The halls were emptying at a fast rate. Nothing unusual for a Friday. Everyone wanted the weekend. As the last kids were vacating, he spotted two figures lingering near the lockers. A sullen look was on Kato’s face and he wasn’t looking at the young woman who was giving him hell. He only shook his head in response, uttering words too soft to be heard. Noah watched them as he approached.
“I don’t get you, Kato!” Tricia was annoyed.
Noah was coming up behind her. And since Kato was looking down, neither noticed as he approached.
Tricia kept the lecture up, “you can’t just drop out when this is your future. You know who’s going to be at that competition.”
Kato didn’t reply.
“GAH!” she threw up her hands in defeat. “You’re impossible to understand!”
Tricia pivoted tightly to storm away. In doing so, she bumped right into Noah.
“Sorry, Noah,” she immediately apologized.
“No worries, Triss,” he held her steady.
She was already cutting him off, “Noah! Maybe you can talk some sense into Kato. Though he won’t tell me why, he’s not going to the competition that could determine his very future. Is there anything that would keep you from the game this weekend if a scout was there?”
“Scouts will be there,” he grinned. “But yah, there could be something that would keep me from it. No idea what, but something probably could.”
Her eye was twitching as her hands curled around the air they held. An incomprehensible utterance that may have been a string of swearwords left her lips. Furious, she completed her earlier action of storming off.
He looked to the side to see Kato covertly staring at him. “You get it looked at yet?”
Fear lit Kato’s eyes and brought his right hand closer to his stomach. He couldn’t respond more than that.
With an easy grin, he nodded his head back inside the school, “come on.”
He led the way. It was no small miracle that, after a few steps, Kato moved to follow. The nurse’s station was just up the hall. Comfortable in his environment, Noah opened the door. He pulled the first aid kit off the shelf just as Kato came tentatively inside.
“Should we be here?” he questioned in that soft, smooth voice of his.
“So, he does talk,” Noah grinned. That warm smile reached Kato to reassure, “don’t worry. Me and the boys are here practically daily. I’ve got permission to be here anytime I need it. Sit down.”
He pulled out a chair for Kato to sit upon. Elegant were the movements. Less fluid, he grabbed a different chair and sat down. He held out his hand to Kato. Hesitation had Kato holding his arm back.
“How did you know?” Kato wasn’t looking him in the eyes.
“Told ya,” he lightly chuckled, “I’m here almost daily. I know the signs of injury.”
Kato nodded. His shoulders shrugged out of the jacket he wore. As it came to rest on his lap, he looked up to finally make eye contact. He held out his arm as he pulled up the long-sleeved shirt to expose the wrist. A bandage was wrapped a little too tightly. Purple bruising showed along three of the fingers starting at the pinky. For a musician, this couldn’t be good news.
Noah began unravelling the bandaging. “I see what you were going for, but the bandage is too tight.”
“I didn’t want my wrist moving,” Kato had the courage to reply.
He nodded, “can see why. Can you tell me what happened?”
Kato looked away.
So, he altered his approach, “was it a jerking motion? Or was it more like you fell on it?”
Head still turned away, Kato’s gaze alone moved to take Noah in. Nearly predatory. Definitely wary.
“Just getting a feel for what happened. If you wanna get this hand back to playing music, it’ll be good to know what injuries you have. That way you can tailor the treatment.”
“Isn’t a bruise just a bruise?” Kato was watching him as Noah carefully moved the hand about, lightly touching various spots. He winced when movement pushed the injury too far.
“Sorry,” he winced alongside Kato. “A bruise is, but a dislocation is different from a fracture. It really would be a good idea to get some X-rays.”
Silence met the suggestion.
“Well,” he held the wrist within his warm hands, “for now we can wrap this up right.”
He grabbed the ointment. It was silent as Noah got to work. The sharp medicinal scent filled the space between them.
“You coming to the party tonight?” Noah inquired without looking up.
“The party the jocks put on?” Kato’s tone held patient judgement.
Noah couldn’t help but laugh, “Triss will be there.”
“She’s a cheerleader,” Kato reminded him.
“And a slosh. She may need a friend to watch out for her again,” his eyes twinkled as he looked into Kato’s dark gaze. “And I’m not sure what time I’ll get there.”
“A friend…?” Kato’s eyes narrowed, “what did she say to you?”
Noah looked back to the recent past as he recalled a conversation in his car;
“If you were me, I’s to’ally be all over you,” Triss slurred her words and sentences.
Noah laughed from the driver’s seat, “if you were me, and if you weren’t in a relationship with someone.”
“Who said ‘at?” she was looking crossly at him, her chin in her hand.
“Your boyfriend, Kato. The musician,” he was having fun.
“Pfft,” she spit as her hand waved through the air. “We’re not datin’.”
“What?” he glanced at her. “You broke up?”
She looked surreptitiously about before confessing, “we’s never dated. But it’sch helps him people thinkin’ we are. I’sd do anything fer a frien’.”
Kato’s face was in his good hand. The sigh he let out held a note of pain, “she doesn’t remember that.”
“Not surprising,” he chuckled. “She was pretty drunk. She probably doesn’t remember swearing to never again drink that much either.”
Noah took a new bandage to wrap up Kato’s wrist and hand.
Kato peeked through his long fingers, “any chance that didn’t get around?”
“Every chance,” he smiled. “Triss is a childhood friend. Her secrets are my secrets.”
“Really?” Kato sat upright.
“Which I guess makes your secrets mine too,” soft was the look Noah gave.
A light blush touched Kato’s cheeks.
He finished wrapping up Kato’s hand. “If you can, go see a doctor. If you can’t, find me on Monday. I can show you some exercises to get your wrist back to rights. You may still make the music competition.”
“You think so?”
“It would be a shame not to try,” he was still leaning forward in his chair.
Kato lightly held his wrist. Noah watched it, taking in the depth of the bruising and the severity of the swelling. Though he kept his smile light, worry rested in his eyes.