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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Something to Call Your Own (2/2)

January 3rd, 2013 (06:21 am)
determined

feeling: determined

Continued from part one. Split because LJ is silly.



-o-

As a doctor, Brian didn’t get emotionally involved with patients. It was called professional distance, and it was a necessary skill in order to thrive as a doctor. He’d seen the other students in med school, the ones who got attached, and they’d never made it past the first year. They couldn’t. Because when a patient died, part of them died, too. After a few patients, there just wasn’t enough left of them to keep going.

Brian had never particularly had that problem. Yes, it felt bad to watch people die, but he’d managed to objectify them from the beginning. They were patients, not people. They existed in the confines of a hospital bed and everything he needed to know about them was listed on their chart.

That wasn’t to say that he didn’t show compassion. Doctors had to have compassion. But when they walked out of the room, put the chart on the door, that was really the end of it. Next patient, next diagnosis, next treatment.

He didn’t have that luxury here.

In fact, Brian didn’t have any luxuries. He didn’t have equipment or a crash cart nearby; he didn’t have nurses and fellow doctors and attendings.

It was just Brian.

And a very sick man.

In his mind, Brian went over the diagnosis again. Yellow fever was a given, especially now that Graham’s complexion had taken on a yellow hue -- jaundice. It was starting to affect his liver.

The seizure was a bad sign, though. Even in the toxic phase, most people survived. But the severe cases...

With seizures and black vomit and kidney failure and liver damage...

Those cases could kill over half the time.

Which meant that Garringer had dragged him out here to quite possibly watch his friend die.

Which meant, quite possibly, that Garringer would kill him. The man had kidnapped him and gone to steal medical supplies. If Graham didn’t live...

Brian swallowed, feeling numb. He dropped his head in his hands.

He could leave. He should leave. Get to a road, find a ride back to town. Talk to the police, get help. And if they were too busy with the terrorists, then just get the hell out. Out of the hospital, out of town, out of Africa. Hell, out of medicine.

On the bed, Graham moaned. He shifted slightly but didn’t stir. Truthfully, Brian didn’t expect him to. After a seizure, the body needed time to recover. And in severe cases of yellow fever, coma was usually the next symptom on the list.

Brian sighed, watching Graham as he slept. Just a week ago, he’d been fine. Awake and alive, talking and cracking jokes. He’d surprised Brian with his concern, and even in his delirium, he’d only talked about other people -- about the mission.

Suddenly, they didn’t seem like security contractors at all. But what they were, Brian still wasn’t sure. Private hit men? Spies?

It was like some cheap thriller novel, the kind Brian had always been too busy to read.

Not too busy to live, though. Apparently.

He reached out, checking Graham’s pulse and respiration. The fever was still high, but it had slackened just slightly, probably waiting for another cycle. His heart rate was light and fast, skipping tenuously beneath Brian’s fingers. It wasn’t good, but it was relatively stable for the moment.

Brian should run, but the idea of leaving Graham like this...it didn’t seem fair. Even the idea of leaving Graham like this for Garringer to find didn’t seem fair.

Of course, being kidnapped didn’t seem fair either, but...

But Graham had stayed with Garringer; Garringer had stolen a doctor for Graham. They were both willing to risk everything, and this wasn’t a cause that Brian was really a part of, and yet, it was one he couldn’t quite shirk. Because somewhere between mopping up vomit and holding the man through a seizure, Brian had become personally involved. Somewhere between being kidnapped and being asked to help no matter what, Brian had become invested. If he ran now...

Well, he’d never forgive himself.

That wasn’t logical. It was probably some warped form of Stockholm’s syndrome. Or maybe it was just part of really being a doctor. When suffering was presented, Brian needed to fix it. Not just to move a chart, but to help the person.

The person.

Funny that he should think that now, with the two people he couldn’t possibly know less about.

But Brian had to stay. He’d come to Africa and he was sticking it out. He’d stick this out, too.

And hope like hell Graham survived -- because Brian’s life might depend on it, too.

-o-

When Garringer finally came back, Brian had started to rethink his decision to stay. Graham had had another fit of fever -- shaking and trembling -- but when it had subsided, the man had gone so terrifyingly still, that Brian had feared it would be too late for all of them.

Garringer made no attempt at stealth, kicking up the door and trundling in with an arm full of supplies. He grunted, straining as he carried his load over the table, where he unceremoniously set them down.

Brian was on his feet, moving to help, trying to protect the vials of medicine in a plastic bag as Garringer set them roughly on the table.

“There,” Garringer said, straightening up again. “I think you’ll find that everything is there.”

Medicine in hand, Brian looked over the bounty -- and gaped.

It was everything. Medicine, IV supplies, the thermometer -- even the AED.

“But how--?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Garringer said. “You said you needed this stuff, so I got it. Now use it.”

The order was plaintive.

Brian looked at the stuff again.

Then he looked at Graham.

His stomach twisted, and his eyes went back to Graham.

Garringer moved past him, back toward the bed. “How is he?”

That was a question this time. Not quite vulnerable, but still earnest.

Brian never liked to deliver bad news, but he’d never let himself get worked up about it. If he let the truth of a diagnosis affect him, it would never be relayed well to the patient or their family. In this, professional distance was not only a personal survival mechanism, but the best way to afford patients premier care.

And none of that mattered in this case.

Because if Graham was bad -- if he was dying -- that wasn’t an answer Garringer was willing to hear.

And this time, it wasn’t an answer Brian was willing to give.

Instead, he gathered his resolve, picking through the equipment with what he needed. “We’ll see after we set up this IV,” he said, skirting around Garringer and settling next to Graham. He laid out the equipment, lifting Graham’s arm and checking the veins on the crook of his arm. He glanced back. “Can you give me a hand?”

Garringer hesitated, looking at Brian skeptically.

“Or you could just stand there while I try to save his life,” Brian said in exasperation.

Garringer’s disposition shifted and he moved forward. “Fine,” he said. “Let’s do this, then.”

And for the first time since meeting Garringer, Brian agreed with him.

He just hoped it would be enough -- for all their sakes.

-o-

Garringer was terrifying and difficult and seemingly amoral, but he was a hard worker and a quick learner, which Brian appreciated. Without a nurse on hand, Garringer was actually a pretty apt substitute, seeming to know more than the average lay person should. There was probably something to that, and given the ambiguous line of work he was in, maybe it came with the territory, but Brian wasn’t exactly about to ask.

While many of these traits were not in Garringer’s favor, his ability to work in silence actually suited Brian just fine. The man was still too tense and more than a little abrasive, but he was perfectly content to work without commentary, and he asked Brian no unnecessary questions. Brian was thankful for that much.

Well, as thankful as he could be to the man who kidnapped him.

Still, the further along in this they got, the more Brian saw fear behind the anger. It hadn’t just been psychotic tendencies that had pushed the man to kidnap him; it had been honest fear that something might happen to Graham. Not everyone expressed fear the same way. Brian had seen patients curl up and cry; he’d seen some worry themselves into an early grave. He’d seen some laugh like nothing had happened and some come alive with so much vitality that the fear seemed positively surreal.

And now, he’d apparently seen fear channeled into rage. It wasn’t exactly a method Brian would recommend, but it had been effective so far.

Together, they’d set up the IV, starting a saline drip to try to replenish Graham’s loss of fluids. Not that he was unresponsive, Brian had been unable to get the man to drink, and if they wanted to stave off any worse kidney damage, they needed to keep his fluids up.

The AED was there for emergency purposes, but hooking up the electrodes also gave Brian a way to check Graham’s heart rate and blood pressure -- neither of which were good. With the thermometer, he was able to quantify Graham’s fever, though he kept the number to himself. It was high enough to be a problem; sometimes the numbers were not in the patient’s best interests.

And given that Garringer expressed fear through physical violence, Brian figured a little discretion might benefit all of them.

With all that, Garringer still looked like he was ready to snap. After helping Brian with his every request, he’d settled himself against the wall at the foot of Graham’s bed, head turned toward the other man, staring almost unblinkingly at his prone form.

Brian sat next to the bed, checking his watched and checking Graham in equal turns. The silence was uncomfortable and tense, and Brian felt himself going more than a little stir crazy between Graham’s bouts with the fever, each one leaving him more spent than the last.

“How long will this last?” Garringer demanded.

Brian took a deep breath, shrugging. “The toxic phase may last a few days in bad cases.”

“And this is a bad case,” Garringer concluded.

Brian made a face. “It’s hard to say.”

“No, it’s not,” Garringer replied. “He’s got a bad case. I may not be a doctor, but your fancy medical school training isn’t worth much if you can’t make a simple diagnosis that anyone off the street can see.”

Brian’s face flushed. “Okay, yeah,” he said. “It’s a bad case.”

Garringer took the news with a drawn face and a sullen nod, eyes still fixed on Graham. “You said fifty percent, right?”

Brian’s stomach churned. “The odds are different--”

Garringer looked at him, eyes flashing and face hard.

Brian cut off, sighing. “Yeah,” he said. “Fifty percent in the worst cases.”

Nodding, Garringer looked at Graham again. “He’s good at beating the odds,” he said. “We’ve got that in our favor, anyway. He’s too much of an annoying son of a bitch to actually die.”

Brian’s gaze drifted to Graham. Normally, such sentimentality was easy to write off, but in Graham’s case, he wondered if Garringer had a point.

Not that Brian even knew what the point was. He didn’t know who these men were. Garringer had been shot through the hand, and they’d blown out of the hospital before billing even had a chance to go through. Then Garringer had kidnapped him to treat a case of yellow fever, citing angry terrorists as a reason to stay away. Not that Brian liked angry terrorists as a general rule, but what did that really mean?

What did any of this really mean?

Normally, Brian wouldn’t care. But normally, Brian would be at the hospital, going through his rounds and letting the nurses make the small talk. If this was personal, then it was personal, and at the very least, Garringer wouldn’t kill him while Graham was still suffering.

So Brian decided to try his luck. He hadn’t made it this far in his career by being timid, and he’d been cowed enough in this experience.

Gathering a breath, he blurted his conclusion. “You’re not security contractors.”

Brian wasn’t sure what he’d expected. Surprise, denial, outrage: something. The banal look of indifference was certainly not among them.

“You think?” Garringer asked dryly.

Brian furrowed his brow, feeling somewhat vexed by the nonchalance. “I do,” he said, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants. “So I want to know who you are.”

He hadn’t actually quite meant to say it like that, almost a demand, but there it was. He wanted to know.

Garringer lifted his eyebrows critically. “What makes you think I have any interest in telling you.”

With another steadying breath, Brian held his ground. “You kidnapped me out of a parking garage and are making me stay here to treat him. I have a right to know.”

“I was gone for over an hour,” Garringer pointed out. “If you wanted to leave, you could have.”

Brian shook his head, refusing to accept that. “I want to know who you are and why I’m here and not treating you back at the hospital.”

Garringer looked annoyed now. “I told you--”

“No, you didn’t,” he said. “You just said you were the good guys.”

“You need more detail than that?” Garringer asked. “This area has been terrorized -- literally. We’re helping make that go away -- at least a little bit. The details don’t matter. At least, not to you.”

Brian swallowed painfully around the lump in his throat. His resolve faltered, and he looked over at Graham again. “The details might matter to him, though,” he said, nodding toward the recumbent Scotsman. He looked back at Garringer, garnering his courage. “You already know he’s not doing well. He needs a hospital.”

Garringer’s face darkened. “We’ve been over this--”

“Yeah, we have,” Brian interjected more forcefully now. “We’ve been over how he might have a fifty-fifty chance at best. I’m doing what I can. But it may not be enough.”

The muscles twitched in Garringer’s jaw. “And a hospital is going to change that? You said it yourself, there is no cure.”

It was a risky game, using the life of a patient as a bargaining chip. It was, however, the only leverage Brian had -- both for the patient, and for himself. He nodded steadily. “It might,” he said, unwavering now. “Look, right now he’s probably suffering from partial and liver failure. See his color? It’s yellow, which is a sign that it’s already affecting his liver. And for the entire time I’ve been here, he hasn’t produced any urine that we’ve seen.”

Garringer’s expression went dangerously still.

Brian took another breath and pushed on. “If it gets much worse, he’ll be in actual kidney failure. That’ll kill him, but we can delay the effect at the hospital with dialysis, which can buy him the time he needs to fight off the rest of the infection. If we don’t, if his kidneys fail -- then every other organ group is going to followed, starting with his liver and his lungs and finally his heart. Is that what you want?”

It was harsher than he intended, and under any other circumstances, he wouldn’t resort to outright emotional manipulation. To be fair, though, Garringer had choked him out and thrown him bound into a car. So a little emotionally manipulation wasn’t so bad.

Especially since Brian was right.

Garringer was so stiff, it looked like he might break. “Is he in kidney failure now?” he asked, slowly and purposefully.

At that, Brian faltered, looking over at Graham again. He was still comatose, face flushed and tinged with yellow even as sweat soaked his brow, leaving his hair matted on his head. “I’d have to run some blood work--”

“Best guess,” Garringer said.

“No,” Brian answered. He could manipulate, but he couldn’t lie. Not about that. “Not yet. But I don’t know how long he has.”

“Well, if we need to make that decision, we will,” Garringer told him. “But only when it’s necessary.”

“Oh, it’s we now?” Brian asked cuttingly. “Or do you mean you? You’ve already kept me here against my will -- and now you’ll keep him here, too?”

That one hit -- probably a little below the belt. Garringer’s eyes flashed, and there was a moment of pure rage, stronger than anything Brian had ever seen before in his life. “Do not think for a moment that this was my choice,” he said, the words almost dripping with venom, each so carefully pronounced that they were practically daggers. He gestured toward Graham. “I chose nothing about this.

“Except to keep him here,” Brian said, almost pleading now. “We can change that.”

“In your mind, we can. In your mind, this is very simple. Sickness, cure. Problem, solution,” Garringer said. “But in our world, it’s not that simple. I have to make my choices; Graham has made his choices. We’ve made them to the best of our ability even when they are not in our own personal interest. If it was easy to take him to a hospital, I would. The fact is, it’s not. That’s why you’re here. That’s why I’m putting every hope Graham has on you.”

The weight of that almost made Brian flinch. “When you were shot, he brought you in,” he said. “Graham made sure you had the best care possible.”

“I know,” Garringer snarled. “Life isn’t fair like that. We still make our stands on the things that matter.”

“Even if it costs Graham his life?”

“Especially then,” Garringer snapped. “I don’t intend on discussing this any more than I have. The fact that I’ve let you continue this conversation is because I need you conscious in order to treat him. Just know that these are decisions I’ve made. I did not make them lightly, but they are still decisions I have to stand by. No matter what.”

No matter what. It was that simple.

Except it wasn’t simple at all.

Because Brian still didn’t know who the hell these men were or if he could do anything to stop a severe case of yellow fever without real medical support. He didn’t know if Garringer would kill him if this went wrong; he didn’t know if these guys were actually good or not. He didn’t know if anyone had reported him missing, if the hospital was still overrun.

He didn’t know if Graham would survive the night.

Brian didn’t know.

But with Garringer staring him down, and Graham limp on the bed, he would probably have to find out. Garringer was all about choices. The problem was, that Brian didn’t have any.

“I think you’re making a mistake,” Brian said finally, his voice sounded quiet and hoarse.

“Noted,” Garringer said. “Now tell me, how’s he doing?”

-o-

Graham was not doing well. At the latest check, his fever was even higher, and within another hour, he was fighting another episode of chills. The tremors were severe, but not quite another seizure, and they seemed to rouse Graham somewhat out of his comatose state.

This wasn’t exactly good news, though. Sure, it was a positive sign that the infection hadn’t affected his systems so badly as to warrant a total shutdown of his body, but with semi-consciousness came a painful restlessness. Even if Graham might not remember, it wasn’t easy on Garringer.

Garringer didn’t waver, though. He sat next to Graham, changing the washcloth and holding a bucket to catch the black bile that dripped from Graham’s lips. He blotted away the blood from his nose, neatly cleaning the bloodstained tracks of tears from his face.

Graham cried out; he pleaded and he begged.

And Garringer stood firm.

It was a decision he’d made. There was a cause worth fighting for -- a cause worth Graham’s life. He might be prone to thinking that Garringer was just a heartless son of a bitch, but the steadfast gentleness by Graham’s side told another story.

It had to be some cause. Brian had never believed in anything strong enough to die for.

But then, Brian had never believed in much of anything at all.

-o-

Brian had worked more than his share of double shifts -- hell, since coming to Africa, he’d occasionally worked for three or four shifts, stealing quick naps in an on-call room just to get through. He’d been on his way home when he’d been snatched from the parking garage, so he knew that he was reasonably tired, but he’d never fallen asleep on the job before.

Of course, at the hospital, there was always something to do. A patient to see, a chart to check. Here, all he could do was monitor Graham’s vitals and warily watch as Garringer paced the confines of the small space. He changed the IV, checked for urine output, helped clean up during the active phases of the fever, but beyond that...

Well, it was the first time in Brian’s life that he’d actually been bored as a doctor.

Bored wasn’t quite the right term. He couldn’t be bored, in the sense that Graham’s life was in his hands -- and could very well impact how Brian fared when this whole thing was over. Keeping Graham alive was a pressing, overwhelming need.

Yet, despite all of his fiddling, there really wasn’t much he could do.

So when Graham lapsed back into sleep after a bout of chills and nausea, Brian couldn’t help it if he did, too.

He’d thought it’d be just for a moment, propped up in the chair, head balanced on his hand as he slumped to the side. Just a moment...

In his mind, he dreamed about his residency, about his favorite attending who used to pick him for the best procedures. She taught him a lot, taking extra time with him, and when he asked why, she just grinned. “It could be because you’re the best damn doctor I’ve seen come through here in terms of talent and know-how. But really, that’s just half the story.”

Brian cocked his head, confused.

“Right now we’re throwing spaghetti at the wall with you,” she told him. “I’m just waiting to see what sticks. What makes you tick, son. Do you love the human bowel? Do you have a passion for the heart? Maybe your steady hands belong up in the brain? You’re going to need a specialty. Something to call your own. Someday you have to decide.”

-o-

Brian woke with a start.

The vividness of the dream was unsettling, but more unsettling was Garringer, looming above him.

Brian blinked up, craning his head and shrinking away, fearing the worst.

But then Garringer held out his hands.

Brian squinted at it, still getting his bearings.

He wrinkled his nose. “What’s that?”

“It’s soup,” Garringer said, still holding the steaming bowl out to Brian.. “I realize it’s tasteless and still has a higher salt content than should be legal to sell, but it’s all we have.”

It was a little surreal, in all honesty. Being abducted and threatened...and then fed soup. But Brian’s stomach grumbled, and he realized that he didn’t even remember when he’d last eaten. Meagerly, he reached out and took the bowl.

Garringer moved away, heading back to Graham’s bedside. Brian scooped a spoonful into his mouth, wincing at the heat, and glanced over to Graham.

“There’s been no change,” Garringer reported, settling down next to Graham. He dutifully removed the washcloth, wetting it in the water bucket next to the bed and wringing it out before he placed it back on Graham’s forehead. “I figure we have another hour or so before we have another episode, if the previous pattern is anything to go by.”

Brian took another bite, giving Graham a cursory look. His complexion was even more yellow -- evidence that the medication wasn’t have much effect -- and he was starting to look gaunt. The planes of his face were stark and overly defined, mouth open as he started to noticeably wheeze for air. “Has there been any urine output?” he asked, lifting his head a little to look.

Garringer shook his head curtly, making no audible reply.

Brian’s stomach flipped. They’d been here too long and he’d already had a bag of saline -- there should have been something by now. If he was in kidney failure...

Garringer refused to look at him, steading preoccupying himself with Graham. He shifted the blankets, hiking them higher and settling them neatly over the length of Graham’s lanky form. The small movement seemed to rouse Graham, who stirred, his head tossing and eyes fluttering as he whimpered weakly.

Without hesitation, Garringer moved closer, adjusting the cloth on Graham’s head, even as the other man started tossing fretfully. The low litany of moans from the Scotsman was hard to make out at first, but then he seemed to be seized with pain, crying out loudly and breaking with a sob.

“Casey...,” he said, almost begging the word. “The mission, Casey. We can’t leave them without backup. Casey, please. Please don’t leave them...don’t leave, Casey--”

Garringer’s face was sheet white, but he didn’t hesitate, reaching out his hand and settling it on Graham’s face. “Hey,” he said. “I already told you. No one’s leaving anyone, okay?”

Graham sobbed again, eyes open but unseeing and he writhed.

But Garringer did not move. He kept his hand steady until Graham somehow met his gaze. “No one’s leaving,” he said again, the words clear and unyielding. “Including you.”

There was a brief moment of understanding, even in Graham’s fever-strained eyes. It was unspoken, but the message had been delivered; a promise had been made.

The stand had been taken.

By both of them.

And suddenly this wasn’t just Garringer’s idea. It was Graham’s, too. This was the bond that Brian had never understood in the hospital, not just friendship or even brothers-in-arms. The kind of bond forged only by joint purpose, by life and death.

By death.

It hadn’t been Garringer’s idea to stay out this far; it had probably been Graham’s. They’d made the choice together, though. And they were ever resolute. Garringer would kidnap and steal and possibly condemn his friend to death -- because he had something that he believed in.

Something to call your own. Someday you have to decide.

Graham had, and Garringer had had no choice but to agree.

And Brian hadn’t.

That had never bothered him before.

For the first time, he thought maybe it should.

-o-

Sometimes medicine was dramatic. Sometimes it was saving a life on the table, pulling someone back from the brink, literally holding their heart in your hands.

Sometimes it was just a slow and steady fight that Brian had no control over at all.

Sure, he did what he could. He changed Graham’s IVs, administered what little meds he had. He checked his vitals, rolled him on his side periodically, and made sure he didn’t aspirate when he no longer roused to vomit. They stripped the bed to keep him cold, sponging him off with damp rags in a last ditch effort to keep the fever from literally frying his brain.

It was a chaotic fight, punctuated with terrifying moments of stillness when Graham was so ashen and still that Brian was sure they’d lost it all together. But when night gave way to morning, they were still fighting, and when Brian hung the third round of saline in the midday, Graham woke up.

He’d opened his eyes on and off throughout the night, but this time, his gaze was lucid, if exhausted. Brian scrambled next to him, reaching out to feel for his fever, but Graham wasn’t looking at him.

His eyes were fixed over Brian’s shoulder at Garringer.

“Hey,” Garringer said, sounded guarded and rueful. “Are you done throwing up? It’s starting to reek in here.”

Graham smiled lazily. “You didn’t leave.”

“And neither did you,” was Garringer’s simple reply.

Feeling out of place, Brian fussed with the IV, adjusting the blankets when he saw the wet spot. It was awkward, maybe, to see a grown man wetting the bed, but Brian knew what it meant.

It meant that Graham’s kidneys were functioning. It meant that the fever had probably broken, that the virus was past its peak.

It meant that Graham was getting better.

And somehow, Brian thought, it might mean a lot more than that -- even if he wasn’t sure what.

-o-

The downward descent had been fast and terrifying, even for a trained medical professional. The recovery, however, was slow and hard won.

And very, very awkward.

Graham continued to wake more often, each time staying awake longer and being more coherent. Garrigner managed to get him to eat and drink, and after several hours they’d helped Graham to the bathroom to change and clean up. Brian fumbled with the sheets on the bed -- these were tasks that he’d never had to do -- and by the time Garringer half-carried Graham back to the bed, Brian was convinced he’d taken his support system for granted at the hospital.

By evening, the fever was almost low grade again, and Graham’s skin had lost its yellowish hue. He was still pale, but starting to sit up and joking hoarsely as Garringer putzed around the room playing housemaid before dozing off mid-story back into an easy sleep.

This was all good. Things were well on their way to being better.

Which meant...

Well, Brian wasn’t sure what it meant. He’d been taken against his will, thrown into the back of a car and driven to the middle of nowhere. He’d been ordered to treat a patient, and now that he had, he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He could leave, probably, but he wasn’t sure where he was or which way to go. He could ask for a ride, but somehow he didn’t think that Garringer was in any mood to start gallivanting around now that Graham was awake enough to know.

The most reasonable thing, of course, would be to take Graham to a hospital anyway and see if there was any lingering damage and to ensure that he was really on his way to recovery.

Though, even though Garringer had proved himself not to be entirely heartless, he was still mostly a psychopath, so Brian knew better than to actually make such a common sense suggestion.

Instead, he decided that the direct approach would be best.

After making sure that Graham was sleeping peacefully, he went over to the kitchen where Garringer was fastidiously cleaning the dishes from their latest round of soup.

“So,” Brian said, swallowing hard and bolstering his resolve. “He’s going to be okay.”

“Thank you for your expert medical opinion,” Garringer said snidely.

Brian sighed. “What I mean to say is that you don’t need me here anymore.”

Garringer paused, glancing back at Brian. “He was dying no more than six hours ago.”

“I know,” Brian said. “But by all accounts, he’s turned the corner. If you let me go, I can go back to the hospital with the sample of his blood I took and run it through the lab. Then we can make sure his kidneys and liver haven’t suffered any permanent damage.”

It was a very reasonable request; plus, by framing it that way, this was less about Brian, more about Graham, which Garringer had proven mattered to him significantly.

Garringer’s lips quirked into a wry smile. “And I’m supposed to believe that you’ll just come back out of the goodness of your heart?”

“On my honor,” Brian pledged.

“You’re a doctor working under the pretense of humanitarian principles when it’s quite obvious you hate it here,” Garringer replied. “I’m not sure your honor is really all that appealing.”

“Hey, I saved his life, didn’t I?” Brian asked defensively.

Garringer raised his eyebrows.

“You said it yourself,” Brian said, “if I had wanted to go, I would have.”

“And so if you come back,” Garringer said, eyeing him carefully. “I can trust you’d come back alone? I did kidnap you, after all.”

That was a point, maybe one he hadn’t quite let himself think about. He’d been so focused on getting out, that the idea of what to do next had been a little vague for him. That was often how he was: so focused on the immediately problem that he failed to see the full effect of the long term complications. Really, that was how he’d ended up in Africa in the first place.

And for all his thoughts of revenge and justice, it did seem like sort of a moot point now. Besides, he became keenly aware of the possibility that Graham’s death wouldn’t be the only thing that might threaten his own life. Just by being here was suspect.

After all, if they weren’t security contractors, Brian still didn’t know who they were or who they worked for. They said they were the good guys, but they lied and snuck out on hospital bills and kidnapped doctors. Brian could very well know too much -- he could be a loose end.

His stomach roiled, and he shook his head. “I promise,” he said. “I’ll come back. Just me and the results and enough medicine to make sure he recovers.”

Brian had a certain earnestness about him. It made him good in job interviews and better with patients. People wanted to believe him, even when he was lying or making everything up.

Garringer, however, did not seem impressed.

Finally, he shook his head with a sigh. “Fine,” he said.

Brian blinked, surprised. He had expected a bit more of an argument. “Fine?”

“Fine,” Garringer said again, going back to his cleaning.

Brian found himself unable to move.

Garringer glanced at him again. “Unless you’d rather stay...”

Brian startled into action. “No, that’s okay,” he said. Then he hesitated. “But, um, how--”

“Keys are by the door,” Garringer said, putting a clean bowl on the counter. “Just take the road due south and you’ll run into a main road sooner than later.”

Garringer picked up a glass and started scrubbing it in the sudsy water. He wasn’t going to stop Brian. It could be a trap...

But it was also a way out.

Brian didn’t intend to cower and beg, and he’d stayed and done what he had to do. Now he had every right to leave. He would leave.

And he didn’t want to look back.

-o-

It took all his self control to walk to the door. His fingers were numb when he grabbed the keys, and he was barely able to open the door without shaking. Outside, it was dark, the sky twinkling with stars. When the door closed behind him, he broke into a run.

He was fumbling over the dirt, heart pounding violently by the time he reached the car. It wasn’t locked, but he still grappled uselessly with the handle for a moment, before it swung open and he clambered inside. Sweat slicked his fingers as he shoved the keys in the ignition, muttering to himself, “Come on, come on, come on.”

When they slid in, he turned it hard and the engine roared to life with such force that Brian yelped in relief. Without hesitation, he pushed down on the brake and slammed the car into gear, jerkily turning the vehicle down the dirt road and away from the house.

Away from Graham, recovering from yellow fever. Away from Garringer, and his messed up way of helping a friend.

Just away.

Some choices had to be made, and this was one Brian was making unequivocally. He’d stayed when he had to, but now that the patient was recovering, now that it was safe...

He was pushing 90 by the time he got to a main road, and he had to swerve so hard that he nearly skidded clear off the pavement. He jarred, smacking his head against the window while the world rocked precariously. When his vision cleared, he found that he was on the side of the highway, engine idling, pointing south.

Pointing toward home.

Or the closest thing he had.

It’d been a day. Twenty-four hours. He’d thought he was going to die more than once, he’d thought Graham was going to die most of the time. He hadn’t known what Garringer was going to do -- and he hadn’t wanted to find out.

He hadn’t wanted any of this. He hadn’t wanted to stay there, he hadn’t wanted to watch as Graham struggled against the fever, the delirium, the weakness. He hadn’t wanted to watch helplessly, unable to do anything. He hadn’t wanted to be taken by force from the parking garage and forced to help someone he would have willingly aided in the hospital anyway.

He didn’t even want to be here, in Africa. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he really wanted to be a doctor. These things had just happened because life had worked out that way. He wasn’t sure what made him happy.

Something to call your own. Someday you have to decide.

Someday, before it was too late. Someday, before his entire life was gone and he was still a doctor in Africa, getting abducted out of parking garages because he hadn’t realized that the next challenges wasn’t always what he wanted.

What he needed.

Right now, on the side of the road, head throbbing and heart pounding, Brian was suddenly sure of just one thing: he wanted to go home.

The sob that shook him was unexpected, and he nearly choked on it. The next was ripped out of him with such force that it hurt.

By the third, he gave in and dropped his head forward on the steering wheel and cried.

-o-

He wasn’t sure how long he sat on the side of the road, crying like a baby, but when he was done, he felt weak and spent. Sniffling, he put the car into gear again, easing it back on the road and down the highway. It didn’t take long until the roads were ones he recognized, and by the time he got back to the city, it was just after midnight.

Exhausted as he was, Brian knew that going back to his apartment wasn’t really the answer. He wanted to go home, but the sparse one room dirthole was hardly anything resembling an actual getaway. He spent most of his time at the hospital as it was.

As he turned onto the main drag through town, he thought about going to the police again. Swamped and questionably corrupt as they were, they were still the best people to report a kidnapping to. Either that, or he could try the American consulate. They were supposed to take care of people in times of need.

He ended up at the hospital anyway. It was a little like autopilot, he figured, and he was too exhausted to resist his body’s natural inclinations. He still had Graham’s blood, after all, and without refrigeration it would only be a viable sample a little longer. Even if Brian did go to the police, it would only be right to make sure Graham really was going to be okay.

This time, he parked on the street, leaving the keys in Garringer’s car and going in the main entrance. He found it overcrowded, which was a bit unexpected for the time of night, and he was badly frisked by the night security guard who had apparently never bothered to learn who the actual doctors on staff were.

Then again, as he made his way through the ER, maybe the extra caution was warranted. Things had been bad when he left, but it was positively overrun now. Almost all the beds were full, and people had been forced to pair up in the curtains. The waiting room was overflowing, and police and military guards were rampant, with patients handcuffed to their beds.

As he crossed the desk, he nearly ran into Dr. Erbe, one of the few people on staff who could actually speak English.

“Dr. Doyle!” he said. “I did not think you were going to show tonight!”

Brian frowned. “I, um--”

“Your shift started thirty minutes ago,” Erbe said. He leaned forward, his eyes twinkling. “Do not worry. I covered for you. You can still make up the time on rounds.”

Brian’s mouth opened, ready to protest, ready to explain. Ready to tell Erbe that he hadn’t been here because he’d been kidnapped, that he wasn’t late, that he was just barely escaped. That he could have died, and that the last thing on his mind was rounds.

But then, he closed his mouth. No one had even missed him. If it had been him, suffering from yellow fever or nursing a gunshot wound, no one would have been there to take him in or to kidnap a doctor. No one would have known at all.

Graham was too talkative; Garringer was insane. But they were committed to each other -- and whatever cause they were involved in. Brian liked to think he was the better person -- what with not kidnapping people and holding them against their will -- but suddenly, he wasn’t so sure.

He wasn’t sure about anything.

No one had even missed him. Brian had feared for his life, and no one had even thought twice.

It was something of a gut punch.

Shoulders slumping, he smiled weakly. “Thanks,” he said. “I just, um. Got tied up with a patient.” He lifted the vial of blood out of his pocket. “Need to make a trip to the lab.”

Erbe grinned at him, slapping him on the shoulder. “Always a good worker!” he said jovially. “Dr. Doyle is a good man!”

Erbe was ready to move on, edging past Brian but Brian turned to stop him. “Hey,” he said.

Erbe turned.

Brian pursed his lips, nodding around. “What’s with...this?”

“Ah,” Erbe said, coming back, even closer than before. “This is a very, very good thing.”

Brian lifted his eyebrows. Mass casualties and swamped ER were rarely good.

“Most of these are from the cell,” he said, voice hushed. “Most of them are being arrested and processed, charges so secure that not even government bribing can spare them from the effects.”

Brian shook his head, a little confused. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Erbe said. “The cell has been...how do you say? Taken apart. Whoever is left, they will have to start from scratch. No more violence. No more fear. Tonight is a very, very good night.”

The cell had been taken apart. Brian huffed a laugh. “Do they know who did it?”

“No,” Erbe said. “And I suspect we never will. But they are heroes, each and every one. They have spared us much trouble. They have spared us much pain. Heroes.”

This time, when Erbe walked away, Brian had nothing to keep him. Heroes, he thought, thinking of Graham and Garringer. The good guys, they said. If they had been involved in this, then it probably made sense why Graham couldn’t come in. With this many casualties, every terrorist in the city had been injured or arrested.

Heroes.

Brian looked at the vial again.

Garringer and Graham had clearly followed through. Maybe now it was Brian’s turn.

-o-

After turning in Graham’s bloodwork, Brian somehow finished his rounds. Though they were overcrowded, there were few emergent cases, and with the abundance of law enforcement, there wasn’t really much to do.

So Brian slept.

Hard.

The minute he laid down in the on-call room, he was out, a deep and dreamless sleep, so thick and cloying that he might as well fallen into a blackhole--

Until the light was switched on.

Brian jerked, sucking in hard. He grimaced, swallowing with effort and looking bleary-eyed at the door.

“Labs,” the nurse said, short and to the point, holding out the clipboard.

Brian blinked, clearing his head. Labs. What labs...

He shook his head, getting groggily to his feet. “Thanks,” he said, taking the clipboard as the nurse turned promptly away.

Brian had to squint as he looked down. It took him a few moments to process the numbers. Signs of anemia, decreased but rebounding kidney function. Liver enzymes were low but acceptable, but the patient was otherwise seeming to recover.

The patient.

Graham.

With that memory, Brian finally came to full awareness, looking over the lab results again. Graham was going to be fine.

Sitting there, barely awake in the on-call room, Brian thought that made at least one of them.

-o-

He worked the rest of the day. On and off, he considered going to the police -- there were enough of them on hand -- but he never quite found the words. He could probably provide a solid lead on both Garringer and Graham -- he had Graham’s blood and if Garringer’s car was still outside, there were bound to be prints.

But the longer Brian went, the less point he saw in it. Who would believe him anyway? He was unharmed and free -- Garringer had choked him out but otherwise not laid a hand on him. It could be some form of aggravated assault, but with everything that was going on, the police had bigger problems.

Everyone had bigger problems.

Everyone had bigger causes.

Everyone seemed to be fighting for something. It could be love or family, money or fame. It could be the right thing, it could be world peace. It could be curing cancer or feeding the hungry. It could even be friendship and the good of the people closest to them.

Brian had spent his life fighting...just to win. He didn’t care what, he just wanted to be first. He’d thought that made him a better person, or a better doctor at least, but now he wasn’t so sure.

He didn’t go around kidnapping people out of parking garages, but what did he do? Half-ass his job and wish like hell of the next challenge? He didn’t agree with Garringer, but maybe his cause was worth it. If it had stopped a reign of terror, then it had to be worth it. If it was worth Graham’s life...

Some causes were worth it. Garringer stood for something. Graham stood for something.

Brian didn’t.

The realization was cold, that maybe even though he was the doctor in Africa, serving the greater good and helping humanity, maybe he was the lesser man.

Maybe he had every right to tell the police, but that wasn’t a cause worth fighting for. Brian could fight this one to win...

Or he could fight to do the right thing.

Seemed like there was maybe a first for everything.

-o-

By the end of Brian’s shift, he was more than a little rundown. He couldn’t actually remember when he’d last been home -- in fact, he wasn’t sure what day it was anymore. Really, though, he found it didn’t matter. Patients came; patients went. They worked steadily through the injured terrorists in the unit, discharging most of them into police custody. Some of the heavy hitters were taken directly by the military, and there were a suspicious number of men in suits stopping by that seemed to take over charts and paperwork without so much as a word.

Brian might have balked before, but he didn’t see much point now. It wasn’t that the ends always justified the means, but Brian was willing to accept that there were things he didn’t know -- and sometimes that was for the best.

The fact was, he had other things on his mind. True, he longed for a deep 12-hour sleep, but that could come later.

First, he had a house call to make.

-o-

For a while, Brian wasn’t sure he was actually going the right way. The first time he’d been on this route, he’d been trussed up in the back of a car. The second time, he’d been half-hysterical, too shell shocked and desperate to look for landmarks.

Still, he was fairly certain he was going the right way, and when he came to the turn, it still felt right. As he worked his way up the dirt path, seeing the building in front of him, it was all familiar.

Stopping the car, he put it in park and looked up through the windshield. The first time he’d been here, he’d thought he was going to die. When he’d left, he’d had no real intention of coming back -- ever.

But, here he was.

Something to call his own.

Sighing, he pulled out the keys and reached for the stack of files next to him. With a steadying breath, he opened the door and stepped out.

It was almost twilight, so there was enough light to see, even as the darkness approached. He crossed the dirt yard after several paces, and at the door, he hesitated. He could still run. He could still go.

But he wasn’t going to.

Resolved, he knocked.

For a long moment, there was no reply. Glancing around, Brian realized that without a car, there should have been no way for Graham and Garringer to go anywhere. Although, given what Graham had said about backup, given the number of terrorists back at the hospital, Brian figured it was likely that they hadn’t been the only people around.

Which meant they were probably gone. Whisked off to do whatever it was they did. That was probably why Garringer had let him go in the first place -- because he’d wanted Brian gone as much as Brian wanted to be gone. If Garringer had been worried at all about leaving Brian as a loose end, he never would have let him go in the first place.

Brian looked down at the files in his hand with a sigh.

He shouldn’t have come. He didn’t know what he had expected, but it seemed silly now. To come all this way, to offer two strangers so little...

Then, the door opened.

Hopeful, Brian looked up, expecting to see Garringer’s dour expression or even Graham’s grinning face.

But it was neither.

It was a man, older than him. Plain face and brown hair. He regarded Brian skeptically. “Can I help you?”

Brian stopped and found himself faltering. “I, um. I was looking for two guys.”

The man looked unimpressed. “That’s pretty vague.”

Brian’s cheeks flushed. “They were here yesterday,” he clarified. “I helped them out a little. One of them was sick.”

The man seemed to be studying him, scrutinizing him carefully. “They left,” he said finally, his expression inscrutable.

Brian felt his heart sag. It was irrational, but he was disappointed. “Oh,” he said. “I just had their...paperwork.” He looked at the file in his hand. He’d grabbed everything -- even from Garringer’s first visit. If they had wanted to be off the record, Brian could make that happen. It was against hospital policy, but...

But it didn’t matter anyway.

“If you want to leave it with me, I’ll make sure they get it,” the man said suddenly.

Brian looked at him, skeptical.

The man shrugged. “Graham wanted to stay, but Garringer was going to murder him if they had to stay here any longer,” he said. “You know how they are.”

Brian did -- he didn’t know them, but he still knew that.

“They wanted to say thank you,” the man continued, more carefully now. “And that goes from me, too. Graham and Garringer -- they’re good men. You did a good thing.”

Brian found himself laughing. “Did I?”

“Yeah,” the man said without missing a beat. “You did.” He hesitated. “I’m sure you have questions, and if I could tell you--”

Brian shook his head. It was funny. He did have questions. About who they were, about what they were doing here.

But those were the questions that didn’t matter.

Not when Brian had so many questions to answer about himself.

“Nah,” he said, stepping forward and holding out the files. The man took them, a little gratefully. Brian shrugged. “Seems like you guys know what you’re doing.”

And now it was time for Brian to figure out the same.

-o-

Brian went back to work. This wasn’t exactly the life he’d chosen, but he was starting to think it wasn’t so bad. There were good people; he was doing good things. It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the most exciting, but it was something.

He started to make friends; he started to write home more often. And when a volunteer was needed to run a clinic out in one of the rural regions, this time Brian volunteered.

Dr. Erbe pulled him aside, fully surprised. “That is not like you, Dr. Doyle,” he said, almost concerned.

Brian found himself smiling. “Well,” he said, shrugging. “People can surprise you.”

People like Graham, who knew how to be serious when it counted. People like Garringer, who knew how to be gentle even after committing felonies.

People like Brian, who’d spent his life fighting to win -- and now wanted to fight for something that mattered.

Maybe helping the poor in Africa wasn’t it. In fact, it seemed entirely possible that it wasn’t. But, for now, it seemed like a hell of a good place to start.

Comments

Posted by: fara (farad)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
Vin profile - sharp

This is lovely - very very lovely. Third person POVS are often my favorite and this does a brilliant job of giving is Casey and Billy at their most in-character best! Well done (I love love love Casey in this!)

Thanks for sharing and for all the work that went into this. Brian is nicely fleshed out as well, which can often be difficult with an OC in a fanfic setting.

More? *g*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 14th, 2013 12:44 pm (UTC)
billy likes

Wow, I randomly don't do all my replies to reviews. I am lame.

But I'm glad you liked this! It was a fun challenge to do a fic from a third person POV, so I'm glad I pulled it off :) And I'm also relieved that Brian is interesting enough -- it's a tricky balance developing an OC enough to make them engaging without detracting too much from the rest of the fic.

LOL, more. I suppose I'm always open to suggestions...

(Also, how is the VS going for you? We have no set pace but I'm curious...)

Thanks!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: January 6th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)

You truly have a gift of giving Billy a lovely economy of words when you're putting him through the wringer and I love that all that's on his delirious mind is the safety of everyone else but himself. And the thread that weaves through the ODS, you never leave a man behind, you finish the mission. Yet another bromantic victory.


Fave parts:

Brian sighed, watching Graham as he slept. Just a week ago, he’d been fine. Awake and alive, talking and cracking jokes. He’d surprised Brian with his concern, and even in his delirium, he’d only talked about other people -- about the mission.

--So Billy!

Nodding, Garringer looked at Graham again. “He’s good at beating the odds,” he said. “We’ve got that in our favor, anyway. He’s too much of an annoying son of a bitch to actually die.”

Brian’s gaze drifted to Graham. Normally, such sentimentality was easy to write off, but in Graham’s case, he wondered if Garringer had a point.

--*sigh!

Graham cried out; he pleaded and he begged.

And Garringer stood firm.

It was a decision he’d made. There was a cause worth fighting for -- a cause worth Graham’s life. He might be prone to thinking that Garringer was just a heartless son of a bitch, but the steadfast gentleness by Graham’s side told another story.

It had to be some cause. Brian had never believed in anything strong enough to die for.

But then, Brian had never believed in much of anything at all.

--wow...so loved this Casey moment. Sob! Such heartbreaking devotion! This was BEAUTIFUL!


“Hey,” Garringer said, sounded guarded and rueful. “Are you done throwing up? It’s starting to reek in here.”

Graham smiled lazily. “You didn’t leave.”

“And neither did you,” was Garringer’s simple reply.

--so much meaning!! Bromance extraordinaire!

But then, he closed his mouth. No one had even missed him. If it had been him, suffering from yellow fever or nursing a gunshot wound, no one would have been there to take him in or to kidnap a doctor. No one would have known at all.

Graham was too talkative; Garringer was insane. But they were committed to each other -- and whatever cause they were involved in. Brian liked to think he was the better person -- what with not kidnapping people and holding them against their will -- but suddenly, he wasn’t so sure.

He wasn’t sure about anything.

No one had even missed him. Brian had feared for his life, and no one had even thought twice.

It was something of a gut punch.

--wonderful!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 14th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
billy knows

Writing delirious!Billy is always a lot of fun -- it can highlight his angst and the martyr complex we've given him in fandom :)

I'm very glad you liked his suffering here!

Thanks!

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