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No Place To Go (So We'll Give You One)

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Ted has never felt this sick in his entire life.

The instant he wakes up, everything is too much, too loud, and too hard. His head throbs to the beat of his heart, and his eyes are perpetually squinting because even the natural light that floats through the windows is too bright.

Ted wants to stay home and rest, but he's already failing two classes, and his parents would sooner roll over and die than let him take a day off. They'd probably accuse him of "faking" an illness anyway, and Ted doesn't know if it's worth it.

On one hand, Ted figures out pretty quickly that if he turns his head too fast, his vision blacks out for a second.

But on the other hand, Ted still has the scar from when his mother threw a broken wine bottle at him the last time he "disrespected" her.

It's an easy decision.

In the end, he throws on his most comfortable pair of fleece lined joggers and a plain long sleeve shirt. If he has to go to hell and back for education, he's going to do it comfortably.

Ted doesn't trust himself to drive to school, so he settles for old fashioned walking.

He can't stomach the thought of food, and he thinks he heard his Mom in the kitchen anyway, so Ted skips breakfast altogether. He slips out the front door, careful to avoiding his parents, and begins his journey.

Everything aches. Every single step is agony. Ted's body is wracked with tremors, he deeply regrets not bringing a layer. It was just so hot when he was getting dressed, Ted didn't even know temperatures in Hatchetfield could change this rapidly.

By some grace of God, Ted gets to school without passing out. He remembers the walk in a dream-state way, where all his memories are in third person and it's slightly foggy on the edges.

He knows it should concern him, but it doesn't.

Ted drags himself to the corner of the cafeteria and finds his unassigned-assigned table. Their table is smaller than the other tables that pollute the cafeteria, but it's the perfect size for his friend group. It's just a bonus that it's tucked away in an unpopulated corner of the cafe.

It's usually quite peaceful in the mornings, which is why it's their choosen spot to hang out before the first bell rings.

Today, he's the first one to arrive, thank the fucking lord. Ted sits down, rids himself of his backpack, and flops onto the table. Despite being slightly sticky, the table is cool and soothing to rest his forehead against. It almost calms him down enough to sleep.

Almost.

It probably would have if Paul, Emma, Bill, and Charlotte hadn't come bumbling in, with their stupid shouting voices.

Though in retrospect, if Ted wanted to be alone he should've gone to the library.

A stabbing pain shoots through his skull as Emma slams her hands down on the table.

Alright, he 100% should have gone to the library.

Instinctively, Ted's hands press against his ears while he squeezes his eyes shut.

They're just so. Fucking. Loud. Even Charlotte's usual soft-spoken tone sends shivers down his spine. He's kind of glad his brain is too muddled to process the words they're saying.

As their noises progress, Ted hears Bill's distinct snort, which of course stands out amongst the shouts. It dawns on him that they aren't screaming; they're laughing. Probably at him, Ted thinks. They love to laugh at him.

But he doesn't know for sure, and he doesn't care to find out. He just wants his friends to shut the fuck up, please, so he can lay his head on the cool, sticky surface in peace.

Ted feels a hand on his back. A cold hand. A cold hand that feels so, so good against his overheated muscles. He doesn't care enough to figure out who's touching him, he just knows they're a blessing.

Then, a sudden, deafening burst of laughter. It actually makes him flinch, for fucks sake, and Ted decides he's had enough.

Ted cannot describe the amount of physical strength it takes him to pick his head up, but it is greater than any force he's ever had to exert. No matter how strong he is, he still squints painfully against the shitty school lighting.

He doesn't register how it happens, but it's suddenly very quiet at their table. A true gift from god, Ted thinks. Or, his appearance is so shitty, he's shocked them into silence.

Definitely the latter.

He sees Charlotte's mouth moving before he recognizes that she's speaking to him.

"What?" He croaks.

"She said holy fuck dude, did you get run over?" Emma chimes in.

Ted rests his cheek on his hand. "Tha' d'sn't soun' like Char."

The Cold Hand slips off his back. Before Ted can protest, the same hand rests itself against Ted's sweaty forehead, which is undoubtedly a thousand times better. An involuntary sigh escapes his mouth as he leans into Paul's touch.

"Ted, you're burning up." Paul says with worry before detaching his hand from Ted's face.

Ted's eyes fly open. "No," he whines, pushing Paul's hand back to his forehead. "'S cold...feels nice..."

He feels another hand, smaller and warmer than Paul's, gently wrap around his forearm.

"C'mon, Ted. Let's get you to the nurse," Charlotte says at a soft volume, considerate of Ted's sensitive head.

"No," he mumbles, closing his eyes, "Classes, y'know."

Ted slowly leans into Paul's personal space, his head dangerously close to Paul's shoulder. Maybe it's selfish of him, but Ted can't bring himself to care that he's probably making Paul uncomfortable.

"Fuck that!" Emma exclaims. "Why did you even come today? You're just gonna get everyone sick, and fuck yourself up in the process."

Ted winces at her volume, a hand going to his ears immediately. He feels another hand poke his arm.

"Is that what hurts? Your head?" Bill whispers.

Ted ignores him, his head falling against Paul's shoulder. He decides he doesn't want to support his own body weight anymore, so he rests that against Paul too.

"Where's Hen?" Ted asks softly.

Emma scoffs quietly, "At home, like you should be."

"He's still sick. Probably gave it to you, come to think of it," Paul adds. Ted can feel Paul's voice rattle in his body.

A few seconds of blissful silence passes through the group, and Ted is too busy enjoying it to care about the pairs of eyes he feels on him.

Of course, Paul has to ruin it.

"All right, let's go," He says firmly, gently detaching Ted from his shoulder.

"Wha'?" Ted mumbles, bleary eyed.

"We're going to the nurse," Paul states, standing up.

"No, no," Ted argues, "'M fine."

Charlotte is suddenly right beside him, attempting to ease him into standing up. "Ted, you need to go home and sleep-"

"No," Ted repeats, pulling against his friend. "I can't- I have...'M failing, I gotta...fix it."

"You have a fever and you can't even open your eyes, dumbass," Emma says, her voice softer than Ted's ever heard. "You're not gonna be doing much thinking today."

Bill, who's suddenly standing behind Ted, rubs comforting circles on Ted's back. "Don't you want to go home and rest up?"

Ted's eyes water from strain, though it comes off suspiciously like tears. "Fuck off, 'm not....no."

Bill stares at Ted with all his mother hen glory. "Ted, so help me-,"

The bell rings, scaring the living shit out of Ted. He flinches back, knocking into Paul, and it takes all his strength to hold back a whimper as his head pounds.

"You're gonna be miserable if you don't go home," Paul murmurs disapprovingly.

Ted climbs out of his seat on shaky legs, ignoring the helping hands that reach out.

"I have to get to class," Ted says with surprising clarity. Bill shakes his head in disbelief.

"Guys, we're gonna be late," Emma announces. "Look, dude wants to suffer, let him suffer. If he passes out, he'll be easier to deal with," she points out, not entirly in the wrong.

"Fuck you too, Perkins," Ted spits out, his venomous tone undermined by the cracks in his voice. He should really drink some water.

"Fine," Paul gives in. "But if you throw up or pass out, you're going home," he says in his serious no-bullshit voice.

"Mhm."

He tries to push past the herd, but Charlotte grabs hold of his backpack.

"We'll see you at lunch, okay?" She assures sweetly. Her soft smile and gentle eyes almost make Ted believe she cares about him. "Drink lots of water, alright?"

Charlotte's a really good person, Ted thinks. It makes him kind of sad that she's stuck hanging around him just because they're friends-by-extension. Sometimes Ted has to remind himself that Henry, Bill, Charlotte, and Emma aren't his friends. They don't care about Ted, they care about Paul, and Paul cares about Ted, so they're forced to be around him. They're here for Paul, which is totally, perfectly fine.

He just forgets sometimes.

Ted responds to Charlotte with a small smile and high-tails it out of the cafeteria before anyone can notice how shaky his legs are.

It's a miracle Ted makes it to his class without face planting in the halls.

His first class of the day is health, which is perfect, since the teacher just had a baby and has been on maternity leave for the past two weeks. The substitute teacher does not give a single shit; she doesn't monitor the class at all.

It's with a clear conscious that Ted slumps down on his desk and promptly falls into a blissful sleep.