There was dark, shaky footage of the inside of someone's barren house. Any fool could see the camera was being purposefully jostled for dramatic effect, giving the footage a 'real live, here, now' feeling. That would have annoyed Steve endlessly were he not so riveted to the images of the house they were broadcasting coast to coast.

His house.

He watched helplessly as a voice over described a slew of fabricated 'rituals' performed nightly in the house, pointing out the worn, stained drains in the bathtub, wash basin and kitchen sink. According to the disembodied voice, this was where small, innocent creatures like possums, cats and even stray dogs were sacrificed and drained. They indicated the exercise machines, describing Steve's workout (with surprising accuracy) and the TV movie he was so obsessed with. His diet supposedly helped him achieve a trancelike state that would allow him to communicate with the dark forces he worshipped nightly. Then they went to his bedroom and pointed out the stained carpet, claiming it was the result of a botched poisoning, their first attempt at human sacrifice - his own mother.

Steve Morantes'shrill scream could be heard two floors away in both directions.

The report went on, oblivious to his pain. The couple was apparently in hiding, having been unsuccessful at murdering the devastated mother. She appeared on camera, crying to the world that there was something desperately wrong with her son, and that she forgave him, and she just wants him to come home and get the help he needs, whatever that may be. Her nose was red, her eyes were puffy and tears rolled down her cheeks. She was oh-so-sincere.

Steve was still screaming inside when the needle pierced his arm, silencing him.

When he came to, he was in a room painted a soft, pale, mossy green. He looked around groggily, tried to sit up. Still bound. He couldn't be bothered with getting mad. There was something else that was supposed to be bothering him, but he'd forgotten what it was.

A tall man with a young face and silver hair was at the foot of the bed, whispering tersely with his doctor. Steve wondered mildly why he was in a different room, and if the doctor was going to keep her word. He started to signal her, but she stalked out of the room, obviously unhappy about something. The silver haired man watched her go, then shook his head, complaining about amateurs.

Steve frowned. That wasn't good. Why was she mad? Why did she leave? Why was this guy messing around with his chart? He cleared his throat, and the man jumped about a foot. Steve asked where his doctor was going, because he had some questions for her. The man smiled a syrupy sweet smile and informed Mr. Morantes that he was taking over the function of primary care, that she was only trained in treating injuries and physical symptoms, that he was trained to treat diseases that affected the most important part of all, the mind, and that all inquires were to be directed to him.

Steve looked toward the door, hoping like hell this was just a joke or a test or a misunderstanding or anything other than what it sounded like. The silver haired doctor moved into his field of vision, blocking Steve's path to the doorway. Confirming his fears.

He was in the loony bin.

He shoved down the urge to scream. He clenched his fists and bit his bottom lip, trying to silence the panic attack. The doctor just stood there, watching and smiling like some kind of freakazoid. When Steve felt steady enough to open his mouth without screaming bloody murder, he asked why he had been taken from the other doctor.

The smiley faced man furrowed his brow, though the smile never left his lips. He looked up at the ceiling, then licked his lips and began an obviously rehearsed speech. He talked about the reasons people entered the medical field, the traditional view of doctors and patients, the need for advanced and specialized care, the role of the general practitioner vs. the specialist, how he and the other doctor filled their roles, why Steve needed her, the general practitioner, but now needs him, the specialist. He smiled the whole time, sounding like some kind of crazed cult leader.

Steve listened despondently. When the speech was over, he asked what exactly had alerted the doctor to his presence in the hospital. The doctor tilted and cocked his head a little, looking over his nose. Didn't Steve remember the morning tantrum?

That was what should have been bothering him! That... that... lie!! He was not a murderer! He would never ever hurt his sweet mama! He wasn't 'starving to death' either!! Starvation diet indeed! Why was everybody saying that about him? He most certainly wasn't gay! He wasn't interested in anybody! Not like that! He very definitely wasn't a devil worshipper! His mama was a Catholic for crissakes! How could he be a devil worshiper!? What kind of madness was that? And what the fuck is 'anorexic'? Did they just make that up on the spot? Where the hell did these perverts come from!??

Steve managed to keep his mouth shut, to keep the flood of obscenities at bay. Instead, he asked the patronizing doctor when he could go home. The doctor leaned against the bedrail and intoned that that was all up to Steve.

Steve tugged at his restraints and fought tears. He begged the doctor to untie him, to at least let him curl up on his side if he wanted. He promised he'd be good, he'd do whatever the doctor asked him to, but he didn't want to be chained like a dog.

The doctor raised his eyebrows and told Mr. Morantes that he was not chained like a dog and that the restraints were for his own good. They would come off as soon as Steve was ready, not as soon as Steve wanted. There was a difference, but Steve would learn that in group therapy.

Steve was sobbing pathetically as the doctor finished his statement. But he wasn't going to do anything wrong! He was going to be the perfect patient, he was going to follow all the instructions given, he promised! He just wanted to be able to scratch an itch!

The doctor finally wiped the smile off his face, folded his arms and asked in a most severe tone if Steve would consider eating a half a cup of chicken broth every single day.

Steve froze. That was a trap and he knew it. If he said yes, the doctor would say he was lying and leave. If he said no, the doctor would say I told you so and leave. He wasn't going to get out of the restraints. He was going to fucking rot in that godforsaken bed. The wailing sobs became silent weeping. He turned away and said he'd do anything, up to and including eating a side of beef.

As he expected, the doctor left the room without a word. To his surprise, however, the doctor reappeared almost instantly. He still wore that serious expression. He stood over Steve and told him he would be removed from his restraints as soon as a nurse could be located. He expected Steve to keep his promise, and that there would be other tasks he would have to perform before he could be considered for the outpatient program. He said Steve would have to earn his discharge. Then he left.

Steve started to wail again. He wasn't ever getting out.

Chapter 12
Chapter 14

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