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Rated: E · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2306256
Banu goes to the doctors, Mr. Ortega has flashbacks.

Ortega Family Adventures
Banu Gets A Check-Up



anu was sitting comfortably in the snug car seat in the back seat, with Selena sitting in hers next to him. He sat quietly, clutching a stuffed owl.
         He said, "I am going to get my eye looked at today."
         Selena replied, "Yeah, you get to see Dr. Ganda. She is really nice. I wish she was my doctor."
         "Why don't you change?" Banu asked.
         "They said 'cuz I am a human I have to got to a different doctor. It's unfair. I have Dr. Merril. He isn't as nice as Dr. Ganda."
         "That's too bad," Banu said, then added. "When we get done and back home, I am going to hunt that pixie down and poke him for hurting my eye."
         "What would you poke him with?"
         "Hmm. That is a problem," the small bear said, paused to think about it, then continued. "Maybe I can find a stick. Have to be a long one if he was up in a tree."
         He opened his mouth to say more, but was interrupted by Selena's father.
         "OK, we are here," Mr. Ortega turned and said over his shoulder.
         Selena unbuckled herself and helped Banu with his buckle. She opened the door, got out of the car, then turned around and waited for Banu. Banu climbed out of his seat and stepped up to the edge of the car seat and put is arms out. Selena picked him up.
         "Ugh. You are getting heavy," Selena said.
         "Bears are strong. We weigh more because we are strong," Banu said as she set him on the ground, then added. "You need to exercise more, Lena, so you get strong like a bear."
         "Me?!" Selena replied as they turned to follow Selena's father into the medical office.
         The two argued about their exercise and eating habits all the way into the office. Once inside, Selena's father picked up Banu and set him on the counter in front of the receptionist.
         "Ahem, young lady. I believe I have an eye appointment," Banu said in his most important voice.
         The young elf woman behind the desk, looked up, gave the little bear a dazzling smile, and asked, "Your name, sir?"
         "Banardu Toller the fourth," Banu said.
         "It's under Banu Ortega," Selena's father said.
         The woman looked through some papers for a few moments then said, "Ah, yes, Sir Toller the fourth, we have you scheduled for eye examination with Dr. Ganda for ... 10:10 am. You are right on time. Please go through to room 4."
         "Very good," Banu said to the young woman, then turned to Selena and said, "Not to worry, Lena. I will be out in no time. Hardly notice I am gone."
         "OK, Banu, I love you," Selena said with tears in her eyes.
         "I love you, too," Banu said as Selena's father picked him, and carried him through the door into the back of the building.
         Selena watched him go, her eyes teared up. The young woman behind the counter handed her a tissue and said, "Try not to worry. Dr. Ganda is very good, and she will be gentle with him. The waiting room is through that door over there," she pointed to a door set in the wall opposite the reception desk, "There are some books and toys in there you can play with."
         Selena took the tissue, thanked the young woman, and blew her nose as she walked to the door and through it into the waiting room.

The Waiting Room


elena stepped through the door and found a large room with lots of chairs along the walls with tables scattered around. There were seven people in the room. She stood just inside the doorway, undecided on what she should do. She could just find a chair and sit and wait. Or she could go over to the toys in one corner. Or she could -
         "Hi. I am Reggie," a voice said from just in front of her.
         Selena looked down and saw a young Gnome. The top of his head was just above her waist.
         'Oh, hi. I am Lena," Selena said.
         "My pet hopper is in getting his leg fixed. He cut it when he tried to jump over an unigoat," Reggie said, then added. "Why are you here?"
         "My friend Banu is having an eye exam," Selena answered.
         "Oh. What's wrong with his eye?"
         "A mean gypsy pixie threw a heavy rock and hurt it."
         "Oh, some of those gypsy pixies are mean. One stole a brass button off my vest once."
         "Did you get it back?"
         "No, my mommy had to sew a new one on. I don't wear that one anymore, I outgrew it. My little brother wears it now."
         "Do you want to play a game?"
         "Great, they are over here," Reggie said as he turned, and made his way to a table in a corner.
         On her way to the corner, she passed a very tall troll who had a very worried look on his face. She wanted to ask what he was worried about, but wasn't brave enough. Trolls are probably OK. They aren't like the angry Ogres, but she really didn't know much about them. There was only one family of Trolls in her building, and she had never met them.
         "So we can play cards or put this puzzle together or play 'Mages and Clerics' or this game," Reggie pointed at each game as he spoke then added while pointing to the last game. "I have never played this one."
         Selena looked at the game. The box had "Pixieland" written on it in large pink letters. She turned it over and the whole bottom side of the box was covered in small writing. She shook her head and said, "This looks really complicated. Maybe we should do the puzzle instead."
         "OK, I like puzzles and this one is of a griffon! They are neat."
         They cleared a spot and started working on putting it together. It was a 3-D puzzle, so they had to find the feet and legs first and figure out how they fit together. They worked on the feet and legs together, then Selena started working on the wings while Reggie worked on the body.
         "Lena, you're putting a puzzle together?" Lena's daddy asked in a gentle voice.
         His voice still startled her as she was really concentrating on putting the wing together. She almost dropped it, but didn't.
         "Yes. This is my friend Reggie. A gypsy pixie stole a button off his vest. We are making a griffon. Well, not a real one, just this puzzle. Still, it is pretty neat," Selena answered.
         "Hi, Mr. Lena's Dad. I'm Reggie," Reggie said.
         "Hello Reggie. You can call me Mr. Ortega," Selena's father said.
         "OK, Mr. Ortega. I am waiting for Mr. Leapsalot, my hopper, to get his leg fixed," Reggie said.
         "I am sure he will be out soon. I am going to sit over here and read while we wait. You two continue building your puzzle."
         Mr. Ortega sat in a chair a few feet away, and Selena and Reggie continued to work on their puzzle.
         Mr. Ortega watched his daughter and Reggie build their toy griffon. It had the body of a lion with feathered wings at the shoulders.          He leaned back and relaxed

The Clinic Examination Room (Earlier)


r. Ortega carried Banu into the small room and set him down on the steel examination table. There was a small pillow and a white blanket on the table at one end. They were there only a moment before the Doctor came in.
         "Hello, Mr. Ortega and hello Banu. How are you feeling, Banu?"
         "I am OK," he said quietly, then added. "My eye hurts a little bit."
         "Well, let me take a look at it, and we can see how it's healing."
         The doctor gently removed the eye patch and placed it on the table. The brow above the looked blue under the brown fur, but wasn't swollen.
         "The swelling has gone down around your eye, but the lids are still swollen. I am going to need to spread your eyelids to see how your eye is doing. This is going to hurt. I am sorry."
         Banu whispered, "OK."
         He gritted his teeth but held still as she gently parted the swollen lids. The eye beneath had a black pupil and iris, but the rest of the eye was blood-red where it would normally be white. She used a special instrument to look into his pupil.
         "Well, the eye seems to be responding to light, that is about all I can tell at this point. As these things go it should take about a week more for your body to remove the blood from this eye."
         "Is his vision going to be affected?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "I don't think so," the doctor said, paused, then added. "The damage is mostly to the area around the eye, but the swelling of the eyelids has me worried. They should have reduced to almost normal, like his brow and cheek, but they are not. There may be some damage to the blood vessels that are not allowing the lids to drain. Ordinarily, I would use a machine we have that can look through skin and see these blood vessels, but it is damaged. It won't be fixed until next week."
         "Oh, what do you suggest?"
         "We can do a simple procedure and relieve the swelling today. It would certainly speed up his recovery."
         "OK," Mr. Ortega said then looked a Banu and asked, "Banu do you understand what we were talking about?"
         "Yes ... no ... I don't know. Something about my eye swelling."
         "The doctor would like to do a small procedure to help your eye heal, are you ok with that?"
         "Will it hurt?"
         "No, Banu, we will give you something to make it sure does not hurt."
         "OK," Banu said.
         "I will be back in a moment, I need to have them ... I need to get a pill for Banu," Dr. Ganda said, then left the room.
         Mr. Ortega reached out and pulled the little bear to him, and Banu hugged him back. After a few moments, the bear said quietly, "I'm scared."
         "Places like this can be scary, but everyone here wants to help you get better. I will stay with you. This pro ... thing the doctor wants to do will make your eye heal better and faster. Be the brave bear that you are."
         "OK, I will," Banu said quietly, clutching Mr. Ortega even tighter.
         The doctor knocked, entered, held out a small cup with water in one and pill in the other and said, "Here is the pill I need you to take. It will make you sleepy."
         Banu took the pill and put it in his mouth then drank the water from the cup, then asked, "Can I have more water, please?"
         "Just a little more," the doctor said, then filled the little cup again, and a gave him.
         "You should lay down," the Doctor said, then looked at Mr. Ortega added. "I will leave to go check on the operating room. A med-tech will be back in a few minutes to take him there."
         She left the room. Banu knelt down and stretched out on the blanket with his head on the pillow.
         "How do you feel, Banu?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         The little bear was quiet for a moment then said, quietly, "Still scared but a little tired now."
         Mr. Ortega pulled a small stuffed owl out of his jacket pocket, and put it on Banu's chest, and said, "Here is Owly."
         "Oh! Thank you," Banu said as he hugged the owl tightly.
         Banu yawned, then said sleepily, "I sleep now. Love you, papa."
         A look of tenderness crossed Mr. Ortega's face as he replied, "I love you too, Banu."
         The bear fell asleep and began quietly snoring. A couple of minutes later, after quiet knock on the door a young Troll in a blue smock entered the room with a small cart that had a thick, white blanket on it.
         "Hi, I'm Davad. This is our patient, Banardu, correct?" the Troll asked.
         "Please do not worry. We will take great care of him," the Troll said as he gently picked Banu up and laid him on the cart, then said, "Unfortunately we can't have non-staff in the operating theater. I will come to you in the waiting room and take you to the recovery room when the procedure is complete."
         "I understand. Please come and get me before he wakes up. That is very important."
         "Yes, sir, I will," the tech said as he carefully wheeled the cart out of the room. Mr. Ortega took deep breaths and let them out slowly a few times, then rose, and left the room.

The Waiting Room


r. Ortega came back to the present when he heard Selena say, "OK, it looks done. Let's put the crystal in it and see what it does."
         "OK," Reggie replied as he picked up a small velvet bag that had been in the box with the puzzle pieces. Selena had opened a slot on the belly of the griffon. Reggie took a light blue crystal out of the back and dropped it into the slot. Selena closed it and set it back on its feet.
         A moment passed and the griffon's eyes opened, and it gave out a growl. It then flapped it wings and scratched it'd front paws on the table.
         Selena and Reggie squealed with delight.
         "We did it, Reggie," Selena said, then added. "Pappa, see it works!"
         The little griffon stretched its wings, shook itself then trotted down the table a short distance, turned around and started running and flapping its wings. It launched into the air just a foot from Selena. It circled the waiting room just below the ceiling and did some acrobatics.
         Selena and Reggie 'oohed' and 'ahed' as it flew. After several minutes of flying, it returned to Selena and Reggie and landed on the table.
         "That was awesome!" Reggie cried when the griffon landed.
         The griffon gave a small roar then settled down and fell asleep.
         "You want to play another game?" Selena asked.
         "Yeah, how about this game?" Reggie asked while holding up a deck of cards.
         "OK, let's go to that table over there," Selena said, pointing to a nearby table.
         Mr. Ortega smiled as he watched his daughter and her new friend try to figure out the card game. She sat on the floor and Reggie sat in a small chair. Suddenly, Selena turned to her father and asked, "How long until Banu is out?"
         "I don't know for sure. It shouldn't be long," Mr. Ortega answered, then added. "Try not to worry about it. They will let us know when he is out and in the recovery room."
         "Recovery room? What is that?"
         "It's a room where they put you after procedures like this, where you wait to let the anesthetic wear off."
         "What is a nanatheiss?"
         "Anesthetic. It is medication that makes you sleep, so you don't move during the operation."
         "Oh," Selena said, then returned to her game.
         Mr. Ortega thought back to when Banu first came to stay with them.

Department of Fostering Children (Two Years Previous)


s Mr. Ortega passed the receptionist counter, the young female dwarf asked, "Mr. Ortega?" the young dwarf behind the receptionist's desk asked as Mr. Ortega was passing the receptionist desk on his way out of the Department of Fostering Children. He'd gone in to sign the final papers. Now it was just a matter of waiting for a child in need of fostering to show up. They'd assured him it wouldn't be long.
         "Yes?" he replied, stopping at her desk.
         "Thank you for signing up to foster. Ordinarily, it would be a wait but we have a young boy in need right now."
         The young woman paused, then said, "I should warn you that he is a very different boy than we've ever had here before. That's not to say there is anything wrong with him. He is just different."
         "How so?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "He is the first of his kind we've seen. He is an Arctodus Simus Sapiens. We have his name but no other information."
         "He is a what?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "He is a boy bear," she said quietly, then added quickly. "He is very nice. Keeps himself clean and is potty-trained. His origins are a bit of a mystery. We contacted the City Council in Los Osos, but they just said, 'they couldn't respond at this time.' He has a paper in his suitcase that says he is 'Banardu Toller the fourth' and the date of his birth. That is about all we know about the little guy."
         "How long has he been here?"
         "He was reported at the San Jose train station a couple of months ago."
         "He has been two months alone?"
         "Mostly, yes. He is the only foster child we have right now. The last was fostered out about three weeks ago. He has been with a few different families, but they have brought him back after only a day or two. Sometimes the same day," she said as she shook her head, then added. "He is a really nice little guy. He is brave, but I know he is scared."
         "Did they say why?"
         "Sort of. To be honest, the fostering families were, uh, picky about whom they fostered. They just said he was incompatible with their other children. We suspect they didn't want his kind."
         Mr. Ortega nodded, then said, "OK. Let's see him."
         The young dwarf picked up a handset, tapped a button on a panel then said, "Francis, could you escort Mr. Ortega to the dorm room to see Banardu?"
         She nodded her head and hung up.
         "Francis will take you to him," she said.
         A young man came swiftly down the stairs and stopped next to Mr. Ortega, and asked, "You hear to see Banu?"
         "Is that his name?"
         "Yes. He is a sweet little guy. I wish I could foster him," Francis said as he waved Mr. Ortega to the stairs, the continued. "He's polite and clean. He has manners I wish my nephew had."
         At the top of the stairs, they walked down a long hallway to a set of double doors. Pausing there, Francis said, "If you look through the glass, you will see him sitting on a bed."
         Mr. Ortega looked through the long glass pane embedded in the door, and saw on a bed, about halfway down the long room, a small brown bear in a white shirt, brown trousers and white socks on his feet. His shoes were on the floor. He was looking intently at a book.
         "OK, I would like to meet him," Mr. Ortega said.
         "Oh, great," Francis said with relief, then pointed to a wooden bench along the wall. "Can you wait over by that bench?"
         Mr. Ortega sat on the bench.
         Francis entered the room and a few minutes later he returned with the little bear. The little bear carried a small suitcase in one hand, and a small stuffed owl in the other. Francis led him to the bench and helped him to sit next to Mr. Ortega.
         "Hello, I am Mr. Fermin Ortega," Mr. Ortega said.
         Banu looked up at him and said, in a serious voice, "Hello, Mr. Ortega. I am Banardu Toller the fourth. I am 5 and a half years old. I am happy to meet you."
         "And I am happy you meet you. How are you?"
         The little bear sighed, then said, "I am sad. I have no one to play with and there are no toys in this place, just some books. I wish I could read better."
         "Well, Banardu Toller the fourth, I would like you to come meet my children. I have a son who is a little over two years old and a daughter that is about your age. Would you like that?"
         Tears welled up in the little bear's eyes, and he whispered, "Oh yes, I would."
         "That's wonderful. Let's go talk to the receptionist and see what we need to do to make that happen today, OK?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "OK" Banu said, then slid off the bench, picked up his owl and suitcase, and followed Mr. Ortega down the hall to the stairs. At the stairs, Banu hesitated.
         "What -" Mr. Ortega started to say, paused as he looked at the little bear, then said. "How about I carry your suitcase down the stairs. You can carry your owl in that hand and use the railing."
         Banu looked like he was going to cry, but stiffened up, nodded, and held out his suitcase to Mr. Ortega.
         Mr. Ortega kept pace with Banu as he navigated down the stairs. They stepped up to the receptionist desk and Mr. Ortega told her he wanted to Foster the little bear. It was another hour before Banu and Mr. Ortega were in his car and heading to the Ortega home. Banu settled into the car seat usually used by Selena's little brother. They drove in silence for a long time.
         "Well, Banardu Toller the fourth, can I call you Banardu?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "Yes, or you can call me Banu. My mother called me Banu before I lost her. I like that name, too," Banu answered, then added. "I know how to use the bathroom, now."
         "OK, that's good. Have you had anything to eat?"
         "Yes," Banu answered quickly, then added quietly. "But I am still hungry."
         "What do you like to eat?"
         "Spinach, pickles, potato chips, fish sticks, chicken pieces, bananas, pears, and ice cream."
         "I think we have some of that at home," Mr. Ortega said, then added. "We'll get you some food there. Let me make a phone call."
         "Thank you."
         At the next stoplight, Mr. Ortega used his cell phone to call home. When the light turned green, he set the phone down and started driving again. It was only another ten minutes before they were parked in the parking garage at the apartment complex where the Ortega's lived. Mr. Ortega helped Banu out of the car seat, and they walked to the front door to Ortega's apartment, Banu walked slower and slower. Mr. Ortega paused and waited for the little bear to catch up.
         "Please don't be afraid, Banu. We are not like any of the other families you've been with. I promise I will be with you until you are comfortable. If you ever are not comfortable, you just tell me, OK?"
         "OK," Banu answered, then quietly said. "I can do this."
         Mr. Ortega knocked on the door. The door opened and standing in the doorway was a tall, lean woman with dark eyes and hair. She said, "Hello sweetheart, who have you brought home?"
         "This young fellow," Mr. Ortega said as he waved Banu forward.
         "I am Banardu Toller the fourth, ma'am. But you may call me Banu," the little bear said.
         "Well, Banu, you are welcome in our home. Please come in," Mrs. Ortega said as she stepped out of the doorway.
         Banu took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold into their home.
         They ushered him into the living room, where Selena and Max waited. They sat on the floor with some of their favorite toys out.
         "Selena, Max, this is Banu. He will be staying with us."
         "Neat!" Selena said.
         "Bear!" Max said, then added. "Bana."
         "You can call me Selena or Lena," Selena said.
         "Banu, you want to play a game with me .. us?" Selena asked.
         "Oh, yes," Banu said as he put his suitcase down and stepped over to her. She showed him a game and they played it. Mr. Ortega sat in a chair and read a magazine while the children played.
         Mrs. Ortega left them. About twenty minutes later, she came back into the living room with a tray. On it were some plates with food on them. There were cut up slices of bread, cheese, spinach leaves, banana slices, carrots, and dill pickle slices. She set the tray on the floor next to the children and said, "I heard you were hungry, will this do?"
         Banu looked at the plate and said, "Oh, yes! This is great."
         Banu reached for some spinach leaves, then stopped and asked, "May I have some?"
         "Yes! Have as much as you want," Mrs. Ortega said.
         "Oh, thank you."
         Banu started stuffing spinach leaves into his mouth. Selena and Max picked some food and ate as well. Mrs. Ortega left, then returned a few minutes later with brought three cups of orange juice in and put them in front of the children.
         "Do you like orange juice?" Mrs. Ortega asked Banu.
         "Yes," Banu answered.
         When Mrs. Ortega had left them, he whispered to Selena, "What's orange juice?"
         "It's juice from an orange. Do you like oranges?" Selena asked.
         "Maybe. I don't think I've ever tasted one," Banu said as he took a sip from his cup.
         "Oh yeah, I like orange juice," Banu declared.
         They sat and ate for half an hour. Banu ate almost half the food himself. Once they were done, Selena showed him their room and her toys, and they played all afternoon.
         Late afternoon came and Selena went to use the bathroom. The apartment filled with the smell of the food that Mrs. Ortega was preparing for dinner. Banu sighed, got up, and put away the toy he was playing with. He gathered his suitcase and owl, walked to the front door, and waited.
         Selena returned from the bathroom, saw that Banu was gone from their room. She went to her father, who was reading in the living room, while Max played on the floor.
         "Where did Banu go?"
         "What? I thought he was with you. Is he in the bathroom?"
         "No, I was in the bathroom."
         "Door Door Door," Max said as he pointed to the front door.
         Mr. Ortega stood up and stepped over, so he could see the front door. He could now see the little bear standing by the door with his things, waiting.
         Mrs. Ortega stepped out of the kitchen, looked down at the little bear by the front door, and asked Banu, "Banu, are you unhappy? Do you want to go back?"
         "Oh no. I have been very happy here. This is the time I get taken back," Banu said, then added quietly. "I would like to come back to visit, please. I really like Selena. And Max. And Mr. Ortega and you."
         Mrs. Ortega knelt, and said, "Oh, Banu, you brave little bear! You aren't going back. This is your home now. You are going to stay with us from now on."
         "Really?" Banu said, but this time he couldn't hold back the tears. He sat down, sobbing.
         Mrs. Ortega picked up the little bear, hugged him to her breast, and carried him back into the living room. He clung to her blouse, sobbing. She held him until he stopped, then set him down.
         While she was standing in the living room behind Selena, Selena told her father, "If you take him away, I am going with him!"
         "But I ... He's not going away," Mr. Ortega said, then looked up at Mrs. Ortega and Banu.
         "Selena, he is right here. He just misunderstood. He will be staying with us from now on," Mrs. Ortega said.
         Selena turned around as Mrs. Ortega set the sniffling Banu back down. She dropped to her knees in front of the little bear, hugged him, and said, "Woo whee! You are staying with me! We are going to have so much fun together!"
         "I am ... I am ... Happy. Thank you," Banu said.

The Waiting Room


young Troll in med-tech blue came into the room and said, "Mr. Hanak? Your hopper, Sir Leaps-a-lot, is in the recovery room."
         "Oh, that's me and my dad," Reggie said as he stood up and looked for his father.
         A middle-aged gnome in a light sports jacket walked up to the med-tech and said, "Hello, yes, that's me. Come along, Reginald."
         "Bye, Selena," Reggie said as he got up to follow his father.
         "Bye, Reggie," Selena replied, watching the little Gnome pass through the door out of the waiting room. She got up, the card game forgotten, and climbed into the seat next to her father.
         "Banu is going to be alright, right? What are they doing to him?" Selena asked.
         "He will be fine. His eyelids are swollen, and they are going to try to reduce that, so he can heal faster," Mr. Ortega said, putting his arm around her.
         "OK," Selena said, nodded her head, hugged her father's arm, leaned her head against it, and closed her eyes. Only a few minutes passed before she fell asleep.
         Mr. Ortega looked around the room. There were only a few people left in the room beside him and Selena. An Elf woman with two infants sleeping in a stroller, a man with a teenage boy, and an older Troll man. They were all, except the sleeping babies, reading magazines or books.
         Mr. Ortega closed his eyes and thought about the last two years with the small Banu.

Banu's Birthdays


hey had celebrated two of Banu's birthdays since they started fostering him. For the first one, when he turned six, they gave him new clothes; he had grown out of his old ones. They also gave him a couple of toys. A small truck with a little bear at the wheel and a stuffed bear. He cried and hugged all of them, even Max, Selena's little brother.
         It was four months after his sixth birthday that they found out how sensitive the little bear was. They were playing in the living room when the little bear got angry at Max for playing with one of his toys and yelled at him. Mr. Ortega, who had been reading a newspaper in the same room, scolded Banu for raising his voice and to go to his bed in the room he shared with Selena. The little bear looked shocked, started crying as he made his way into the bedroom. Mr. Ortega spoke to Max about taking Banu's toys without asking, and Max started crying.
         While Mr. Ortega was dealing with Max, Banu came out of the room with his green bag, he'd taken off his new clothes and squeezed into his old clothes. He sniffed as he walked toward the front door and stood by it. Mrs. Ortega was in the kitchen when Max walked by.
         She poked her head out and asked, "Banu, what is going on?"
         Band, sniffed and said, "I am sorry for yelling. I don't want to go, but you can take me back to the or-panage now."
         "Do what, now?" Mrs. Ortega asked him.
         "I got mad at Max and I shouldn't have. I am really sorry," he said, then started sobbing and through the sobs, he said, "I don't wanna go."
         "Oh, Banu," Mrs. Ortega dried her hands, stepped out of the kitchen, picked up Banu, hugged him, and said, "We are not going to take you back to the foster care people no matter how much you yell. You are part of this family now."
         Banu had stopped sobbing and was just sniffing.
         "Yes, we get mad at each other, but we always forgive because we are family. Now, go put your stuff back and take off those old clothes. I swear, I am going to throw those things away!"
         She set him back on the floor and watched as he picked up his green bag and walked past Mr. Ortega back into the bedroom. He mumbled 'Sorry' as he passed Mr. Ortega.
         "What? Was he trying to leave again?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "Yeah. It's almost funny if it weren't so sad. That poor boy has had it so rough," Mrs. Ortega said, then smiled and asked. "You remember when Selena packed a bag and wanted to move in with Meemaw and Poppy?"
         Mr. Ortega smiled and shook his head.
         "Yes. He seems to be very sensitive about his behavior. I don't know what he's gone through, but it wasn't good. What happened?" Mrs. Ortega asked.
         "Oh, Max took one of the toys we'd given Banu for his birthday without asking him. I told Banu to go to his bed; I didn't even raise my voice," Mr. Ortega said while he rolled his eyes, then added. "I talked to Max, so now he's crying in the bedroom."
         "Maybe we should talk to Banu about ..." Mrs. Ortega said, paused, then added. "No, on second thought, that wouldn't work. Banu would be too afraid we'd 'take him back'."
         "We can ask Selena, they talk for a long time each night before going to sleep," Mr. Ortega said, then continued. "I expect she has some idea what is worrying him."
         Eventually, they were able to speak to Selena alone, and they found out the last family he was with the children kept stealing his bag, clothes, and generally being mean to him. The parents either couldn't or didn't want to control their children's behavior, so they returned Banu to the fostering agency.
         For his seventh birthday they gave him his favorite meal: spinach, fish sticks, sweet pickles, corn, bananas, blueberries, and a birthday cake. He got more clothes, since he'd outgrown the ones from his last birthday, and a green backpack with lots of pockets. He didn't cry at this party, but still hugged everyone.
         The children would still argue with each other, but rarely stayed mad for more than a few hours. Most nights, Selena and Banu would sleep together unless they were mad at each other, then he'd sleep in his bed. By morning, they would have forgotten what they argued about the night before.
         Three months after Banu's seventh birthday, Mrs. Ortega, Selena, Max and Banu were out by the levee walking when a gypsy pixie started harassing them. The children had wandered off to look at an apple tree, so Mrs. Ortega was not close to them. The pixie got angry, picked up a large rock and hit Banu with it. The rock knocked the little bear down and his face was bleeding terribly. Selena ran to got her mother while Max stayed with Banu. Mrs. Ortega carried Banu home, did enough first aid to stop the bleeding, then drove him to a clinic.
         The Doctors sutured up the large open wound across his brow and told them to put ice on it every night for the next 5 days, then return. Mrs. Ortega made a green bandana that wrapped around his wound and covered his eye.
         Banu adjusted to only using one eye fairly quickly. He was in a different class year than Selena, but his classmates were sympathetic and helped him when he got confused.

The Waiting Room


n the waiting room, an older female dwarf in a med-tech smock said, "Mr. Kaan?"
         The older Troll looked up, rose, and came over to the med-tech looking even sadder. The med-tech led him through the door as she said, "I am so sorry, Mr. Kaan. Brenna is just too old. All we can really do is make her last few days more comfortable. We have eased her pain ..." The door closed before the rest could be heard.
         The door opened and the Troll that took Banu came in, stepped over to Mr. Ortega, and said, "Mr. Ortega? Banu is in recovery room 4. If you would follow me, I will take you to him."
         Mr. Ortega extricated himself from Selena, left her to sleep, while he followed the Troll through the doors to the back.
         The room had six beds in all, three beds along each wall. Most were not occupied. On the right side, in the middle bed, was Banu. He looked very small in the large bed.
         Banu laid on the pillow with his head wrapped in bandaged. The bandages left his good eye uncovered. There were two small pockets on that side of the bandage. One at his temple and the other on his cheek, near his nose. In the one on his temple was a yellow crystal and the other one had a small pink crystal.
         He was just coming out of the anesthetic when Mr. Ortega reached the bed. He placed his hand on the little bear's chest and waited.
         "Oh ... hey, papa ..." the little bear mumbled, snored, then roused himself again. "Is it over?"
         "Yes," Mr. Ortega said.
         The doctor came into the room and over the bed Banu was in.
         "We managed to drain both the upper and lower lids," she said as she looked at the bear.
         "He will come out of it in a few minutes. The procedure went very well. We were able to reduce the swelling significantly and that reduces pressure on the eye. It should heal much faster now."
         "Thank you, Doctor," Mr. Ortega said.
         She waved off the gratitude and said, "The yellow crystal promotes healing and the pink should help with the pain."
         "How long do we keep it on?" Mr. Ortega asked.
         "In three days, you should change the bandage and check that the eye hasn't swollen up again. The yellow crystal is good for about 6 days. I am sorry that we don't have any more pain ones. Someone keeps stealing the shipments. They are hard to get anywhere."
         "Oh. I had heard about some hijacking of some trucks, I didn't know it was crystals," Mr. Ortega said.
         "Sadly, it is becoming an issue. There are some drugs that we can use, but they have side effects that can be unpleasant," Dr. Ganda said, looked at Banu, smiled and added. "Bring him in for a check-up in a week or so if the swelling stays under control; sooner if it doesn't."
         "OK, Doctor. We can't thank you enough," Mr. Ortega said.
         The Doctor stepped over to the groggy bear and said, "You were a great patient, Banu. You follow your father's instructions and I will see you in a while. You be a good boy."
         "I will," Banu said.
         She nodded at Mr. Ortega and went to another bed across the room.
         "Would you like me to bring your daughter in, Mr. Ortega?" the Troll med-tech said. He had been at another bed but came over when the doctor left.
         "Yes, please."
         The med-tech hurried out of the room.
         "I feel better now," Banu announced just as his eye fluttered, and he fell asleep again. He was only asleep a minute before he opened his eye and smiled.
         "When can I leave?" Banu asked.
         "When you can sit up and not fall asleep," Mr. Ortega answered.
         "OK," Banu said and attempted to sit up, failed, then fell asleep again. He went in and out of sleep several times before Selena arrived. Each time he was awake a little longer.
         Selena approached the bed cautiously, then asked her father, "Is he OK?"
         Before Mr. Ortega could answer, the little bear woke up and said, "Selena! I gotta a new bandage!"
         "It looks neat. There are some crystals on it too," Selena said, looking at the bandage around his head.
         "Yeah," she said, then added. "I met this Gnome named Reggie, and we put a griffon together."
         "Oh ... what? Was the griffon ... I don't understand," Banu said.
         "It was a puzzle. Once we got it together, we put a crystal in it, and it flew around the room!"
         "Oh wow. I wish I'd seen that."
         "Then we played a card game. Reggie was nice. You would have liked him. He was just as tall as you."
         "He was a bear?"
         "No, silly; he was a Gnome."
         "Oh," Banu said with some disappointment.
         "Try, and sit up now," Mr. Ortega said.
         "OK," Banu said, then he sat up and stayed up this time.
         They waited for a few more minutes, then Banu stood up on the bed. While holding Mr. Ortega's arm, he walked around on the bed. After a three laps around the bed, Mr. Ortega called the med-tech over.
         The med-tech came over, and checked Banu's bandages and said, "Looks like you are ready to go home, Banu. You were an excellent patient. I know it is going to itch, but try not to touch your bandages, OK?"
         "OK, I will try," Banu said.
         Mr. Ortega picked up the little bear and Selena grabbed the little stuffed owl that was next to the pillow and followed him out to their car. Mr. Ortega put Banu in his seat and strapped him in. Selena got in, gave Banu his owl and strapped herself in.
         Banu hugged the owl and fell asleep again on the ride home. Banu was still asleep when they arrived, so Mr. Ortega carried him in.
         Banu woke up when Mrs. Ortega made a big fuss about the bandages and asked him if he was hungry.
         "Yes, I am. A little," Banu asked.
         "He's always hungry," Selena said while she rolled her eyes.
         "It's almost noon, we can just have an early lunch," Mrs. Ortega said.
         Banu managed to walk to the table and climb into his seat without falling. Selena followed behind him to help him if he needed it. She then got into her chair. And Max came out and climbed into his chair as well.
         Mrs. Ortega brought out fish sticks, a spinach salad, and raw carrots for each child. Mr. Ortega sat down but only nibbled on the salad.
         "I need to check in with work," Mr. Ortega said, then excused himself from the table and walked into the living room. Mrs. Ortega sat down with a large salad and ate while watching the children.
         "Does hurt?" Max asked.
         "Not now. The pink crystal makes it not hurt," Banu answered.
         Banu yawned and yawned again. He asked permission to leave the table. Mrs. Ortega got up and helped him down and followed him into the bedroom he shared with Selena.
         "Do you want to sleep now?" She asked.
         "I ... I think so," Banu said, then added. "I am really tired."
         "That's fine. Surgery can be hard. You get ready for bed."
         Banu undressed and climbed to his bed. He laid on his back then changed to his side a few times before Mrs. Ortega came in with a short stool and sat down on it by his bed. She placed her hand on his chest. He clutched her hand then settled down. He murmured, before falling asleep, "I love you, mama."
         "I love you, too, little bear," she said as a tear came to her eye. She sat and watched the little bear sleep.



ive hours later, Banu woke alone. Mrs. Ortega had left him once he was fully asleep. He laid there for a time, then reached up to scratch but stopped.
         "Geez, it itches," he muttered.
         He got up, got dressed and went out into the living room.
         Selena and Max were on the patio playing. Mrs. Ortega was reading on the couch. He walked over and crawled up on the couch next to her.
         "Feel better?" she asked.
         "Yeah. It itches though."
         "I imagine it does. It's the sutures they put in to close the wounds. In time, they will stop. Why don't you go play with Selena and Max, to try, and forget the itching?"
         "OK," Banu climbed off the couch and went out on the patio.
         "What are you doing?" Banu asked.
         "Racetrack," Max answered without looking up.
         "We got these wooden tracks that we can build into a racetrack for the wooden balls. Help us," Selena said.
         For the next few hours, they built and rebuilt the track. They had ball races and made up prizes for the winner. Banu forgot all about his injury for that time.
         Mr. Ortega came home from work, they had dinner and watched a movie.
         At bedtime, Mr. Ortega was helping Banu with his nightclothes when Selena came in and said, "He should sleep with me. I can watch over him!"
         Mr. Ortega replied, "Not tonight. You move around a lot at night, and we can't have his bandages disturbed. You sleep in your own bed, and he will sleep here. You can go back to normal in a while; after the bandages come off."
         Selena nodded.
         Mr. Ortega sat on the stool next to Banu's bed and said, "OK, you go ahead and lay down. I will stay with you."
         Banu laid down and Mr. Ortega pulled the covers up to the little bear's chin. Banu sighed and said, "Good night, Mr. Ortega."
         "Good night, Banu," Mr. Ortega replied and placed his hand on the little bear's chest. Banu hugged the hand and fell asleep.
         When Selena was ready for bed, she quietly climbed into her bed and got under the cover, then promptly fell asleep.
         Half an hour later, Mrs. Ortega brought some pillows and a couple of blankets for Mr. Ortega to try to get comfortable on. He briefly removed his hand from the bear's embrace while arranging the bedding. Banu became restless in his sleep but calmed down when Mr. Ortega's put his hand back.
         Very early in the morning, Mrs. Ortega came in to relieve Mr. Ortega, so he could get some sleep. Banu woke briefly and shifted around in his bed until she placed her hand on his chest. He hugged it, settled down, then slept.
         They continued this for three nights, Mr. and Mrs. Ortega took turns staying with the little bear. The little bear was less restless each night. On the fourth night, they relented and allowed him to sleep with Selena. In the morning, Mrs. Ortega checked the wounds, and they appeared to be healing well. Even the eye itself had less red in it. She rewrapped his head in clean bandages.
         Some time in the early morning of the seventh night, the yellow crystal stopped glowing, and the pink was barely pink. Mrs. Ortega let Banu continue sleeping until his regular time to wake up. She called the clinic, and they had an appointment available that morning. Mrs. Ortega started with Max, getting him up and into his morning routine, then she awoke Selena and Banu. It took almost a full two hours to get everyone fed, dressed and in the car.
         Once at the clinic, Selena took Max into the waiting room and Mrs. Ortega took Banu to an examination room. It looked just like the one Banu was in before.
         There was a knock on the door and Dr. Ganda came in.
         "Good morning, Mrs. Ortega," Dr. Ganda said as she came in.
         She turned to Banu and asked, "How do you feel?"
         "Oh, there is nothing to be scared of! We are just going to check out your wounds and see if you are ready to use your eye again," the doctor said brightly.
         The doctor took the healing crystal out and laid it in a wooden container. She gently pulled out the pain relief crystal and said, "He was lucky to get one of these. They are getting really hard to get these days."
         "It's the hijackings, right?" Mrs. Ortega asked.
         "Yes," the doctor said while she unwrapped Banu's head.
         "I thought the crystals could be recharged?"
         "They can, although they weaken each time. The average crystal can be recharged 10, maybe 12 times, before it won't hold a charge at all. But that isn't the worst of it," the doctor said. She had the bandage off and was looking at the wound across Banu's brow. The wound was hardly visible at all. Just the sutures showing where it had been. The ones on his eyelids were still visible.
         "OK, we can take the brow sutures out, but we should leave the ones on the eyelid for another few days," Dr. Ganda said as she turned and opened drawers getting supplies out.
         "So what is the problem with recharging the crystals until, at least, they can't be used?" Mrs. Ortega asked.
         "That would seem to be the thing to do, but the Ministry of Health and Services has taken the Heart of Ithus, the Healing Orb, out of the healing station and locked it away. They say it was to protect it. Now the only place to get healing crystals is from the big companies. It is only a little suspicious that the people sitting on the board controlling the Ministry of Health and Service also happen to be on the boards of those same companies. So, healing crystals are a lot more expensive and every third shipment is being hijacked," the doctor said as she wiped a liquid soaked towelette across the brow wound on Banu, she continued with.
         "Banu, I am going to pull out your sutures now. There will feel a little tug but no pain. You let me know if there is any pain, OK?"
         The Doctor nodded while she carefully snipped and pulled the sutures out of Banu's brow. About 15 minutes later, the Doctor put a smaller bandage on that just covered Banu's eye. Mrs. Ortega picked him while saying goodbye to the Doctor.
         Mrs. Ortega and Banu went into the waiting room and found Selena reading a book.
         "Hi," Banu said as they stepped up to where Selena was sitting.
         "Oh! Hi Banu, your bandage looks smaller? It's better now, right?" Selena asked in a rush.
         "Yes, the Doctor took some stoochers out of my forehead," Banu said.
         "Wow. I didn't know you had stoochers," Selena said.
         "It's sutures, and they are the little pieces of string that kept his wound closed," Mrs. Ortega said.
         "You had strings in your head," Selena said with awe.
         "That's 'cuz I am a Bear. We get them."
         Mrs. Ortega rolled her eyes, then asked, "Where is Max?"
         "He is under that table over there," Selena said while pointing to a small table with a tangle of boys under it.
         Mrs. Ortega walked over to the table, knocked on the top, and said, "Max, it's time to go."
         The tangle moved a little and eventually Max wriggled out, and stood up.
         "What were you doing under there?"
         Max looked at his mother, then at the table, then back at his mother and shrugged his shoulders.
         Mrs. Ortega sighed, turned, and found Banu and Selena right behind her.
         "Ok, let's go."
         The children followed Mrs. Ortega out of the waiting room.
         "Max, I got strings in my head!" Banu said.
         "I want strings in my head, too!" Max said.
         Mrs. Ortega shook her head, and walked a little faster.
         "I was reading a story about pirates and crystals," Selena said to Banu as they followed her mother.
         Once outside, they got in the car, and drove over to Max's daycare. Selena, Banu, and Max waited in the car while Mrs. Ortega took Max inside the small building.
         "Why are we here?" Selena asked.
         "Mommy is going to go beat up Nikki. He stole my san'dich yesterday," Max said.
         "No, mommy wouldn't do that," Selena said.
         "I hope she pinches him too," Max said.
         Mrs. Ortega returned to the car.
         "Mommy, did you beat up Nikki?" Selena asked.
         "Max said that Nikki stole his sandwich, and you were going to go beat him up."
         "Nikki stole your sandwich? Why didn't you tell me this, Max?"
         Max just shrugged his shoulders.
         She looked at her youngest son for a moment, then asked, "Why did he steal your sandwich?"
         "'cuz I stole his."
         "So you traded sandwiches."
         "Yeah, but his was just lettuce and pickles."
         "That's not stealing," she said, then added. "But you learned something, didn't you? Don't trade sandwiches with a Satyr. They are picky vegetarians."
         Mrs. Ortega started the car and drove home. Once there, Mrs. Ortega gave Banu a green eye patch to cover his bandaged eye. Selena helped him put it on.
         "Oh, you look like a pirate!" Selena said.
         "Arg! Gimme your treasure!" Banu said as he looked in a mirror.
         They decided to play crystal pirates until lunchtime.

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