By: Cin and Heidi
Four Corners Hospital
Sunday, After Shooting
Josiah turned his gaze from the window to look back at the scene over his shoulder. The doctor still bent over the motionless figure on the gurney. His Sergeant's condition hadn't changed since he'd been brought into the emergency room over an hour ago. He was stable, but unconscious. They were so fortunate he was still alive after what he went through this morning. First the long shift ending with the accident, followed by the blur of activity during the reconstruction. Nina yelling at Chris, tackling him, the two hitting the ground, Chris's skull striking the pavement. The revelation there was a sniper who deliberately aimed at the police officers gave him shudders. The ensuing chaos while the scene went out of control, then back under police control with the arrival of more units.
It was not hard to get the medical personnel to consent to his staying in the treatment room once they detailed the need for security. The possibility existed the unknown sniper or associates would strike again, even here within these walls meant for healing. Josiah knew their stoic leader would not appreciate a large crowd around when consciousness returned, especially if he woke with the expected monster headache. He volunteered to play lone sentinel to their leader while the rest awaited word on Nina's surgery several floors up. Part of him needed to be away from the others, to have solitude to offer his own prayers. A silent Chris and intent doctor with his nurse allowed that, time to collect his thoughts and pray for all of them. Another part of him was ashamed he could not go up and face the others. They would need him to be their strength, their rock, and he feared he didn't have his own strength to sustain him. He relied heavily on the Good Lord to get him through this solitary duty; facing others might be beyond his ability.
Turning back to gaze out the window, keeping the bulk of his body out of sight to prevent becoming a sniper target, Sanchez offhandedly thought that Larabee would hate his new hospital-provided haircut. If the situation were not so serious, he imagined they would all get a laugh at the newly shaved swath up the back of the blond's head. Not to mention the railroad track of staples the doctor methodically inserted to close the two-inch gash. Overall, he'd take a stapled, shaved living Chris over a handsome corpse, and he'd bet the rest of their family would too. Although, Josiah's thoughts took another morbid turn, Chris didn't look so handsome now. His eyes were still bandaged, there were several cuts over one side of his face to go along with his new hair style.
Sanchez's attention came back from his prayers and musings into the room as the doctor straightened from his task and issued some quiet instructions to the nurse by his side. He turned and motioned Josiah to follow him to the door.
"How is he?" Josiah asked as he met the doctor at the door.
The doctor waited until they stepped out into the corridor outside before answering, leaving Josiah a strong police presence in front of the door. Glancing quickly at Josiah's nametag, he looked back down at this patient's chart. "Officer Sanchez, does Sgt. Larabee have any relatives?"
Josiah sighed, wondering if they were going to have to fight the medical personnel for information on their leader's condition just because they didn't consider them family under the privacy laws. "No, sir, we're the only family he has. If you look far enough down I'm sure my name is among those listed for emergency notification."
The doctor nodded, his face showing the knowledge of the tight bond between members of the law enforcement community; a bond tighter than blood when it came down to it. "Is your Chief around?"
"He's upstairs with our other injured comrade," Sanchez explained patiently. His voice wavered on the word injured.
Dr. Hamilton deflated, obviously having heard about the shooting victim now in surgery. "It appears the Sergeant is very lucky to this point. We've taken x-rays; I'm going to go check on them myself, but initial reports stated they did not see any major problems. There is a significant laceration to the back of the head, but no underlying fractures to his skull. A severe concussion, nausea, and dizziness are expected, meaning we'll be watching him closely for a time."
Sanchez gave an inclination of his head in acknowledgement. "Shouldn't he be awake by now?"
Hamilton gave his partial agreement, explaining his sentiments, "I would feel better about my prognosis if he showed some signs of waking, but I don't feel it is a great cause for concern at this moment in time. Currently his vitals are stable, and we're monitoring him closely. He still has a CT scan scheduled, they should be taking him down shortly, that will give us more information. I can't really say more on his condition until I get the results of those tests, or he wakes up."
"But you do think he will wake up."
Sighing, the doctor qualified, "With all our medical advances, the human brain is still the one area that offers us the most challenges, as soon as we predict what we think will happen given a past experience with a particular brain injury, a patient will surprise us and do something different. I can't even say for certain he has a brain injury, because I see no signs of a subdural hematoma. That's not saying one can't develop, or swelling might start throughout the day. I don't like to offer predictions, Officer Sanchez; I base my diagnosis on facts, not conjecture, especially when dealing with the brain."
"And from what you said, even then there are no guarantees."
"No," the doctor smiled slightly. "In medicine I have learned never to offer guarantees. Besides the injury itself, there may be some other underlying factors that may be in play here."
Josiah frowned. "Like?"
"Something we haven't detected yet," the doctor admitted. "A microscopic internal injury that has not presented itself yet, either in the brain or elsewhere. I know his vest protected him during the fall, but it was a hard fall as demonstrated from the injury. There is a lot of bruising along the back, there could be more internally, though nothing showed on x-rays. There's the sergeant's mental state before the injury to consider; his willingness to recover. The shock of the injury itself poses its own dangers. Was he aware of what happened? Just knowing what happened could delay his recovery. Shocks the Sergeant received before or during the injury might even give him difficulty, because he may not have dealt with the emotional part of it before the injury caused his unconsciousness."
Josiah indicated silent agreement at Hamilton's words, wondering how much Larabee would remember about how he was injured. If Chris knew about Nina taking a bullet for him, and might that be affecting him? If he did, he would want to wake up and know what happened. He also wondered if either of them saw who did the shooting.
"I want to check the films again, get the results of further tests," the doctor refused to speculate further. "I don't think we are dealing with more than a severe concussion and laceration, but I want to be sure. I prefer to think in the worst case, and upgrade from there."
"And if it's not?"
"Please, Officer Sanchez," Dr. Hamilton shook his head. "Let's wait and see what the tests say. They'll be down to take him for the CT scan in a few minutes. The ophthalmologist will check his eyes too, I don't think there's a problem there, but we'll make sure. My understanding there was some fragmentation involved, and we want to insure no small pieces entered the eyes. After that maybe, and I stress maybe, I can tell you more."
Josiah turned and re-entered the room as the doctor moved off down the hall. He moved up to the gurney. The nurse finished cleaning the dried blood from around the blond's head and face. She smiled up at Sanchez as he gazed down at the slack face.
He noted Larabee was a pale as the sheets he laid on. Left clothed in only his uniform pants, Josiah thought at least he did not have to suffer the indignity of the backless hospital gowns yet. An IV taped to his left hand delivered fluids and antibiotics, while a nasal cannula delivered oxygen. There were other wires attached to his head, chest, and finger leading to a machine behind the gurney. Josiah knew that the beeps and lines moving across the monitor screen were giving the medical personnel information about Chris's condition; he just wished he knew if it was bad or good.
"His vitals are stable, I'm sure he'll be coming around soon," the nurse assured the tall officer.
Josiah smiled at her then gazed down at the pale face, sending up his own silent prayer that it would be so. They needed strength to get through this, and good news was desperately needed upstairs. He just needed to get through the CT scan, and hope the results of all the tests came out positive.
Green eyes blinked rapidly open. Too fast . . . they slammed shut against the blinding light, seeking refuge against the pain that shot like a hot poker through the lethargic brain. Trying again a bit more slowly, the bloodshot eyes tried to focus on the unfamiliar surroundings.
Somehow, through the gray mist that was his mind trying to work out what happened and where he was, he realized he must be in a hospital. The part of him trying to wake up took in the monotonous beeps of machinery, and hiss and feel of the oxygen as it blew through the tube under his nose. Sluggishly he ordered his hand, which felt like a ton weight attached to the end of his arm, to move up and remove the tube. It annoyed him.
Instead, the ton weight, which was his hand, was caught and held, and he didn't have the strength to fight against the restraint. There was a low rumble, something he instinctively knew was good, soothing. He strained to listen to the comforting voice, but he couldn't make out what was being said. It was too hard to get past the pain. Still there was something he needed to wake up for, something he needed to check on. Something pushed him to wake up, come around to the world of the living. The soft murmuring continued and his hand remained enveloped in strong warmth.
He tried once again to break the contact, to try to say something. The struggle became too much, the fog too thick. For now it was just easier to let the darkness win, recoup his strength, and try again in a bit.
Josiah stood and stretched his large frame. He scrubbed his hands down his face and back up over his eyes, wiping away grit. The rough stubble he felt was an indicator of the length of time he'd been up. The scratchy feel of his eyes and the overall feeling of stupor, or should he say dull knife, was another indicator of his rising exhaustion. He was also sure that if he looked in the mirror he'd see the evidence of what felt like ten days of bad road. But he wasn't going to do that because he was determined he didn't want to know how long he'd been up. How long he'd been waiting here for Chris to wake up, and good news from upstairs.
He already took his watch off and regulated it deep into his trouser pocket to keep him from repeatedly looking at it. The tiredness he could handle; it was not the first time coming off a night shift he stayed up past his usual bedtime. The waiting made him feel more tired than he probably was, dragging out each second. It was not hard to stay awake, though. He never found hospitals a restful place for visitors or for patients; there was always a flurry of coming and going, of noises and smells that assaulted the senses and never allowed one to relax fully unless one received pharmaceutical sedation.
Nathan came down a couple of times to check on Chris and give Josiah news on Nina, or rather no news, as there was no change; she was still in surgery. Each time he saw Nathan his hopes rose and fell with the "no change" news. Nathan was looking a bit rough around the edges, giving testament to the harshness of the wait with the others upstairs. At least Jackson gave him the chance to go outside and take a few breaths, go to the bathroom, get away from the room for a few minutes before returning quickly, trying not to be ambushed by the press circling the exterior. Josiah felt that news should be the worst to come, her not surviving the surgery, but he couldn't think that. His take was that if she was still in surgery, she was still alive and that was good news.
Josiah was sure that Nathan also hoped on his trips down that he would catch some time with Rain. Josiah himself had seen little of her since their first arrival at the hospital. He knew from his short breaks out of Chris's room that it was a busier than average day for the hospital staff, and he was sure Rain's rotation in ER was keeping her busy. It would be hard on both her and Nathan not to be able to draw strength from each other. Strength was what they could all use to get through this catastrophe.
Travis had been down once and Josiah didn't have to see the obvious worry on their Chief's face to know the strain he was under. His attention divided between his two down officers, to assuring the investigation was leaving nothing unturned at the crime scene, to fielding the media and their demands as well as the curious citizens. The Chief bore the weight of the entire situation on his shoulders, including the public's fear of a sniper shooting at the police, the people there to protect them. He knew they were sniped, but what was the Chief giving as a media spin? He didn't know, and he didn't want to bother the Chief to ask. There were too many other things going on, like keeping watch on Chris and worrying about Nina.
Even worse than Travis coming down was the single visit from Buck to sap some strength from Josiah's already strained personal well of hope and patience. Sanchez wasn't really sure if Wilmington actually knew where he was and who or what he was seeing as he stood at Larabee's bedside and stared down at the pale form. It was only JD's tentative but dogged presence at the door that allowed Josiah to feel it was okay to let Wilmington try to navigate his way back to the surgical floor. Otherwise, he might have sought medical help for him too. The elder officer knew it was tough for him to deal with two co-workers, who were also dear friends, injured as they were. For Buck it was worse than for any of them; these were his best friends, his family. People Buck gave all of his heart to, the man on the bed his brother in all ways except birth, and a woman Buck once wanted to spend the rest of his life with, his boots under her bed. All the grief and turmoil was easy to read on the softhearted officer's face and in his overall body posture. Josiah wasn't too sure the shock of it all would see Buck as their third victim, telling his tired brain to keep a check on him through the coming hours…days…weeks, probably.
Rolling his head around on his neck to try to relieve the tension, Josiah walked over to the window. The blinds were now down and closed, something that the nurse did but he really didn't remember when. It was an attempt to keep the room semi-dark in deference to the patient on the bed. The one piece of good news they did have was that Larabee's eyes were unharmed by the flying shrapnel, which had once been part of Nina's radio. Still with the head injury, the sunlight and Chris's unbandaged eyes did not get along well. In fact, the bright sunlight just seemed too out of place for the gravity of the situation.
Josiah was happy when Chris finally awoke. The relief of the moment was short lived, though, as the anticipated moment was overshadowed by the complete misery the sergeant felt. Thankful that the tests revealed no further damage, Sanchez knew the concussion was severe enough to lay him flat. Since the first return to consciousness, Larabee had struggled awake several more times. Each occasion medical personnel questioned Chris to determine his level of alertness, and each time he went through the inevitable routine of obvious pain from the severe headache and nausea. Yes, he had double vision too, which compounded the dizziness and nausea. He was aware of what happened, even if a few times he remained fuzzy on all the details. The last few times it didn't take him as long to remember where he was and that Nina was in trouble. Those times required Josiah's intervention to keep Chris on the bed; not that it took much effort to push him back down. During one of his lucid moments, they got him into a hospital gown, bagging his pants as evidence.
Josiah wished Chris would just let the meds work and allow his body to rest. There was nothing any of them could do for Nina that was not already being done. There was nothing more they could do at the crime scene. Nevertheless, Larabee in his stubborn manner still knew there was something happening that he needed to be a part of and he kept struggling to come around and stay that way. His struggles for consciousness became more frequent.
Sanchez pulled the blind from the window slightly and squeezed his own eyes shut against the brightness. Letting his eyes adjust for a minute, while standing to the side of the window, he noticed the clear blue sky and the traffic that passed by in his limited view. It was strange that the world continued on, as his world felt frozen in time from that moment he heard Nina's yell.
A movement from the bed drew his attention away from the window. He quickly moved to the bedside, barely making it there as Larabee threw the cover back.
"Where's my pants?" the rough voice mumbled as the blond attempted to pull on the wires attached to his head and chest.
Josiah tried to grab at the hands to stop their clumsy attempt. "Chris, you need to lie back down."
Larabee was sitting up now, his legs over the edge of the bed, both hands gripping the sides and taking deep breaths. It did not appear he cared about the hospital gown gaping open in the back.
Josiah grabbed the basin off the bedside table and held it at the ready as his other hand supported Chris, trying to keep him from falling out of the bed, or foolishly getting out of it. "Lay back down, Chris, you need to rest."
"Rested enough," Chris tried to slap Josiah's hands away. "Need to go…where are my clothes?"
"There is nothing you need to do Chris," Josiah argued. "Lay back down."
Chris turned his face up to try glaring at Josiah, but the pain-filled glare didn't have the desired effect. The glare lost a significant portion of potency when combined with half-glazed eyes and strained features.
"Come on, Chris," Josiah urged again. "What needs to be done is being done; you need to take care of you."
Larabee started to shake his head then stopped. "No…need to be there…pl..."
"Officer Sanchez is right, Sergeant. You need to stay right where you are."
Chris looked at the white-coated newcomer to the room, then turned questioning eyes up to Josiah.
"This is Dr. Hamilton; he's the neurosurgeon who's been treating you." Josiah introduced the doctor, even though the introductions were made earlier. It was obvious Chris did not remember the previous meetings.
"Don't need surgery," Chris slurred and turned angry eyes toward the doctor.
"No, Sgt. Larabee," Hamilton stated, "you don't. But that doesn't mean you're well enough to get out of that bed. You don't remember me, do you? Since you don't, I'll remind you that you have received a severe concussion and I've recommended forty-eight hours observation, and it will be at least a week of rest and no strenuous activity after that if not longer. It depends on if you remain symptom-free or not."
"I'm breathing, I can move all my limbs…"
"And I'm sure they move with significant pain involved. How's the dizziness, double vision?"
"I've had worse," Larabee squinted up at the wavering doctor, refusing to back down regardless of the guy with the jackhammer trying to beat his way out of his head from the inside out, and to hell with the damage. "I have a friend down, I want to be there."
"Your Chief and your colleagues are all there, they can let you know…"
"It's not the same," Chris growled, and grimaced as the pain intensified with the outburst. "I hav. . .I need to be there."
"Chris…" Josiah's voice started, then stopped when the blond waved a hand to cut him off.
Larabee drew in a deep breath to quell the nausea, he hoped, so he could say what he needed to, what he had to say. "No, Josiah, Doctor…I understand, I do," Chris added when he saw the skeptical look on Sanchez's face. "I'm going to admit I don't feel the best, but I want to be there for Nina."
"Best?" Josiah coughed. "You're a long way from best…pretty close to worst."
Chris looked between the two of them, pleading with his eyes, letting Josiah's comment pass without retort.
"Doctor Hamilton, you said observation. I don't plan on leaving the hospital. I'm sure there are nurses on the surgical floor, and you probably already know how many of my people are up there, I'll have people watching me. Is it really necessary for me to be hooked up to this?" Chris gestured to the monitor behind his bed.
The doctor frowned at his patient, considering how hard it had been over the last few hours to keep his patient down. "Sgt. Larabee, you were extremely lucky. Frankly, I'm surprised I don't have you in surgery right now. With the deep laceration you received and the amount of time you were unconscious, I can see you received a tremendous blow to the head. I anticipated finding a fracture and internal bleeding."
"I've been told I have a hard head," Chris tried to crack a smile at Josiah's hastily muffled chuckle but it hurt too much.
"I've no doubt," Dr. Hamilton deadpanned, "and stubborn as a mule to boot. Just as I know if I continue to encourage you to stay here and rest as you should, you'll be that much more determined to leave on your own, and regardless of what you think you'll just do yourself more harm."
"I'll just sign myself out AMA if I have to; I don't want to, but I will. I'm going to go where I'm needed. Where I need to be."
"I think the world can survive without you there, Sergeant," the doctor commented. "And they think doctors have the god complexes."
There commenced a few seconds of silence as the two headstrong men continued to stare at each other.
"All right, Sergeant, we'll compromise," the doctor finally relented. "As I said I would prefer you remained here under observation. The CT scan was clear, and I don't feel the need for an MRI. While I do think the most you have is a severe concussion, I also recognize I might be fallible and could be missing something. Or I have a stubborn patient that might be doing too much too soon and do further harm to himself against his doctor's orders."
"Doctor, I don't want to be a splotch on your record," Larabee smirked. "But I think you can trust when I say that I won't be able to do much, my friends will make sure I don't."
"That we will, Doctor," Josiah seconded the statement. "I knew once he came around it would be hard to keep him down."
"Yes," Doctor Hamilton nodded, "you'd mentioned he was not known for patience." He turned back to Larabee. "I'll get you a wheelchair. You already know you will be prone to headaches, dizziness and nausea. I'll allow you to go wait for your friend to get out of surgery, and alert Officer Sanchez here what to watch for, as well as notify the staff on the floor of your status. If your symptoms get worse I expect to see you back here immediately.
"It will not be an AMA, because I'm sure your Chief would not allow that since this is a line of duty injury. But, you will be observed. A nurse will check your status regularly, and if she finds you are having problems, you will come back to me. If she or he finds you need to be horizontal, a gurney will be provided. Yes, I know this is unusual, but I would rather be able to watch you then to have you collapse in front of your friends. Will you collapsing help the situation?"
"No, sir," Chris answered.
"Then we have an understanding?"
Larabee held out his hand to the doctor. "I promise, Doctor, I'll be all right, better because I'll be where I need to be."
"I regret this already; don't make me regret it more." Doctor Hamilton nodded curtly and left the room.
Chris let out an audible sigh and bowed his head, wondering not for the first time during the last few minutes if he was up to the bravado he displayed to the doctor, but knowing in his heart he had to be with the others. There was somewhere more important he needed to be, his own health be damned.
"No lectures, Josiah," Chris slowly raised his head to meet his friends eyes. "I have to do this."
"Nina would understand. Your life meant more to her than her own; don't wreck her gift by doing too much." Josiah crossed his arms. "You know –"
"She took a bullet for me," Chris finished. "Doesn't matter, I have to be there for her. Don't worry; I'll wait to chew her out till the docs fix her up and my headaches fade away." Chris wasn't trying to be flippant, but he did want to assure his friend that he would be okay.
Josiah stared hard at Larabee. "Are you sure? Buck…all of us, it's hard enough; we don't need you doing more harm to yourself. Buck couldn't take it, and I'm not sure about the rest of the squad. I'm struggling just to keep me going through this."
Chris swallowed hard, thinking about what his oldest friend was going through, what they all were floors above. Any doubts he had disappeared when he thought about it further, and still he knew there was something he was missing. He hoped being with the others, being there to support Nina would help more of the pieces he was missing from his memory come out of the fog that was his mind. "I'm sure," he finally stated firmly.
Josiah looked at him a few more seconds, eventually nodding grudgingly in agreement. "If you're sure, but I will keep an eye on you, as I'm sure Nathan will too."
Chris finally allowed a small smile. "No doubt, and I'm sure the doc wasn't lying when he said the staff will be watching me too. Josiah, there's one more thing I'm sure of."
"What's that?" Sanchez looked puzzled as to what else was on Chris' mind.
"I'm sure I'm not leaving this room in just this gown. For the last time, where's my pants?"