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Chaos fic: Something to Call Your Own (1/2)

January 3rd, 2013 (06:19 am)
dorky

feeling: dorky

Title: Something to Call Your Own

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: I wrote this for lena7142 when she was feeling under the weather. Becuase it always helps when fictional characters feel WAY worse. Beta given by postfallen. This one is kind of different -- an outsider POV :)

Summary: Brian Doyle had never intended to be a doctor in Africa. Then again, Brian Doyle never intended on a lot of things.



-o-

Brian Doyle had never really intended to travel halfway around the world to be a doctor. He’d become a doctor, after all, because it was the only thing challenging enough to be interesting, and his high school physics teacher had pissed him off enough to avoid engineering, which he had deemed the only suitable alternative.

In general, Brian was competitive and smart, and that applied to his studies and every part of his damn life. So when the top hospitals wanted more than top grades, impeccable service, and top notch diagnosis skill, Brian set about improving himself. Community service. Volunteer hours.

And then Brian had ended up in Africa.

Okay, so it hadn’t been quite that simple, but sometimes it seemed that way to him. One day he was filling out more applications, and when one of his attendings suggested an exchange in Africa, he’d been so set on pleasing the woman that he’d just filled it out, too. It probably wasn’t a surprise that he’d been accepted, and everyone had been so damn proud of him, lauding his efforts and his capabilities and everything, that saying no just hadn’t been an option.

With all the excitement and well wishes, he didn’t have time to second guess anything until he was there.

In Africa.

Mosquitoes, lower standards of living, malaria.

Medicine with less means, less pay, less everything.

Brian Doyle had never intended to be a doctor in Africa. Then again, Brian Doyle never intended on a lot of things.

That didn’t mean those weren’t the best things in the end.

-o-

It was a busy day.

That wasn’t saying much; most days were busy. But Brian was especially far behind today, trying to keep up with his paperwork and somehow streamline more patients into x-ray after a group of patients came in from a nasty pile up on the highway. People were crying; people were yelling; people were bleeding. And all Brian could do was basic triage until another OR opened up and x-ray stopped processing patients at the rate of one per decade.

So when a gunshot wound showed up in Curtain Two, Brian hadn’t really been thinking much about it. It hadn’t been flagged by the admit nurse as anything too serious, but Brian knew that may or may not mean anything. Without anything else to do except sit and stare at patients lined up in the queue to get the hell out of the ER, Brian grabbed the chart, turned for the curtain and opened it.

And then blinked.

And then, despite his better professional judgment, stared.

“Well, that’s hardly reassuring,” the man on the bed said in perfect American English. He was sitting upright, legs dangling over the edge. His hand was held aloft, bloody fingers clearly visible even as he held a tattered and stained towel over the palm of his hand.

“I reckon you could take it for a compliment,” another voice chimed in, a Scottish accent plain -- the man at the bedside, tipped back in one of the waiting room chairs, hair dark and spiky, face dusty and jacket smeared slightly with blood. He shrugged. “He is simply overwhelmed by how roguishly handsome you look with such a garish injury.”

The man on the bed snorted.

Brian made a face, shaking his head and walking forward again. He glanced at the chart, trying out the name scrawled across the top. “Mr... Garringer?” he asked, looking up again.

The man’s face darkened with a scowl. “I don’t care if you know my name,” he snapped. “I do care if you can please look at the hole in my hand and tell my idiot friend here that it isn’t serious and that we can go.”

Brian frowned, giving the chart one last look for anything noteworthy -- security contractor, stable vitals, through-and-through in the left hand -- before putting it down and reaching up to unwrap the damaged limb. “Why don’t we just take a look,” he said conversationally, pulling at the bloody bandage.

Garringer relinquished his hand, rolling his eyes. “Gee, another brilliant suggestion,” he muttered. “I’m feeling so much better than you dragged me to a hospital for this.”

Carefully, Brian undid the gauze, squinting to see through the blood. It was a gunshot, through-and-through, right through the middle of the hand. “Well, your friend is right,” he said, rotating the hand just slightly and wincing. “We’ll need to schedule an x-ray to see if you’ve done any damage to the bones and tendons.”

The man in the chair smiled smugly. “Told you.”

“I never said that the doctors wouldn’t try to treat it,” Garringer said crossly. “I simply said it was unnecessary. I’m the one with the hole in my hand. If there was still major damage, would I be able to do this?”

To prove his point, Garringer wiggled his fingers, one by one.

“That is a good sign,” Brian conceded. “But we’ll still want the films to be sure. Better safe than sorry.”

“A very wise motto,” the friend said.

Brian pulled up a tray from the wall, undoing a pack of fresh gauze. He glanced at Garringer’s friend, then back at Garringer. “You two here on business?”

“Would someone come to this place for pleasure?” Garringer asked, face taut as Brian rewrapped his hand.

“Aye, we are on a short assignment in your...distinctive city,” the man said.

Brian nodded vaguely. “Security contractors?” he asked, a little dubious. Brian had little time to be political, but he’d spent enough time here to like the groups of outsiders who came in and caused trouble. The local population had enough to work through without terrorists, security contractors, and politically-motivated groups to come in and try to redirect things. All it caused was fighting; all it caused was death.

All it caused was a mess Brian could never keep up with, overflowing the hospital beds and filling up the morgue with John Does faster than they could bury them.

“Let me guess,” Garringer said. “You don’t approve.”

“I’m just trying to get a sense of what happened here,” Brian said, neatly tying off the bandage and stepping back. “You’ve got a hole in your hand, pal. Someone shot you or you’ve got pretty bad aim.”

At the bedside, the man smirked. “I understand that security contractors do not have the best reputations, but I assure you, our motives are good here,” he said.

Brian eyed him skeptically. “So you want to tell me how your friend got shot?”

The man pursed his lips, drawing a breath. “That...is a bit of an interesting story.”

“No, it’s not,” Garringer interjected. “One of our clients was concerned about a weapons shipment that got knocked off in the region, thought maybe it ended up in the wrong hands. We came, checked it out. We found the shipment; I got shot.”

“Well that is a painfully abridged version,” the friend said. “It was really quite dramatic. And we were making every effort to resolve the conflict with diplomacy and reason.”

“Or just sneaking in and taking the weapons back,” Garringer said.

“The only hiccup was the lone guard we encountered,” the man continued. “A tussle ensued and I am afraid that I ended up in a bit of a pickle. Lucky sod got a leg up on me, and I was quite afraid for my life when my good friend here came in to disarm the man.”

Brian looked at him, a little incredulous. Then he looked at Garringer.

Garringer shrugged. “Okay, that part is mostly true.”

Closing his mouth, Brian furrowed his brow. “Okay, then,” he said. “But, uh, how did you get show in the hand? That’s pretty damn unlikely.”

“Not if you’re disarming a man with you hand,” the friend said enthusiastically.

Brian was confused.

“He reached out and grabbed the gun, barrel first!” he said. “Took it, right in the palm and twisted so the aim was not directed right through my skull.”

“It was a tactical decision and the fastest way to end the conflict,” Garringer said, nonplussed.

“Brilliance and bravery,” the friend chimed in. “A truer hero you will never meet.”

Brian shook his head. “But he shot you.”

Garringer glared at him. “Thank you for your expert medical opinion, doctor.”

“It was an undesirable side effect,” the friend conceded. “But, it by no means, lessens the height of his absolute and unparalleled fight for what is good and right. He saved my life, and willingly sacrificed his hand.”

“I didn’t think he’d have time to pull the trigger,” Garringer said.

Brian pressed his lips together. “Okay,” he said. “We’ll get you into x-ray.” He picked up the chart. “Have you been given anything for the pain?”

Garringer made a face. “This? This is hardly painful.”

“You have a hole. In your hand,” Brian reminded him.

“Yeah, and if you try to give me any of your third-world medication, I will put a hole through your hand, too,” Garringer threatened.

Brian stared.

“He is a mite grumpy, all things considered,” his friend asserted. “But as for now, I think he’ll be fine without.”

“Right,” Brian said slowly. “I’ll, um, be back.” He paused, loitering. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Garringer glared, his bandaged hand still aloft. His friend smiled cheerily. “Never fear!” he said. “We’ll be awaiting your return with great anticipation!”

Brian forced a smile, nodded once, and then went back into the hall.

-o-

It took him longer than he intended to get back -- a major trauma, a patient crashing, and a fight in the waiting room had been more pressing concerns -- but threre’d been some miracle in x-ray, and Brian jumped on the chance to shuffle Garringer through. Partly because he was pretty damn interested in seeing those x-ray and judging how such a slight man was able to sit and talk entirely coherently with a hole in his hand.

This time, he came in with a smile. “Good news,” he said proudly. “They’ve got a spot for you up in x-ray.”

Garringer was no longer sitting. He was still holding his hand stiffly upright -- a smart decision, really, helping control the flow of blood, and in that sense, possibly the pain -- but he was no longer sitting. Now he was pacing.

He snarled at Brian, despite the joviality of his announcement. Or maybe because of it.

“That is splendid news,” his friend said.

“Yeah,” Brian said, a little uncertain as he eyed Garringer. He was still moving -- pretty well for a guy who had been shot -- and Brian wondered if it would be a good idea to set up an IV. “You sure you don’t want something for the pain? Even if we just flush you with fluids -- it’d take five minutes to set up an IV.”

“Five minutes of more people jabbing at my skin,” Garringer snapped. “I’m fine.”

“You look a little pale...”

“Because I’ve got a hole in my hand and you’re off gallivanting around the hospital!”

“Ah,” his friend said, leaning forward a bit in his seat. “His disposition has got a wee bit stressed over the last ten minutes or so. We may want to hurry things along, yeah?”

Brian frowned. “What did you say your name was again?”

The friend brightened. “Graham Dunham,” he said.

“And you’re a...?”

“Friend,” Graham supplied with a winning smile. “John and I, we go way back. We’ve had many good times together, many good jobs. Some interesting times, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“Of course he can,” Garringer muttered. “Because I’m sitting here with a hole in my hand.”

“Right,” Brian said, deciding to ignore the strange friendship -- two very unlike men in a career that wasn’t exactly known for its camaraderie -- and focusing back on the task at hand. “So, I’m going to get a nurse--”

“I can walk,” Garringer said sharply.

“Well, I can see that, Mr. Garringer,” Brian said. “But hospital policy--”

“Can shove it up my ass,” Garringer said, going to the curtain. He used his good hand to open it. “Now are we going left or right or do I need to start waving my bloody hand around until I get you fired?”

Brian’s mouth dropped open.

Graham was on his feet, brushing by Brian. “You best tell him, lad,” he said. “He only listens to me so much.”

“Left,” Brian said, having no choice but to follow them out of the curtain area and down the hall toward x-ray.

-o-

When they got there, Brian found that one of the other doctors had tried to take his spot. He had to sweet talk the tech, but managed to get Garringer back to the front of the line. By now, the man was pale and visibly sweating, so when Brian told him to lie on the gurney, this time he complied.

“Alright,” Brian said. “The tech will walk you through it and then I’ll make sure a nurse comes to bring you back down before we discuss your results and decide what’s next.”

“Wonderful,” Garringer muttered.

Brian nodded, moving to leave, but the second he got in the hallway, he found Graham still following him.

“Doctor,” Graham said. “If I may have a minute of your time.”

Brian sighed. A minute of his time was pretty damn valuable. He pulled overtime and didn’t get paid; he pulled double shifts when there weren’t enough people. He’d thought his days as a first year resident had been hell, but Africa was hardly much better. There was so much need, so much less organization, and Brian had never felt like a minute mattered so much.

But, he was a doctor. Sometimes he felt more like a field medic, but his commitment to patients was still an unavoidable part of his job.

He turned, forcing a smile.

Graham came to a stop, smiling sheepishly. “I know you’re a very busy man, Dr. Doyle,” he began. “And we truly appreciate the time you’ve taken to help us out here today.”

“Just doing my job,” he said.

“Yes, right,” Graham said. Then he hesitated. “That is just the thing. Please, make sure you do your job. My friend may not tell you he’s in pain, but that doesn’t mean he’s not feeling it.”

“If he wants medication--”

Graham shook his head, waving his hand in the air. “You miss my meaning, Dr. Doyle,” he said. “It’s not just the pain. In our line of work, full mobility is important. Any kind of compromise can be devastating, if you know what I mean.”

Security contractors. Garringer didn’t look it, but if he was some kind of enforcer...a hand injury could do him in.

Though, considering what people like Garringer did, that didn’t seem so bad. If Garringer couldn’t fire a gun properly, it was no skin off Brian’s back.

“We’re not like most security contractors,” Graham said, almost reading Brian’s mind. “We protect the right people. And we protect each other. He got this injury on my account; please, don’t let him be crippled because of your misconceptions and busy daily schedule.”

It would have been easy to blow him off -- hell, Brian wanted to. But there was something in the way the man talked, something earnest, something wholly believable. The son of a bitch meant it. That they were there for the right reasons, even if it defied all odds.

And it did defy all odds. No one was here for the right reasons. Not even Brian.

Sighing again, Brian wet his lips. “Yeah,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’m good at what I do. I’ll do everything I can to make sure your friend has a full recovery.”

Graham’s face lit up. “You have my deepest gratitude,” he said. “I mean it.”

With that, Graham turned, moving back toward the x-ray room. Brian watched him go, and shook his head. He really needed to learn to say no someday.

Not today, however.

Brian checked his watched and cursed, scuttling off to make afternoon rounds.

-o-

It was nearly an hour later before Brian had time to even look for the films. They were there, at least, on the top of the stack, and when Brian put them up to the light, he whistled, shaking his head.

“Why can’t I be that lucky,” he murmured, pulling down the films and going to check on his patient.

-o-

Garringer was back in the curtain area. His hand had a new bandage, and there was evidence that the nurse had come in to clean out the wound like Brian had requested. Garringer still wasn’t on an IV, though, and this time he was lying somewhat placidly on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

“We okay in here?” Brian asked, closing the curtain behind him.

“You tell me,” Garringer said, rolling his head. “I assume you came in here with news, not just to make pathetic small talk.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “It’s great news,” he said. “I looked at your films and it’s remarkable. You managed to miss every single bone in your hand. I mean, obviously there’s muscle damage but you’ve missed the major nerves and tendons. There’s literally a one in a million chance of getting shot in the hand and having this little actual damage.”

Graham was sitting up, eyeing him expectantly. “So that means...?”

Brian shrugged. “Full recovery, no further medical intervention necessary,” he said. “You’ll want to keep it clean and wrapped, and I’m going to write you a script for antibiotics just to ward off any potential infection. But really, there’s nothing more for me to do for you.”

It wasn’t often that Brian got to deliver that kind of good news. It was a heady feeling.

Until Garringer scowled at him. “You mean, I let him drag me into this hellhole, sat around for pointless tests, just so you could tell me that I would have been fine at the motel?” He shot a glare toward Graham. “I told you.”

Graham scoffed. “You were too busy bleeding for me to take you seriously,” he said. “Besides, shouldn’t you thank the good doctor now?”

“For what? Being useless?”

“For taking the time to ensure that your hand will recover and you will be able to cause destruction and havoc without impediment for the rest of your life,” Graham said. “Or at least until you go off and do something else noble and self sacrificial and get yourself injured again.”

“Well, if you wouldn’t get yourself into tight spots--”

“Oof, so it’s my fault?”

“I did get shot defending you!”

“Because you grabbed the gun with your hand!

“I was sort of out of options before he blew your brains out!”

“Maybe I should have let you die from blood loss and infection!”

“It would have been more merciful than this!

Brian stared, mouth open. Finally, he cleared his throat.

The men stopped, Garringer sulking, Graham smiling apologetically. “Hospitals,” Graham said. “Stressful places.”

“Tell me about it,” Brian said. “But, um. I can get your discharge papers together and get you two out of here in just a few minutes.”

Graham smiled, as charming as ever, as though he had not just threatened to harm the friend he’d just implored Brian to save. These men were closer than friends. Maybe they were together? Maybe it was just a brothers in arms sort of thing?

Whatever it was, Brian was just glad to clear them out of the curtain area.

“Good,” Garringer said.

“We would be most appreciative,” Graham agreed.

“Yeah,” Brian said. “Just sit tight, and I’ll get the paperwork ready.”

-o-

It took more than a few minutes, what with the consult he got pulled into, and the fight he had to break up, and the drunk man he had to help tie down to a bed. But when he had the papers, he swung his way back to the curtain area, pulling open the curtain.

But there was no one there. The bed was empty; the chair was vacated.

Poking his head out, he looked for them, wondering if they’d taken a walk or gone to the bathroom. He flagged down their nurse, who had no clue, and Brian went back inside the curtain area.

The extra gauze was gone, but the script for antibiotics was still there. When he went to pick up the chart, he was surprised to find it stripped bare, nothing but a blank clipboard.

They’d skipped out on him.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered, thinking about the mess of paperwork he’d have to make up to compensate. About billing and security and--

Brian had a headache already.

Sighing, he tossed the clipboard back on the bed in disgust, walking out of the curtain area, leaving it open and vacant as he got back to his patients.

-o-

Brian didn’t have time to dwell on Garringer. There had been a steady upswing in violence lately, and everyone said that the factions were fighting more out in the desert. It was spreading toward the city, catching up the outer neighborhoods. At least ten people in the last three days had died, most of them too mutilated to save.

One of them had been a child.

Garringer and Graham had claimed to be one of the good guys.

But working the extra shifts, changing out of bloodstained scrubs, Brian didn’t know if there were any good guys left on the whole damn continent.

-o-

The violence got worse. Some of the better doctors left town, taking their families with them. Rumor had it that a radicalized cell might be trying to take over the city. With the ammunition and power they had, it might just work.

Brian considered going home.

But he wasn’t a quitter.

Besides, if he didn’t stay, he was starting to wonder if anyone would.

-o-

Brian hadn’t been home in three days. The only reason he was going home now was to call his mother so she wouldn’t think he was dead.

That sounded a bit melodramatic, but Brian was disconcerted that it wasn’t unreasonable. The military had started surrounding the area, checking people at the door way. They’d found a patient still strapped to a live bomb, who’d almost been rolled into Brian’s ER.

It freaked him out, really, but Brian wasn’t sure how to be freaked out. He wasn’t even sure how he was awake as he stumbled out into the parking garage. He needed to go home, to eat, to sleep, to--

He didn’t see the movement until someone jerked him back, clamping a hand over his mouth and pulling him into the shadows.

Exhausted as he was, Brian’s impulses were still to fight. He thrashed, bucking wildly.

But the figure behind him clamped down, rendering his struggles useless.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the voice hissed, low and hot in his ear. “But I have no objections to knocking you out to make this go a little easier. Do you understand?”

Did he understand? Hell, Brian still barely understood the local dialect, but less why he was being kidnapped out of his parking ramp.

And the implications...

It could be for money. He was white, that could make people think he was rich. Plus, he was a doctor. They had no idea how little he was paid or how much school debt he had at home. And when they did...

It could be political. With the factions fighting, maybe someone was looking for leverage. Maybe he’d have to read badly written scripts about how the American government had to cease and desist, which meant he was going to die...

He was going to die.

The idea of it struck him with a sudden profound novelty. Maybe this was punishment for coming to Africa for all the wrong reasons. Maybe this was a cosmic gotcha for being an over-conceited ass in med school and a backstabbing brown-noser during his residency. Maybe he was going to die.

But Brian didn’t want to do. Not in Africa. Not when he hadn’t done anything that mattered yet.

He just didn’t want to die.

Panicking, he pushed back again, slamming back hard. The body behind him connected with the wall and Brian felt some give and started to fight--

But then the hand wrapped around his throat, and everything went dim until it all just disappeared.

-o-

He woke up to the sound of rumbling. In Brian’s foggy mind, he realized he was moving.

Eyes snapping open, he jolted but when he tried to sit up, he found himself tied too tight to move. His hands were laced together, and so were his feet. There was another rope above his knees, cutting so tight into his scrubs that he was worried about his circulation.

Still, it was effective. All he could do was flop like a fish out of water.

Which was fitting, he thought. A fish about to die...

“You should relax,” a voice come from the front. The front seat, Brian noted. They were in a car. Some nondescript sedan with a bench back seat. He had to crane his head, trying to see who was speaking. “If you move around too much you’ll fall.”

Brian swallowed the lump in his throat, and felt his panic rising again. So he had been taken then. He’d been kidnapped. He was being drive to an undisclosed location...

That couldn’t be good.

This wasn’t good.

Brian flailed.

And fell out of the seat, landing hard, the impact hitting his taut shoulders painfully.

“Told you,” said the voice from upfront. “Lucky for you we don’t have that much further to go.”

Since he was already on the floor, Brian saw no harm in struggling. If he was going to die, he wanted it to be like a man. He wanted to fight. He didn’t want this to be any easy for this lunatic than it was for him. “Who are you?” he snarled.

“Give it a minute,” the man said. “It’ll probably come to you.”

That wasn’t the answer he’d been expecting. People didn’t kidnap in this area of the world to remain anonymous. They did it to make a name for themselves. Where were the grand speeches and the not-so-veiled threats?

And why the hell was this guy an American?

An American.

It’ll probably come to you.

He recognized the voice. Terse, to the point.

Struggles stilling, he craned his head, doing his best to look up over the seat and catch a glance of plain brown hair. “Mr. Garringer?”

“Good,” Garringer replied. “I was starting to worry about oxygen deprivation from choking you out. And I need you in peak physical condition.”

Brian’s stomach churned, cold fear spreading through his veins. “I thought you were a security contractor.”

“I am,” came the simple reply.

“Then why are you kidnapping me?” Brian insisted.

“It was...necessary,” Garringer replied without elaborating.

“What?” Brian asked, incredulous. “I’m not worth anything to anyone. If you think I’m good leverage--”

Garringer made a dismissive noise. “I know that. You’re useless.”

“I don’t have any money,” Brian said.

“And I don’t want any money,” Garringer said.

Brian bucked uselessly. “Then why did you kidnap me?” he exclaimed.

“Just trust me,” Garringer said.

Brian fell back against the floor, letting out a pent up breath. He shook his head, eyes wet with tears. “That’s sort of asking a lot!”

“I know,” Garringer said, and he almost sounded vaguely regretful. “Just trust me when I say I wish there were another way.”

“There is,” Brian said, trying not to sound too desperate. “We can work something out.”

“And we will,” Garringer said. “Just...trust me.

Trust, Brian thought, blinking back tears as he stared at the ceiling. Trust.

Brian was good at working hard. He was good at pushing boundaries and being the best. He was good at studying and training and diagnosing and treat.

But he wasn’t so good at trust.

He didn’t trust people to have his back; he didn’t trust people to see his value without working his ass of to prove it to them. He didn’t trust patients to tell him the truth; he didn’t trust any system.

Brian didn’t trust.

Especially not psychotic ex-patients who kidnapped him.

He closed his eyes, and swallowed.

Especially not those.

-o-

When they stopped, Brian felt shaky. He was lightheaded, but increasingly certain. Garringer was clearly insane. Brian wasn’t sure how he’d missed such an obvious lack of mental coherency during his exam -- maybe he was getting sloppy -- because Garringer should be put away for the good of society. The man was unhinged. And definitely not to be trusted.

Which mean, Brian had to run.

Brian wasn’t one to quit, but he also wasn’t some blind idealist willing to die for any cause. He’d always laughed at the idiots who tied themselves to trees or who stood in front of bulldozers. Being a doctor had made one thing clear: causes were okay for the living, the made no difference to the dead.

Brian wasn’t going to stay. Not to see if Garringer needed help for an apparent psychotic break; not to see if Garringer needed anything at all. Brian was going to run because he may have accidentally come to Africa to be a doctor, but he damn well didn’t come here to die.

He’d been good at track in high school, and he could sprint. Even if he couldn’t, Brian had to find an opening and just go. He didn’t know where this was headed, but he was certain he didn’t want to find out.

The back door opened, and Garringer hoisted him up, placing in on the seat. He pulled out a knife, and Brian flinched, heart fluttering and steeling himself--

But Garringer rolled his eyes and slit the rope at his knees, then the one at his legs.

Then he stopped, looking Brian clearly in the face. “We are going to get out of the car now,” he said. “We are going to walk to a building not far from here. There is nothing in either direction for miles. I can run faster than you. So don’t be stupid.”

Brian blinked, his chest tight.

Garringer eyed him carefully. “Do you understand?”

Brian didn’t understand anything at this point.

Garringer shook his head in apparent distrust. He put the knife away, and Brian caught sight of the gun at his hip. He didn’t resist when Garringer pulled him to his feet, turning him slightly until he was pointed toward a building, just as he’d been told.

“We are going inside now,” Garringer said.

Brian’s stomach fluttered. They were too far out. They were too alone. Garringer was armed. Brian had been abducted. If someone buried a body here, it might never be found.

Brian might never be found.

He shook his head.

“Yes,” Garringer said, shoving him forward a step.

Brian tripped and stumbled, almost choking as tears burned his eyes. “There’s nothing to gain from this,” he said, too aware of how his voice wavered.

“I’m not looking to gain anything,” Garringer grunted, shoving Brian another step.

He tripped again, almost falling, but Garringer pulled him upright. Brian shook his head, desperate. He’d planned to fight, to run, to do something, but he was paralyzed.

And scared.

He was terrified. “Please,” he said, voice cracking. “I don’t have any sides in any of this. I’m just doing my job.”

“I know,” Garringer said, pushing him farther. “And so am I. This isn’t personal.”

This wasn’t personal.

As if that somehow made it better.

As if anything made it better.

They were almost there now, and Brian’s legs threatened to fold up entirely. His cheeks were wet, and he shook his head, even as Garringer hauled him upright. “Please,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but please.

“Oh for pete’s sake!” Garringer snapped. “If I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead.”

Brian inhaled ragged. “But--”

“But shut up and don’t sob,” Garringer said, opening the doorway roughly. “I need you in top form.”

Confused, Brian frowned. “For what?” he asked. “I don’t understand--”

And then he was shoved inside.

The room was simple and plain. The building was nothing more than a shack, poorly equipped with a small kitchenette and a few sparse furnishings. A table, two chairs. A sink and desk.

And a bed.

And on the bed, Graham, looking like he was already dead.

-o-

Brian was a doctor. He was trained in emergency medicine. He’d attended a top tier medical school; he’d worked on his residency at one of the best hospital in the country. He’d been at the top of his class. All his teachers and attendings had praised him, spoken highly of his ability to think on his feet, to respond fast, to do the right thing without hesitation, no matter the situation.

That was what being an ER doctor was about, in a lot of ways. You had to take what came through the door and do your best with it. You were literally starting from scratch.

And Brian had always been good at that. His first day as a med student, he’d pulled on a pair of gloves and jumped in while his fellow students were hemming and hawing and losing their lunch. He’d never seen a case he couldn’t handle; he’d never blanched. Patients with their intestines hanging out, bones sticking through skin, pieces of metal impaled through skulls -- Brian had seen it, dealt with it, treated it.

But standing there, staring at Graham, Brian was frozen.

Dumbstruck. Gaping like a simpleton.

Because he’d thought he was going to die; he’d thought that Garringer had dragged him out here for some sick, sadistic purpose; that he was going to maim him, cut his body into pieces and leave his head out in the open for the scavengers to pick apart his brain, piece by piece...

Garringer wasn’t even standing next to him now. There was no threat of violence anymore. Instead, Garringer had moved forward, leaning over Graham’s bed and shaking him -- gently. “Hey,” he said. “I need you to wake up. Hey.”

On the bed, Graham stirred, nullifying Brian’s earlier suspicion that the man may actually be dead. But the dazed, bleary-eyed look wasn’t exactly reassuring. “Hmmm?” Graham asked, the sounds slurring from an obvious fever.

“I got the doctor,” Garringer said. “Just like I promised.”

Graham blinked a few more times, eyes clearing a little. His complexion was pasty, hair sweaty even as he shivered under the lone blanket on the bed. His expression was earnest. “He came? No questions asked?”

Garringer’s face was taut as he cast a glance toward Brian, still standing unmoving in the doorway. “I told you,” he said, turning his eyes back to Graham. “He’s a doctor. This is what they do.”

Graham smiled, eyes starting to flutter shut again.

“Hey,” Garringer said, shaking him a bit. “Hey.

But Graham didn’t respond, his lips parting a little as his breathing deepened just slightly as he lapsed back into obvious unconsciousness.

Garringer worked his jaw, then looked again at Brian. His eyes were brighter than before, almost on fire. But it wasn’t just insanity; it was fear.

Garringer was terrified.

“Well,” Garringer snapped. “Are you going to make me a liar or come over here and help?”

Brian blinked, and remember the he was, in fact, here. He’d been kidnapped, taken against his will, dragged to the middle of nowhere...to treat a patient. A very sick patient, if his first glance diagnosing skills were still worth anything.

There were questions, now. About how long Graham had been like this, about what other symptoms he had, about why the hell Garringer just didn’t tell him.

About why Garringer hadn’t done the smart thing and taken Graham to the hospital and not committed a felony.

“Please,” Garringer added finally, voice wavering just a little. “You’re all we’ve got.”

The door was right behind him; there was nothing holding him back.

Except...

Brian was a doctor. Trained, skilled, capable...

And now he had a patient.

-o-

The escape plan forgotten, Brian fell back into all the routines he’d mastered as a doctor. No matter which hospital, no matter what continent, first he had to assess the patient.

Even when he’d just been kidnapped against his will and driven to the middle of nowhere.

The patient.

He crossed the floor in a few long strides, kneeling down, nudging Garringer out of the way while he reached toward Graham. “How long has he been like this?”

Like this: feverish, agitated, pale, weak. His skin was milky, making his stubble stand out. His eyes were closed, face tensing intermittently with pain, lanky body listless on the bed. A far cry from the vibrant, verbose man Brian had met in the hospital just last week.

“He had a mild case of the flu about four days ago,” Garringer reported. “He seemed to get over it quickly.”

Brian frowned, pressing his fingers against the throbbing vein on Graham’s neck. The beats were fast and fluttering, well above normal. “The flu?” Brian asked. “Like, the stomach flu?”

“A little,” Garringer said. “Had a little fever and couldn’t keep much down. He got achy and sore, but he was still his usually pain in the ass self. Then, yesterday, it came back -- only worse.”

Worse: bed-ridden, compromised lucidity, generalized malaise.

Brian felt for the lymph nodes, noting that there seemed to be nothing unusual, then moved his hand up to feel Graham’s brow.

And winced.

Under his touch, Graham stirred, blinking lazily up at him. “Ah, the good doctor,” he murmured, smiling weakly.

The fact that Graham recognized him was a good sign, but Brian was too busy noticing the most telling and unsettling symptom to feel reassured. Because while there was awareness in Graham’s too-bright blue eyes, there was also blood.

Brian forced a smile: his bedside manner was one of the things he’d had to school himself on repeatedly. Never let the patient see how scared you were; never give them any reason to doubt. “I don’t normally make house calls,” he said, as friendly as he could manage given the circumstances. He glanced toward Garringer, who was standing anxious behind him. He smiled back at Graham. “But your friend here was quite convincing.”

“I do apologize for whatever means he employed to bring you here,” Graham said. “I’m afraid he’s not exactly--” He broke off, shifting on the bed with a grimace. “--diplomatic about such things.”

That was an understatement. Brian snorted. “Yeah, well, I’ll add the extra inconvenience to your bill,” he said. “Which you both skipped out on last time, by the way.”

“Did we?” Graham asked. A brief smile lit over his face. “Don’t really remember.”

That was a lie. Probably one of many lies. Hell, these two men were entirely sketchy what with blowing out AMA and kidnapping doctors. And what were they doing this far out? Alone? Where was their company?

Those issues, while pressing on Brian’s mind, were not relevant toward diagnosis.

His primary concern had to be diagnosis.

“I’m sure,” he said. “Now, Graham, I’m going to look you over here and see what’s going on, okay?”

Graham nodded, eyes drifting closed again as he hummed in tacit agreement.

With the blood in the eyes, that was suggestive of something hemorrhagic, which really did narrow it down quite a bit. Fevers and nausea could be caused by any number of things -- some of which were serious, some of which were not -- but bleeding orifices were somewhat less expected and definitely more cause for concern.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his keys, turning on the penlight on his keychain. Getting low, he shone it up Graham’s nose. Then, he rolled Graham’s head to the side, flashing the light into one of the ears.

The ears were clear; the nose wasn’t. When he opened Graham’s mouth, there were red stains around his teeth.

Swallowing carefully, he looked up to Garringer. “And when did he start bleeding?”

Garringer was stark white. “About ten minutes before I went to get you,” he said humorlessly. “He threw up -- it wasn’t pretty.”

Brian knew it probably wasn’t. Blood-tinged bile was always unsettling, even to a trained medical professional. Because there were certain implications. Internal bleeding -- perhaps, though that didn’t seem likely considering the blood in the nose and eyes.

“Has he had any accidents lately?” Brian asked anyway. “Any sort of impact injury?”

“No,” Garringer said.

Brian nodded. “And he didn’t eat anything unusual? Come into contact with any possible poisons?”

“We’re in Africa; everything we eat here is unusual,” Garringer said.

Brian gave him a look.

Garringer sighed. “No,” he said. “At least nothing that we both haven’t eaten and been in contact with.”

Which meant it was likely a virus. Viral diseases were highly contagious and could produce all the symptoms Graham was exhibiting. There was also very little to do to combat a virus since typical treatments such as antibiotics were essentially wholly ineffective.

He looked at Graham. Fever, bleeding, vomit, listlessness. Given the symptoms and the common diseases of the area...

“You know what it is,” Garringer concluded.

Brian glanced up at him. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I think so.”

“So?” Garringer said. “Do something.”

Brian grunted. “There’s nothing I can do,” he said. “He’s got yellow fever and you kidnapped me without letting me grab any supplies.”

“Right, and if I’d let you do that, you would have had me arrested,” Garringer snapped.

“Well, you kidnapped me!” Brian said, his ire rising.

“Because he’s sick,” Garringer said, gesturing to Graham.

“Yeah. So you take him to the doctor,” Brian hissed. “Which is where he belongs.”

“That’s not exactly possible,” Garringer gritted out.

“He brought you in,” Brian pointed out.

“Yeah, and that was enough of a risk,” Garringer said.

Brian shook his head. “I really don’t understand what the hell is going on here,” he said. “Your friend needs medical help. I’m a doctor without supplies in the middle of nowhere. I can tell you what’s wrong with him, but there’s not much I can do to help him.”

Garringer’s face went blank. “You have to help him.”

Brian let out an exasperated breath. “I will,” he said, getting back to his feet. “Look, let’s just go to the hospital--”

Garringer got up, looking him straight in the eyes. “No.”

“I’m not going to press charges, even though I think you’re a psychotic menace to society--”

Garringer got in his way. “No.

Brian sighed. “You’re willing to commit a felony to save him but you won’t take him to a hospital?”

“I would take him to a hospital,” Garringer said, slowly, each word enunciated. “But you know how your hospital has become rather popular lately?”

Brian frowned.

“With less than savory types?”

Brian shook his head. “Yeah, but--”

“Yeah, but those men are dangerous terrorists who have done bad things to good people,” Garringer said. “They are a danger to society and should be snuffed out of existence. Since you people believe foolishly in helping all people despite their crimes, the hospital is not exactly safe for those of us who intend on combating their ways. I understand that he’s sick. I understand that he’s very sick. But you need to understand that if we set foot into that hospital, we’ll both probably be dead, and I think that’s something we’d both rather avoid. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to stop talking and start helping him. Now.

The tirade was so long, each word said with a subtle yet pressing vehemence. It was the most he’d heard Garringer say, probably more words than he’d offered during his entire stay in the hospital. And whereas most of the time Garringer had seemed grumpy and indifferent, there was real concern.

Real anger.

It was still entirely possibly that Garringer was crazy. It was possible he was a bad man doing bad things. But he’d brought Brian here to save Graham’s life because he believed sincerely that it was the only way possible to help.

Right or wrong.

Brian’s shoulders fell, his defiance diminishing. “This is yellow fever,” he said, more quietly now. “There is no cure, but the hospital will have things that can help him. He’s in what’s known as the toxic phase. It’s going to take a toll on his liver and send his fever through the roof. He needs to be on saline, maybe have supplemental oxygen. Those are things we can give him at the hospital to make sure he has the best odds of fighting through this. Even a clinic--”

Garringer snapped, pushing closer into Brian’s face with a growl. “--is too dangerous!” he growled.

“And if you do nothing, the toxic phase can have a death rate of about 20 percent,” Brian said back. “Maybe up to 50 percent if he’s got a serious case.”

Garringer took several breaths, harsh and fast through his nose. He gritted his teeth together, eyes boring into Brian uncompromisingly. “Then tell me what we need.”

Brian felt himself relax. “We need a hospital--”

Garringer shook his head. “No, tell me what we need to treat him here,” he said curtly.

Brian furrowed his brow.

Garringer rolled his eyes. “I stole a damn doctor,” he said. “If you think I’m going to have second thoughts about stealing a little saline and an oxygen canister, then you’re dumber than you look.”

Brian made a face. “You can’t go steal it--”

“And you can’t let him die,” Garringer snapped. “Besides. Most of those supplies are going to terrorists right now. Trust me when I say that this is a much better cause.”

A better cause.

Brian had never believed much in causes. Brian had never believed in much of anything except dealing with what was in front of him.

Right now, that was a man with a bad case of yellow fever.

And a psychopath bent on saving his life in the most inconvenient means possible.

The fact was, Brian hadn’t intended on much of anything that was happening to him right now. From being kidnapped, to being in Africa at all. If he couldn’t control the situation, he could at least save the patient.

His eyes went to Graham, who hadn’t stirred again on the bed.

“Now,” Garringer said, clearly sensing his victory. “Tell me what we need.”

-o-

Brian’s fingers were numb, despite the heat, as he scrawled the list of supplies. He was as specific as he could be and he asked for more than he hoped he’d need, given how far out they were and Garringer’s general disposition, he also didn’t want to take any chances.

Garringer looked at the list. “An AED?” he asked. He looked up.

Brian shrugged. “Last resort.”

Garringer worked his jaw. Then he folded the paper and put it in his pocket. “Okay.”

Brian blinked at him. “Okay? You really think you’re going to find an AED?”

“I don’t think,” he said, moving toward the door. “I know. I’ll be as fast as I can but it may be a while.”

He paused at the door, turning back. His eyes went to Graham for a long moment before fixing on Brian. “You will be here when I get back.”

Brian swallowed reflexively.

“Because if you’re not, I will find you, and I will hold you personally responsible for anything else that happens to you.”

Brian suppressed a shudder. “Threats aren’t the best way to convince me to help.”

“No,” Garringer said. “But I trust that you really are a doctor. You may hate me, but Graham has nothing to do with that. He doesn’t deserve to die.”

With that, Garringer left. He sought no confirmation.

Then again, he didn’t need one. He was right, after all. Graham was sick; even while there was little Brian could do, he had a medical obligation to do what little there was. He could tend the fever, monitor vitals, attempt to administer fluids. Anything to give Graham a fighting chance and improve his odds.

Anything to keep him alive.

Sighing, Brian moved back across the room, scraping one of the chairs across the floor and settling it next to Graham’s bed. The man moaned a little, fretting as Brian took his pulse again, noting the fresh blood at the base of his nose.

If he failed, Brian reflected numbly, it was quite possible that Graham wouldn’t be the only one who died.

-o-

A normal day in the ER was busy. Some days more than others, but when he wasn’t in an emergency, there were still the usual cuts to stitch and broken limbs to x-ray. Even when things weren’t exciting, they were still busy to the point that Brian usually had to wait hours to use the bathroom and eat his lunch over charts in the breakroom.

This, despite its terrifying start, was almost boring by contrast.

The diagnosis had been easy, and there was no further course of treatment to offer for the time being. He checked Graham’s vitals every fifteen minutes, using a damp washcloth to attempt combating the fever. He offered Graham water periodically, rousing the other man enough so it didn’t all trickle down his chin, and then he was consigned to sit and wait.

Graham slept for the first half hour, heavy and without twitching. But when Brian roused him for another routine check, the man started to mumble.

“Hey,” Brian said, adjusting the washcloth awkwardly. “Just take it easy.”

Graham moaned again, tossing his head to the side and bucking his body with a whimper.

“You’re okay,” Brian said, and it wasn’t entirely true, but it was mostly true. “You just have to hold on a bit.”

The words of comfort were weird and leaden, but comfort wasn’t really Brian’s thing. He was a doctor. He treated. He didn’t sit by bedsides and offer reassurances. He hardly had time to take a proper history most days.

Graham flailed this time, thrashing in earnest now, shaking his head as his eyes squeezed shut. Tears trickled down his face, stained red with blood.

Brian reminded himself that was expected. A typical symptom--

Then Graham jolted, his entire body arching up with a gag. Brian was dumbstruck before he realized what was happening.

Graham gagged again, and Brian fumbled, rolling the man’s body to his side, and holding him there, one hand firmly on his shoulder while his body convulsed and the bile finally came out.

It was thin and mostly watery, but the telling black streaks confirmed Brian’s diagnosis.

Graham retched again, a desperate and painful sound as his body worked to expel it. Each convulsion brought up less than the last, until Graham could only dry heave, mouth stained red as he sagged, exhausted to the bed, body trembling as he lapsed back into sleep.

Brian stood there for a moment, and he was trembling too. The floor was dirty, and Graham was spent. It wasn’t the worst Brian had seen -- not by a long shot -- but there was something unsettling about it. He’d had patients die before and he’d called time of death more than he wanted to remember. But he’d always been in the hospital, where there were machines and procedures, nurses and janitorial crews. It wasn’t personal; it wasn’t a mess he had a clean up.

This was personal. The minute Garringer had dragged him out of the parking garage.

The minute Brian had decided to stay.

It was suddenly far too personal.

-o-

Then, the rambling started.

About fifteen minutes passed after Graham threw up, and Brian had taken to mopping up the floor as best he could, throwing the soiled rags outside and washing himself thoroughly afterward. As he was scalding his hands with hot water and scrubbing them with soap, he heard Graham on the bed again.

At first, he worried it was another episode of vomit. But when he made it back to the other man’s side, he realized that wasn’t the case.

No, this time, Graham was looking at him. His eyes were fever bright, but they locked on Brian’s with a pressing intensity, even as he writhed on the bed, helplessly caught in the throes of the fever.

“‘s hot,” he mumbled, tossing fitfully. “Too hot.”

Brian settled awkwardly, picking up the tepid washcloth to replace it on Graham’s forehead. “That’s just the fever,” he explained. “It’s just cycling through, maybe a little higher each time, but the worst of this one should pass.”

Of course, it would probably only be followed by another, more ferocious wave, but Brian knew better than to tell a sick patient that things were going to get worse. Such things weren’t so much lies as they were optimistic versions of the truth. The power of positive thinking was well documented in countless medical studies.

Not that it seemed to be doing Graham much good.

He blinked, shaking his head, even as he strained. “Casey -- Casey should be here--” he said, almost trying to lever himself up.

“Hey,” Brian said, reaching out to press the man back down. “I don’t know who Casey is, but your friend’s going to be back soon.”

Brian could hope. He didn’t know how far out they really were -- he’d been out of it for the first part of the drive -- and the list of supplies Brian had requested...

It could take a while.

Brian watched as Graham shuddered violently, shaking his head in futile protest. “Casey -- the mission,” he said, almost moaning it now as his tremors increased. He inhaled sharply, almost gasping in pain as he squeezed his eyes shut. “I promised Casey I could wait until the mission.

Altered consciousness. Possible hallucinations.

Patients said some of the most crazy-ass things when they were compromised by pain and fever. Which meant that Graham’s was peaking well over 104, probably closer to 105. He mentally tallied how long he’d been like this. The toxic phase didn’t last indefinitely, but Brian was keenly aware that they probably weren’t done with it yet.

They probably hadn’t even got to the worst of it.

Graham sobbed as he flailed. “Please, Casey,” he begged. “Michael and Rick -- we’re the only backup they have. The mission.

Sometimes patients talked nonsense. Sometimes they made up imaginary friends from the planet Rumba or pet monsters with three horns and a tail. Sometimes they had illicit affairs with their best friend’s wife and sometimes they were martyrs for an unknown but ever-pressing cause.

It was entirely possible, then, that Graham was speaking gibberish. But there was something so earnest, so desperate, that it gave Brian pause.

Fevers could also strip away one’s self defense mechanisms, leave a person raw and vulnerable. Garringer showed all signs of being a psychopath; Graham’s friend acquaintance, therefore, was suspect. If they weren’t lovers -- which would really be the easiest explanation, but Brian didn’t think he’d be so lucky any more -- then they were brothers in arms.

Security contractors, though. They had jobs. Gigs.

Maybe missions.

But who was Casey? Michael and Rick?

And really, a mission?

Was this why Garringer couldn’t bring Graham to the hospital? Who were these men?

The good guys? Who captured doctors and left their friends to possibly die and stealing medical supplies?

Graham breathed rapidly, twitching now. “Casey, your hand -- your hand,” he said. “I’m not worth your career. Casey--”

The name broke on a desperate, pitching plea, and as the sob shook Graham, this time he didn’t stop.

At all.

Brian recognized it the instant it happened. The trembling became a twitch, starting in his right arm before moving to his left and taking over his entire body.

A seizure.

Swearing, Brian was on his feet, rolling Graham to his side, and holding him gently in place while he twitched. The spasms shook him, his limbs flailing, his head bouncing. At the hospital, he could have monitored pulse and respirations, made sure it showed signs of slowing. He could order anti-seizure medications, having them ready in case he couldn’t pull out of this on his own.

He hadn’t even put those damn meds on his list.

Which meant, he could only stand and wait.

Wait for the seizing to stop; wait for Garringer to get back.

Wait for this whole damn thing to make sense.

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: January 5th, 2013 06:57 pm (UTC)
Just fantastic

I love this third party POV of Billy and Casey! It allows us to see the perceptions of them from a different perspective which is refreshing and enlightening! So love that it's from the perspective of a doctor too. I hoped I knew what was coming and you didn't fail me! Hee!

Fave Parts:

“We’re not like most security contractors,” Graham said, almost reading Brian’s mind. “We protect the right people. And we protect each other. He got this injury on my account; please, don’t let him be crippled because of your misconceptions and busy daily schedule.”

-- I LOVE Billy's heartfelt words here!! He's glib when he needs to be but he can also move any person with words that come from his soul and when it comes to his friends, he bares it willingly and where it can't be misinterpreted.

“For taking the time to ensure that your hand will recover and you will be able to cause destruction and havoc without impediment for the rest of your life,” Graham said. “Or at least until you go off and do something else noble and self sacrificial and get yourself injured again.”

-- Billy even lectures sweetly! Hee!

“I know,” Garringer said, and he almost sounded vaguely regretful. “Just trust me when I say I wish there were another way.”

-- You can hear Casey's concern. It's downright vulnerable.

And on the bed, Graham, looking like he was already dead.

-- oh yay!

“Please,” Garringer added finally, voice wavering just a little. “You’re all we’ve got.”

--*sniggers with delight.

“I do apologize for whatever means he employed to bring you here,” Graham said. “I’m afraid he’s not exactly--” He broke off, shifting on the bed with a grimace. “--diplomatic about such things.”

--*sigh...you write Billy so lovely under duress!

Brian’s shoulders fell, his defiance diminishing. “This is yellow fever,” he said, more quietly now. “There is no cure, but the hospital will have things that can help him. He’s in what’s known as the toxic phase. It’s going to take a toll on his liver and send his fever through the roof. He needs to be on saline, maybe have supplemental oxygen. Those are things we can give him at the hospital to make sure he has the best odds of fighting through this. Even a clinic--”

Garringer snapped, pushing closer into Brian’s face with a growl. “--is too dangerous!” he growled.

“And if you do nothing, the toxic phase can have a death rate of about 20 percent,” Brian said back. “Maybe up to 50 percent if he’s got a serious case.”

-- okay, you love me, you really love me! Hee!!

Off to excitedly read the next part.

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