Kravitz decides, a week into the semester, that the worst thing about working at a student clinic is the students.
“I think that’s a little judgey,” Lucas said, after Kravitz made the grave mistake of saying so in front of him. “I mean, it’s not their fault when they get hurt, a lot of the time. They need emergency help, what’s wrong with that?”
“You don’t have to deal with the students,” Kravitz said, which was and is a flagrant lie. Lucas arguably deals with the students more than he does, but he doesn’t have to talk to them much. Not for extended periods of time. He doesn’t have to hear all of the horrible, careless ways that they injure themselves.
“You don’t have to,” Lucas shot back. “You could quit.”
“A revolutionary idea,” Kravitz said flatly. “Completely brilliant. Definitely something I can afford to do.”
Lucas flushed red and went back to whatever his desk work was, leaving Kravitz with a vague sense of guilt and a stronger sense of conviction. Students - all ages, all types of students, all of them - are idiots. Complete, total idiots. It’s impossible to be prepared for them.
Case in point: Kravitz walks into one of the examination rooms on a Wednesday afternoon with a chart for one patient. He finds three people all piled onto the examination table.
It takes all of his energy to keep himself from pinching the bridge of his nose. Instead, he says, “Can the two of you who aren’t Merle Highchurch please take a seat in the chairs provided?”
The big guy, who’s practically falling off one end of the table, narrows his eyes. “Why?”
“So that I can examine him in peace.”
“We’re not in your way,” another guy on the table pipes up. He crosses his legs. “Have at it, my man.”
“You’re actually directly in my way,” Kravitz says patiently.
“No, we’re not, he’s right here.” Crossed-legs nudges the guy in the middle, the smallest of the three of them. “Merle, say hi to the nice doctor.”
“Nurse,” Kravitz feels compelled to say as he looks the middle guy up and down. His eyes are glazed, he’s not wearing shoes, and he looks totally unconcerned by the fact that the second toe on his right foot is twice the size of the second toe on his left foot.
“Listen,” the big guy says. Kravitz glances at him; he notices a pair of shoes resting on the guy’s lap, shoes that look about the same size as Merle’s feet. “We’re really not in for a long visit, we’re trying to just be in and out. Can you just tell us how badly he’s gonna be fucked up?”
Kravitz sighs. “Just looking at it, I’d say the toe is broken. I’d have to do an X-ray to be sure-”
“Nope,” Merle says, sounding perfectly content.
“That’s all we needed to know, thanks.” Crossed-legs hooks one of his arms through Merle’s. “We paid already, we should be good to go.”
Kravitz really, really hates students. He could also probably use a new job. “Can I at least ask why no X-rays?”
“Oh, I can fix my toe without an X-ray,” Merle says. Kravitz can’t tell if the confidence is coming from the alcohol - because he’s clearly, definitely at least tipsy - or if he really believes it. “But thanks for your input. Magnus, gimme my shoes.”
Magnus glances at Kravitz. “He can wear shoes, right?”
“They might hurt,” Kravitz says, despite the part of his brain telling him to just lie and say that they can’t leave until takes a closer look at the foot. “It looks pretty swollen, and his toe probably hurts enough as it is.”
“I don’t feel a thing,” Merle says cheerfully. “C’mon, Magnus. Shoe me.”
“There are things I can do to help without X-raying.”
“Don’t worry about him, honey, he’s survived worse than this.” Crossed-legs jostles Merle lightly.
Merle beams. “Taako’s talking about how I’ve grievously injured myself more than once.”
Kravitz takes a deep breath. He sets the chart down on the counter. “Is there a reason you guys are dead set on making my job as difficult as possible, or is it the same nonsense reason that Merle is drunk on a Wednesday afternoon?”
“It’s not nonsense,” Merle says indignantly.
“He aced an exam and got excited, so he kicked a wall,” Magnus says, as though it’s perfectly normal behavior.
“And why is he drunk?”
“The exam was in a math class.”
“Fuckin’ math,” Merle mutters. His head rolls around to drop onto Taako’s shoulder. “Don’t need it!”
Taako pat’s Merle’s knee lightly. “We know.”
Kravtiz is out of his depth, fighting an uphill battle and losing. He still says, “At least let me make sure it’s not a severe break.”
“He’d be fine with a severe break,” Taako says dismissively. “It’s only a toe, he’ll be fine.”
“Breaking a toe can make it difficult to walk-”
“We can carry him.”
“Will you just let me do my fucking job?” Kravitz snaps before he can think better of it.
Taako doesn’t look surprised at all. Instead, he smiles - not just any smile, but a bright, wide smile. It seems genuine, too, which puts Kravitz on edge, right up until Taako says, “You know, I think he’s right.”
“Hah, good one,” Merle says, not moving.
“No, I’m serious, man, I think you should let him take a look at it.”
Merle sits up and stares at Taako. Taako stares back. Merle turns to look at Kravitz and then back to Taako. “Seriously?”
“I agree, it’s two against one,” Magnus says quickly. “Look at his toe, c’mon, make it quick.”
“I’m being betrayed,” Merle says incredulously, but he kicks out his foot with the broken toe. “Go ahead, do your worst.”
“I get the feeling you don’t visit doctors often,” Kravitz mutters, and pulls a pair of disposable rubber gloves out of the box at the door. “Are you two going to move-”
“Don’t push it,” Taako says lightly.
Kravitz sighs, but he approaches the table anyways. “I’m just going to try and find where the break is. This might hurt.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Merle sighs as Kravitz crouches and takes his foot in his hands. “Listen, I don’t even know why they made me come here, I’ve walked a lot farther on worse - ow , hey-”
“There’s the break,” Kravitz says, as impassively as possible. “In case you weren’t sure.”
Taako snickers. Kravitz glances up at him, but Taako only shrugs down, smug grin firmly in place.
“Is there anything you can do about it?” Magnus asks. Kravitz silently thanks god that at least one of these three knows the first damn thing about how to react to injuries. “Or is Merle just, y’know, boned?”
“I can tape the broken toe to the one next to it, but it doesn’t seem like a severe break.”
“No tape,” Merle says with renewed conviction. “Don’t need any of that shit, no thank you.”
“He’ll be fine without the tape, right?” Magnus says.
Kravitz sighs and stands upright. “Technically, yes, but-”
“We’re out!” Magnus hops off the table. “We’ve got duct tape at our place, it’s cool.”
“Oh, god, don’t do that,” Kravitz says. “Really, do not use duct tape-”
“We’re not gonna use duct tape,” Taako says dismissively. Kravitz takes a step back, and Taako slides to the floor and wraps an arm around Merle’s shoulder. “We don’t have duct tape anymore.”
Magnus pauses in helping Merle to the floor. “We don’t?”
“Killian took it,” Merle answers. He winces as he lands on his feet. “I’ll be fine without the tape.”
“At least ice and elevate it,” Kravitz says, because he has to try.
Taako snaps his fingers. “Ice! We have that, right?”
“Yeah, we have ice, we can do that.” Magnus looks at Kravitz. “Thanks, doc.”
“Nurse,” Kravitz says again, but the three of them are already hobbling out. “If it’s not better in four weeks-”
“Then it’ll be better in eight,” Merle says, and continues on his way out.
Taako unhooks his arm so Merle and Magnus can get through the door. He looks back at Kravitz and smiles, that same bright smile from earlier. “See you around,” he says. Kravitz doesn’t have time to respond before Taako wiggles his fingers in a wave, winks, and closes the door behind him as he leaves.
“What the fuck,” Kravitz says. The door doesn’t answer, and he sighs. Fucking students.
“But you’re a student,” Roswell says, when Kravitz tries to talk to them.
“Technically, not right now,” Kravitz reminds them. “I’m between schools.”
Roswell waves him off. “You’re still a student. And besides, what did students ever do to you?”
“They have no regard for their wellbeing at all.”
“That’s a normal part of being young.”
“They come in and just-” Kravitz shakes his head, leaning against their desk with more of his weight. “I had someone in here just last week with a broken toe who was going to have his friends duct tape the broken toe as a splint.”
Roswell laughs at that. “You have to admit, there’s a level of creativity there.”
“I had medical tape in the examination room.”
“To each their own?”
“That’s not how it works, Roz.”
“Listen, all I’m saying is students are used to needing home solutions for things.” Roswell shrugs. “Duct tape at home is cheaper than medical tape at a clinic.”
“That’s true,” Kravitz concedes. He had his share of days where all he ate was ramen, because it was all he could afford, but he’s never felt like medical care is the kind of thing you can skip over. “But still. He was going to duct tape his toes together.”
“Wow, was someone else gonna do that, or are you really that upset about it?”
Kravitz’s head snaps up. He hadn’t even heard the door open, but Taako’s in front of the desk, a faint smirk on his face. Merle is next to him, almost doubled over, clutching his stomach.
“Most people don’t want to duct tape their appendages,” Kravitz answers, and then looks at Merle more closely. “What did he do to himself now?”
“I have no idea.” Taako waves a hand in the air. “One minute we’re studying together, the next he’s all ‘I feel sick, I think I’m dying, take me to the clinic.’ Totally ruined the study vibes.”
“He said he was dying and you took him to the campus clinic,” Kravitz says skeptically.
“I’m amazed you got him here at all,” Roswell remarks. Kravitz shoots them a look, and they add quickly, “You should’ve taken him to the emergency room, but good job getting him here.”
Kravitz sighs. “Roswell, get the paperwork ready, I can take him to the back right now.”
Roswell nods and reaches for the filing cabinet. “Sir, what’s your last name?”
“It’s Highchurch.” Taako drums his fingers on Roswell’s desk. “Is he actually dying?”
“Probably not, but I-”
“Oh, no, I’m dying,” Merle croaks, and Kravitz immediately looks at him. Merle still has his head down, but his voice doesn’t sound like the voice of a dying man. Or a sick man. “Definitely - it’s in my stomach, it’s not good, it feels really bad-”
“Uh-huh,” Kravitz says, with all the skepticism he can muster. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Roswell stop moving and look at him. “Can you describe your symptoms in more detail?”
Merle freezes. “Stomach ache?” he tries.
“...my shoulders hurt?”
Kravitz looks at Taako. “He’s faking.”
Taako blinks. “You’re shitting me.”
“No, he’s definitely faking it.”
“I’m most certainly not!” Merle bursts out. It would probably be intimidating, except he draws himself up to his full height to glare at Kravitz. “Is this how you normally treat patients, Mr. Hospitable? Huh?”
“It’s how I treat patients who come in with a stomach ache that magically vanishes,” Kravitz says blandly. “Glad to see you’re doing better, though.”
Merle stares at him, and Kravitz can tell the exact moment he realizes that he’s ruined his own ruse. “I mean-” he starts, and doubles back over again. “Oh, god, my indignation took away the pain, but there’s definitely pain, there’s-”
“Hey, Merle?” Taako says.
“Is there a reason you dragged me out here?”
“Well…” Merle sighs and straightens up. He locks eyes with Taako and then, deliberately, looks at Kravitz.
Taako’s cheeks turn pink immediately. “Are you fucking kidding -”
“You weren’t going to do it,” Merle argues. “I’m helping you out!”
“Oh, helping, is that what they call-”
“Uh, folks?” Roswell says. Taako and Merle take no notice, and they clear their throat. “Fellas?”
“Gentlemen,” Kravitz says - sighs, really - and they both stop and look at him. He gestures at Roswell.
“Uh, yeah, if you don’t actually need medical assistance, I’m going to have to ask that you leave.” Roswell smiles, incredibly polite. “Now, please.”
“But-” Merle looks between Kravitz and Roswell. “But there’s nobody else here!”
“You shouldn’t be here either,” Kravitz points out.”
“Well, what if it’s a social call?” Taako looks at Kravitz and honest-to-god bats his eyelashes. “What if I just came to talk to my pal, the nurse?”
“What’s my name?”
“It’s-” Taako frowns. “Hold on, I totally know this, it’s-”
“You have three seconds.”
Taako’s eyes widen in panic before he looks Roswell. He clearly glances down at the nameplate on their desk before he looks at them beseechingly. “Roswell, you gotta be a pal, help me out here-”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Roswell says, the very picture of wide-eyed innocence. “But if you don’t know our top nurse’s name, I don’t think you can make social calls.”
“This is bullshit!”
“One second,” Kravitz says. He can’t help the smile threatening to spread.
Taako’s eyes narrow as soon as he sees it. “I’m gonna find out your name,” he says, somewhere between a threat and a promise. “Merle, c’mon, we’re going home and we’re going to talk about when it’s okay to pretend that you have a life-threatening illness.”
“Never,” Roswell supplies. “It’s never okay.”
Taako waves them off. “Extenuating circumstances, chickadee, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Let’s go.”
“I can’t believe you turned away a patient,” Merle says, giving Kravitz an accusatory glare. But he follows Taako out, letting the glass door slam behind him. Kravitz can see the moment that Taako starts talking again because his hands come up, long fingers waving around as he explains… something. Something that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“I see why they left an impression,” Roswell murmurs.
Kravitz glances at them. “They’re hard to forget.”
Roswell hums in agreement. “The taller one was sort of cute.”
Kravitz lifts an eyebrow. “Really.”
“Roz. Really. ”
“Trying to make a social call, that’s cute.” Roswell shrugs, grinning lopsidedly up at Kravitz. “He’s gonna come back and visit you.”
“No, he won’t,” Kravitz sighs, and goes to clean the examination rooms for the eighth time that day.
When Taako comes back, it’s not a social call. Or, if it is, it’s the worst social call Kravitz has ever received, starting with the fact that it happens at one o’clock on Sunday morning. The clinic is closed, mostly, but he and Lucas are there late making sure everything is ready for the week ahead. Lucas is doing things to the filing system in the front - Kravitz doesn’t know what, he’s never been able to understand the frankly ridiculous system that Lucas and Roswell keep - and Kravitz is in the back, so he nearly doesn’t hear anything. He does, however, hear, Lucas say, “No, I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
Kravitz pauses. They are closed, have been for almost an hour, but this sounds like Lucas is turning someone away.
“We’re closed,” Lucas repeats, and Kravitz opens the door that leads to the front of the clinic. Lucas is standing directly in front of the locked door, looking through at Taako and a woman that Kravitz doesn’t recognize. There’s blood down the front of Taako’s shirt, which would be more alarming if there weren’t a trail leading down from his nose. The woman looks like she’s in worse shape; she’s leaning on Taako, face tucked into his shoulder. Taako’s arm is wrapped tightly around her waist.
“Come on, we’re not going to rob you or anything,” Taako snaps. It’s muffled through the glass door, but Kravitz still catches the nervous edge to his voice. “What are we gonna do, bleed on your chairs?”
“They wouldn’t be the first,” Kravitz murmurs. Lucas turns to look at him, and Kravitz notices Taako’s eyes flick to him and widen. “Lucas.”
“No,” Lucas says. “No, no way, we were about to leave-”
“You can still go, just unlock the door.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“Lucas, look at them,” Kravitz says. “They don’t need surgery, they need the first aid kit you have behind your desk.”
Lucas turns back to the door and looks them up and down critically. “I’m not filling out paperwork,” he says at last.
“Let them in.”
Lucas sighs, bends down, and unlocks the doors. “I’m still leaving after this,” he warns as he pulls the door open.
“Good, get out,” Kravitz says cooly.
Taako huffs out a laugh as he shuffles in. “That’s cold, my man.”
The woman leaning on Taako’s shoulders follows him, still keeping her head down, hair hiding her face. Taako doesn’t look too concerned as he helps her settle into a chair. He sits next to her and looks up at Kravitz expectantly.
Kravitz looks at Lucas. “Get out,” he says again.
Lucas rolls his eyes, but he goes to the front desk and grabs his backpack. “If you get murdered in your own clinic by strangers-”
“Then I’m sure you’ll feel wonderful when you say ‘I told you so,’” Kravitz says.
“Fuck you, Kravitz,” Lucas says, somewhere between amiable and bitter, and he leaves. The door swings shut behind him.
Kravitz goes to the front desk. “What are you doing on a Saturday night that means coming to the student clinic after hours?”
“Getting the shit kicked out of us,” the woman mutters, voice strained.
Kravitz, about to pick up the first aid kit, pauses. “And why was that?”
“People owed us money.” When Kravitz looks back at her, she’s grinning. There’s blood in her teeth. “They weren’t happy about that.”
“I’m not too happy about it either,” Taako mutters. He crosses his legs, hem of his skirt swishing around his thighs. “Aren’t we supposed to be beating them up when they owe us money?”
“Whatever happened to talking through your problems?” Kravitz asks. He sets the first aid kit on the floor and pops it open. “And don’t you have first aid materials where you live?”
“This was closer,” Taako says airily. “Also, do you have any Kleenex? I think my nose is about to start bleeding again.”
“On the desk counter,” Kravitz says distractedly. “What injuries am I looking at here?”
“You shouldn’t look at any,” the woman says stubbornly. “I’ve had black eyes before-”
“Sloane,” Taako says.
“I just wanted to go home,” Sloane snaps. “I don’t need to stop in a clinic-”
“You’re bleeding,” Kravitz says impassively. “Probably bit the inside of your cheek in a fight, which isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened, but you probably want to stay away from hot food for a while. I can give you gauze for that, if you need it.”
Sloane glares at him. “I don’t need any help, you should look at Taako first.”
Kravitz glances at Taako. “Are all of your friends violently opposed to medical help, or is it just the ones who injure themselves?”
“No, we’re all equally dumb,” Taako says, almost cheerfully.
“I’m fine,” Sloane says exasperatedly, and undermines herself immediately by making a low noise in the back of her throat. “Okay, I swallowed blood, that’s fine-”
Kravitz rolls his eyes and hands her gauze. “Press this against the cut until the bleeding stops, put an ice pack on your cheek when you get home, and take ibuprofen if you need it.”
Sloane takes the gauze and averts her eyes. “Thank you,” she says quietly. “I’m not trying to be difficult, I just don’t know why we came here.”
“Oh, it was part of my plan,” Taako says. When Kravitz looks up there’s a slow trickle of blood working its way down his face, across his lips, but Taako doesn’t seem bothered. “I didn’t want to walk the whole way home, so I told Hurley we’re here.”
Sloane slumps back in her seat. “She’s gonna kick my ass,” she groans.
Taako grins. “Yeah.”
“Put the gauze in your mouth,” Kravitz says tiredly. “Is Hurley also going to need and refuse treatment?”
“Nah, she wasn’t at the party, she’ll be fine.” Taako waves him off. “Job’s done, you can relax now.”
“You’re bleeding too.” And there’s a bruise already forming high on one of Taako’s cheeks, yellow and ugly, but not too bad. “And I’m afraid your shirt might be ruined.”
Taako shrugs, even as more blood drips onto his shirt. “I didn’t like it that much.”
“Liar,” Sloan mutters, muffled by the gauze in her mouth.
“Let me look at your nose,” Kravitz says. Taako tips his head back obligingly, and Kravitz sighs. “Don’t do that, it makes the blood drip down the back of your throat.”
Taako’s eyes widen. “It does not.”
“It absolutely does.”
“What the fuck. ”
“Put your head down,” Sloan says.
Taako lowers his head and looks at Kravitz, oddly intent. Kravitz almost wants to fidget, so instead he stands. “I’ll get the Kleenex,” he says, and tries not to think about how he can feel Taako watching him, even as he takes the handful of steps to the desk and back.
Taako takes the box of tissues as Kravitz sits next to him. “I heard your name, you know,” he says, wiping the blood away from his nose.
“Did you,” Kravitz says.
“Yeah, that punk kid at the door said it before he left.” Taako smiles, a little triumphantly. “I can visit you now, Kravitz.”
“I suppose you can,” Kravitz says, neutrally. “Pinch the bridge of your nose to stop the bleeding.”
Taako lifts a hand and pinches his nose. “I bet this is a super attractive look, huh?”
“I’ve seen worse,” Kravitz answers. “And bloodier.”
Taako grimaces. “Ew, okay, we need to talk about flirting, because that was cute until you reminded me about the blood. ”
“Flirting,” Kravitz repeats blankly.
“Yeah, isn’t that what you were doing?”
Kravitz opens his mouth to say no, it wasn’t, but the words don’t come. He wasn’t flirting on purpose, but maybe he’s out of practice. It’s not often that people flirt with him, after all; “sexy nurse” is a nice idea, but it’s not as nice when the nurse is medically treating you, and he doesn’t normally want to talk to patients more than he has to. But he would talk to Taako, if he had the chance. He’d talk to Taako for a long time.
He’s still trying to find the words to say when he hears the sound of tires screeching in the parking lot. Sloane sighs. “That’d be Hurley,” she says, sounding fond. “We should probably get going, T.”
“Yeah,” Taako says. He’s still looking at Kravitz. He smiles, slightly wan, and Kravitz realizes that he probably wants an answer. “Guess we should go.”
“You can come visit,” Kravitz says, before he can stop himself. “If you want. I could always use some company.”
Taako’s eyes light up. “Yeah?”
“Only if I’m not busy.”
“You’re never gonna be able to get rid of him now,” Sloane mutters. She slowly pushes herself up to her feet, wincing in the process.
Kravitz looks at her. “Are you all right?”
“Took a hit to the ribs, it’s fine.”
She grins. “Yeah, I’ve broken ribs before, this isn’t that bad. Taako?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Taako grumbles. He climbs to his feet, bracing himself with a hand on Kravitz’s shoulder. “I’ll see you around, babe.”
“When nobody’s injured, hopefully,” Kravitz murmurs.
Taako snorts, grins at Kravitz, squeezes his shoulder. “Don’t hope too hard,” he says, and then he’s gone, phantom warmth still lingering on Kravitz’s shoulder.
He turns to watch them go. “Drive safe,” he says, and he’s rewarded with Taako waving at him, the same flick of the fingers from the first time he was in the clinic. He watches as a shorter woman gets out of the car, clearly talking to Sloane, and then he gets to his feet with a sigh. He has a first aid kit to put away, and a clinic to close.
His shoulder still feels warm when he gets back to his apartment that night.
“Why did Lucas tell me to ask you what happened on Saturday?” Roswell says, apropos of nothing.
It’s Thursday. Taako hasn’t visited yet. Kravitz is… more bothered by this than he should be, perhaps.
“People came in after hours,” he says vaguely.
“You let people in?” Roswell stares at him. “ You let people in after hours?”
“It was first aid.”
“You let people in after hours for first aid? ”
Kravitz sighs. “Is there a reason you’re asking about this?”
“Not really,” Roswell says, their voice so deliberate that Kravitz knows, beyond a doubt, that there’s a reason. “By the way, someone was in asking for you yesterday. Said it was a social call.”
Kravitz looks away so he doesn’t have to see Roswell’s smirk. “And what did you tell this visitor?”
“I said that you weren’t working yesterday and he could come back this afternoon.”
“And has he?”
Roswell hums. “No, but the day’s not over yet. Are you hoping he will?”
“You haven’t said who it is yet.”
Kravitz looks back at Roswell. They look supremely, completely unimpressed. Kravitz sighs. “Yes, I’m hoping he will.”
“If you miss him again, I can ask for his phone number,” Roswell offers. “Or give him yours.”
“I’d rather just talk to him.”
“You can use phones for talking, you know.”
Kravitz claps a hand on Roswell’s shoulder. “I’m older than you.”
“Good, then you already know how phones work.” Roswell shrugs him off lightly. “Go back to work, we’re going to have the Thursday rush soon.”
The Thursday rush is an inexplicable phenomenon where, without fail, every Thursday afternoon over a dozen people will show up at once with minor injuries. Kravitz assumes it’s another students-make-bad-choices thing, although it could also be that Thursdays are bad luck on campus. He’s not one to judge.
Kravitz sighs. “I suppose I should get the rooms ready.”
“I’ll give him your number,” Roswell promises. “I’ll tell him to call, not text.”
“Don’t do that,” Kravitz mutters. “Just tell him he can come back tomorrow.”
When Kravitz gets to the clinic the next morning, Taako is already leaning against the side of the building, looking intentionally, markedly casual. He’s checking his phone once every thirty seconds, looking around, tugging at the single lock of hair that isn’t up in a messy bun, and then going back to his phone. He pockets his phone as soon as he notices Kravitz, and then waves, that same finger-wiggle wave as before. Kravitz has to try hard to fight down a smile, and he’s pretty sure he fails. This man is unbelievable, and god help him, Kravitz likes him.
“Are you injured or is this a social call?” Kravitz asks as he gets closer.
Taako shrugs. “You weren’t here the last couple of times I tried to visit, so, you know, I’m trying new things.”
“Like coming at the beginning of my shift?”
“Yeah, nobody else is here.” Taako grins, looking pleased.
Kravitz can’t help but smile, only slightly. “You do realize I have to work, so I can’t really talk.”
Taako’s face falls. “I forgot about that,” he admits. “This was the first chance I had to come, so I took it. Might’ve been a little overexcited.”
It’s sweet, Kravitz almost says, but he stops himself. “Roswell said they told you I was working yesterday.”
Taako waves him off. “Thursday is when Avi dares freshmen at the skate park downtown to do skateboard Jackass, and I know all of them end up here. I wasn’t about to get in the middle of that.”
“ That’s what the Thursday rush is?”
“Don’t tell anyone,” Taako says, and winks conspiratorially.
Kravitz shakes his head. “Goddamn students,” he says, although he’s not sure if he’s horrified and amazed.
Taako raises his eyebrows. “Uh, aren’t you a student too? I smell hypocrisy, and it’s not a pretty smell.”
“I graduated,” Kravitz explains. “Pre-med. And I haven’t started at medical school yet, so I can complain about students as much as I want.”
“Lucky you.” Taako smirks. “Some of us still have to go to class.”
Kravitz tilts his head. “You’re a senior,” he guesses.
“What are you in school for?”
Taako shakes his head, a couple of locks of hair coming loose in the process. “Secret.”
“Secret?” Kravitz repeats. “How do I learn the secret?”
Taako taps his chin consideringly. “What time does your shift end today?”
“Pick me up for coffee at five-thirty and we can talk.”
“Coffee at five-thirty,” Kravitz echoes. He doesn’t have anything to do today at five-thirty. “Where will I be picking you up?”
“I’ll text you. Here-” Taako reaches up to his hair and plucks a pen out of his bun. His hair tumbles out of place and around his shoulders, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He pulls the pen cap off with his teeth, grabs Kravitz hand, and writes something on it.
“You could’ve just put my number in your phone,” Kravitz says, amused despite himself.
Taako makes a noncommittal noise as he takes the pen cap out of his mouth. “This is harder to forget about,” he explains. He’s doing something with the pen and his hair again, and Kravitz is almost transfixed by it. “You’d better text me.”
“I will,” Kravitz says. He knows he will, too; he’ll have to wash the ink off his hand before patients start coming in, so he’ll probably be texting sooner rather than later.
“Good.” Taako smiles, even more brilliant than usual. “Coffee at five-thirty.”
“Five-thirty,” Kravitz says, like a promise. Taako brushes his shoulder against Kravitz’s as he leaves, and Kravitz can’t help but smile after him.
Kravitz isn’t sure when he last had the chance to go on a date, much less a date with someone he likes this much. He’s pretty sure it’ll be good for him.
“I’m sorry, sir, the clinic is for students only,” Roswell says, courteous as ever. Their voice is muffled by the door, but Kravitz opens it in time to hear them add, “If you need, I can provide directions to the nearest off-campus clinic-”
“But he is a student,” says the man at the front desk. “I swear to god, he’s an undergrad-”
“It’s fine, sir,” another voice says, weak and scratchy. When Kravitz cranes his neck around the first man’s broad shoulders, he catches sight of a kid - a teenager, at the oldest - huddled in one of the waiting chairs. Just looking at him, Kravitz sees the flu personified.
“No, it’s not fine,” the man says heatedly. He looks familiar, the more Kravitz looks at him, although he can’t quite place why. “You’re a student, you should be able to go to the student clinic and make sure you’re not dying.”
“Less than two hundred children die from the flu every year,” Kravitz says. Both the man and Roswell look at him. “And that’s definitely the flu. Does he have a university ID?”
The man turns around. “That’s a good question.”
The kid nods and goes fishing in his pocket, coughing pitifully. “Here,” he says, and produces a small wallet.
The man - Magnus, Kravitz remembers suddenly, it’s Taako’s friend Magnus - goes over and takes the wallet. “You need a better wallet,” he remarks.
“S-sorry,” the kid mumbles, head lowering.
“Don’t apologize, everyone needs a good wallet, it’s just a fact of life.” Magnus flips the wallet open and, after a second, pulls out a student ID. “His name’s Angus McDonald, he’s probably smarter than you and me put together.”
“Sir, you shouldn’t-”
“You were throwing up, and you’re running a 104-degree fever,” Magnus snaps. It’s not anger, Kravitz knows immediately. Magnus is worried. Afraid, even. “This is what the clinic is here for, I’ll pay for it myself if I have to.”
Angus lowers his head and mumbles something that Kravitz doesn’t catch. Magnus grimaces at whatever it is and locks eyes with Kravitz. “Please,” he says quietly.
“I have an examination room ready,” Kravitz says. “If we wanted to cut corners-”
“God forbid,” Roswell intones, like he knew they would.
“-then you can fill out his paperwork as I’m checking him out,” he finishes, looking at Magnus. “It really does look like the flu, it’s getting to be that time of year anyways. He’ll be fine.”
“I know he will,” Magnus says, almost convincingly. “Ango, do you need help walking?”
“No, sir, I’m-” Angus takes a large gulp of air. “Uh, I mean, I should-”
“C’mon, kiddo.” Magnus goes over to him, and Angus clings to his arm as he climbs to his feet. “Kravitz’ll take care of you.”
“He never said his name,” Angus mutters, looking up at Kravitz. His eyes are glassy, but he still focuses on Kravitz. “Did you say your name?”
“I’ve met Magnus before,” Kravitz says, and opens the door to the back of the clinic. “Right this way.”
Angus falls asleep on Magnus’s shoulder about sixty seconds after Kravitz finishes explaining treatments for the flu.
“Is that normal?” Magnus demands. “Should we wake him up?”
“No, he seems like he could use sleep. He’s only-” Kravitz checks the impromptu patient chart in front of him. “Thirteen? Why is he living at school?”
“I’m not sure, but he says he’s fine on his own.” Magnus shakes his head dubiously. “And then he called me and said he was sick, and I might’ve flipped out.”
“You did the right thing bringing him in.” Kravitz pulls his gloves off and goes about cleaning what he can - which is to say, everything that doesn’t have a sleeping thirteen-year-old on it. “Like I said, just make sure he gets rest and lots of fluids, and he’ll be fine before you know it.”
“Thank you,” Magnus says quietly. His eyes track Kravitz as he moves around the room. “Taako talks about you, y’know.”
Kravitz pauses and looks over his shoulder. Magnus is looking at him evenly, still sitting on the examination table, his feet dangling off. “Does he?” he says, as neutrally as possible.
“Don’t patronize me,” Magnus says. “Or bullshit me. Whichever you were trying to do, cut that out. And, you know.” He waves a hand at Kravitz.
“I don’t know, actually,” Kravitz says.
“He’s one of my best friends, you break his heart and I crush your skull with a chair.” Magnus pauses. “Also, he’s gonna be here in, like, five minutes, just so you know.”
Kravitz raises his eyebrows, hates how his heartbeat picks up ever so slightly. “And why’s that?”
“I told him and Merle we were in the clinic and they’re on their way over from class.”
Kravitz nods slowly. Technically, now that Angus has been diagnosed and treated, he and Magnus should leave, but they don’t have too many other patients, and it’ll be a while before they need all of the examination rooms. “You can stay here for a while, if you need to.”
Magnus blinks. “Seriously?”
“Not too long,” Kravitz warns him. “Dr. Queen will kick you out if she sees you in here, so keep the door closed, and you can probably only stay for-” he checks the wall clock. It’s almost five o’clock, and he bites back a sigh. Coffee at 5:30 might not be happening after all. “Another hour, at most. But if you wanted to let him rest for now, you can.”
“Thank you,” Magnus says again, with more feeling this time. “We won’t get you in trouble, promise.”
“Don’t promise anything,” Kravitz mutters. He picks up Angus’s patient chart. “Another hour.”
Magnus looks at the wall clock, and his eyes widen. “Oh, because you’ve got a date in half an hour, right?”
“Taako can stay here as long as he wants to,” Kravitz says neutrally. “I’ll be fine either way.”
“Don’t make him pick,” Magnus says, borderline aghast.
Kravitz sighs. There’s probably another patient by now, something that needs doing, anything other than having this conversation. “I’ll think of something,” he decides.
“You have to,” Magnus says insistently.
Kravitz pauses. There might be a solution here. “How does Taako like his coffee?
At five-thirty, Kravitz pushes open the door to the examination room. Magnus and Angus are still on the table, now with Taako and Merle. Taako, the only one awake, looks up as Kravitz enters. “Sorry I missed coffee,” he says, softly.
Kravitz holds out one of the two cups in his hands. “Iced white chocolate mocha, two extra shots of espresso.” He smiles at the way Taako’s eyes widen. “Magnus told me.”
“Well, shit.” Taako grins and takes the cup with the hand that isn’t loosely slung around Angus’s shoulders. “How about that.”
Kravitz closes the door and pulls the empty chair closer to the table. “I knew you couldn’t come for coffee, so I brought the coffee to you.”
“You’re sweet.” Taako takes a long sip of his coffee. “And, since you asked earlier, I’m a marketing student.”
“I’m a pretty good salesman.”
“I believe it,” Kravitz says. He does, too. Taako could probably try to sell him oceanfront property in the Sahara Desert, and he might buy it. “What made you want to study marketing.”
“Secret,” Taako says, grinning impishly back at him. “You can unlock that answer for the low price of going out to dinner with me.”
“Dinner, not coffee?”
“Well, I mean.” Taako gestures at the room around him. “Not that this isn’t sweet, but it’s not the best first date. We can do better.”
“We can,” Kravitz agrees. “I’m just glad I got your coffee order right.”
Taako laughs at that, loud, startled, bright. Angus shifts in his sleep, but Taako doesn’t seem to notice. He only has eyes for Kravitz. “Yeah,” he says fondly, and Kravitz knows in his gut that whatever this is, whatever they are, it’s going to be fantastic. “You did.”