The Woodjin: The Unhappy Patient, by Lbilover

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"Sean? Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Of course." Sean set down the patient chart he'd been reviewing and focused his full attention on Elijah. His partner looked and sounded serious, and he would never have disturbed Sean unless it was important.

"I have something to tell you," Elijah said, coming into the office with Rocky on his shoulder and Maggie beside him. "But you have to promise not to freak out when I do."

"Elijah, no offense, but a comment like that pretty much guarantees that I will freak out."

"Sorry," Elijah apologized. "Maybe that wasn't the best opening."

"Definitely not. Look, just rip off the Band-Aid, okay? I don't do well with slow build-ups. Except in bed, that is," he added.

But the humor for once fell on fallow ground. Elijah ripped off the Band-Aid: "Fred has a cold."

"What?" Sean exclaimed, leaping to his feet so abruptly that Rocky bolted from the room for the safety of his nesting box. "But he seemed fine this morning."

"That's because he's barely showing any symptoms. But he told me that his nose is stuffed up and his throat is sore."

"Oh shit. He's not going to die, is he?" asked the panicky medical doctor, freaking out. What did he know about turtle colds? "Please tell me he's not going to die."

"Sean, of course he's not going to die. It's just a small cold. A week of antibiotics and he'll be fine."

"Antibiotics." Elijah was speaking his language now and it calmed Sean. "Do we have what we need or should we get a script from Crystal? And how do you give a box turtle antibiotics, anyway?"

"Yes, we have what we need. As for how... by injection, once a day."

"Injection. Right." Sean banished a mental image of popping a pill in Fred's mouth. Of course it couldn't be that easy. "Well, we better do it, asap."

Elijah took a syringe from his pocket. "Ready when you are, Dr. Sean."


Fred regarded Sean dolefully. Now that he looked closely, Sean realized that Fred's tiny red eyes were a little watery. Shit. He ought to have noticed, damn it. He was a medical professional. "I'm sorry, Fred," he apologized. Fred blinked his watery eyes and Sean wanted to cry.

Elijah handed him the syringe, which contained a tiny amount of Baytril. "You have to inject him under the leg. I'll hold him while you do it."

Having Sean give Fred the injection was a courtesy that Elijah didn't have to extend him. As a wildlife rehabilitator, he was more than capable of doing it himself. There was also the fact that, as the Woodjin, he could speak Fred's language and explain what was going on, which was why Sean had once sutured a bobcat without anesthesia, among other improbable medical procedures. This was Fred, though, and that upped the ante considerably. He loved Fred and the thought of causing him even the tiniest bit of pain hurt him more than it would ever hurt Fred.

Elijah bent his tousled head over the box turtle and murmured to him in that peculiar language that to Sean's ears was tantalizingly close to being comprehensible, but had no underlying linguistic structure that he could use for translation. After a minute or so, Elijah looked up and said calmly, "You can go ahead now."

Sean had considerable experience giving injections, and he meant to call on every iota of skill he possessed to ensure that Fred felt as little pain as possible. While he removed the cap on the needle, Elijah hooked a finger under Fred's left front leg, drawing it up to reveal the tender skin behind the heavy orange scales.

Sean drew a deep breath and positioned the needle. "Here goes nothing." A tiny prick, the needle was in, the plunger depressed, the shot given. The entire procedure lasted no more than four seconds. "All done."

But short though it was, it was clearly too long for Fred who, while a cooperative patient, was also clearly a very unhappy one. The instant Elijah released his leg, he withdrew into his shell, the hinged plastron closing emphatically so that he was entirely hidden from view.

Sean felt guilty as hell. "He's pissed, isn't he?"

Elijah laughed. "I don't think you need my Woodjin skills to tell you that, Sean. He's made it pretty obvious."

"But you're going to explain to him that I didn't mean to hurt him, right?"

Elijah exchanged Fred for the empty syringe and needle. "I'm going to dispose of these," he said. "And then I'm going to the barn to feed and water the animals. I think you should explain it to Fred. He may be pissed, but he's still listening." He gave Sean a quick kiss. "I love you, and so does Fred."

Maybe, but Fred sure wasn't showing it at the moment. Sean sat down on the toilet lid and regarded the turtle on his lap. He'd spent hours talking to Fred in the bathroom, philosophizing about life, the universe and everything. Fred never replied in words, but he always seemed to understand and sympathize. Surely he'd understand now.

"Fred, you know I love you, right?" Sean began pleadingly. "I mean, sure, I never thought I'd count a box turtle among my loved ones, but that's only because I had never had a chance to spend time with one before. And sometimes, when you love someone, you have to do things that might hurt them, even if you don't want to. To be honest, and I try always to be honest with you, Fred, the thought of you being sick scares the crap out of me. So if I have to give you a few shots to make you better, I'll do it. But believe me, I hate the necessity worse than you do." He paused. Fred's plastron had lowered a tiny bit, so that he caught a glimpse of Fred's hooked nose and further back his red eyes. "So what do you say, Fred, let's be friends again? Please?"

Slowly Fred's bony head emerged and a relieved Sean scratched the sensitive spot at the base that Fred favored. "Thank you, Fred," he said humbly. Fred blinked in acknowledgement, and Sean, inevitably, began to cry. "Damn it," he muttered, groping for the Kleenex box behind him. "I am so pathetic."

Sean wiped away the tears, disposed of the damp Kleenex, and got up, holding Fred securely in the crook of his arm. "What do you say to a treat, Fred? There's some nice fresh mango in the refrigerator." Fred blinked. "All right, mango for you and Shiner Bock for me. I need a drink after this ordeal."

Harmony restored, man and turtle went off to the kitchen for their well-deserved rewards.


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