IN THE HOUR OF MY DEATH
Early the following morning
Deakins arrived at the hospital with his wife at his side. To his surprise, Angie had refused to be left behind at the hotel. When he’d queried it, she had simply smiled, kissed him and told him to call a taxi to take them to the hospital. He hadn’t asked any more questions.
They were quickly directed to ICU, where they found Carolyn sitting in miserable silence outside an ICU rooms that had the shades pulled.
“Carolyn?” Deakins asked. She looked up in a daze, and then almost jumped up as his presence finally registered in her exhausted mind.
“Captain, I didn’t think you’d be here until later this morning.”
“Sit,” he urged her gently, and she did so without protest. “We decided to just drive here, instead of waiting for a flight. We would have been here sooner, except that Angie insisted I get a few hours sleep before we left. Now, tell me what’s happening?”
Carolyn motioned to the room with the shades pulled.
“That’s Bobby’s room. The nurses are doing some stuff for him right now… I had to leave while they were doing it. Privacy, you know.”
“Is he all right? After that phone call from Logan last night…”
“Yes, and no. He’s stable… but his lungs shut down, Captain. It happened while they had him in the ice bath. They had to put him on a ventilator… and he’s been intubated… so he can’t talk, even if he wakes up.”
“Do they know yet what’s making him sick?” Angie asked, and Carolyn shook her head.
“No. Or, at least, if they do they haven’t said anything to us.”
“Speaking of which,” Deakins murmured, “where is Alex and Mike?”
“With Dr House,” Carolyn answered softly. “Telling him about what happened between her, Bobby and Erik Mathers.”
Deakins couldn’t contain the frown that spread over his face at that piece of news.
“Why are they still insisting on knowing about that?”
“It’s Bobby’s doctor. He seems to think that something that happened on the mountain might be behind Bobby’s illness.”
“His doctor…” Deakins mused. “The same man that I spoke to on the phone yesterday?”
It took every ounce of self-control that Carolyn had not to cringe.
“That would be the one.”
Before Deakins had a chance to say anything, the door of Bobby’s room opened, and Dr Cameron emerged.
“You can go back in now,” she told Carolyn, giving a slightly quizzical look to Deakins and his wife at the same time.
“This is Captain Deakins and his wife,” Carolyn explained tiredly. “Captain, this is Dr Cameron. She’s one of the doctors who have been looking after Bobby.”
Deakins shook Cameron’s hand in a cursory gesture.
“Dr Cameron, do you have any idea yet what’s wrong with him?”
Cameron bit back a sigh. This was one of the things she hated about working for House. The cases they got were so damned obscure, and it made it horribly difficult to deal with family and friends of patients who were desperate to know what was afflicting their loved ones.
“We’re working on finding that out,” she assured him. “I promise you that. Excuse me…”
She fled, not caring to be interrogated by a police captain. Deakins watched her go, and Angie slipped her arm around his waist comfortingly.
“I think you scared her.”
He grimaced and, without answering, led the way into the room.
Bobby was awake when they walked in, and though he couldn’t speak for the tubing down his throat, the look on his face at the sight of Deakins was only too obvious. It was a mixture of relief and guilt. Deakins walked over to the bedside, and laid a hand gently on Bobby’s shoulder.
“Relax, Bobby. I’m not angry with you. Not now. But you need to recover from this… whatever it is. You’ve got us all scared half to death.”
The guilt faded minutely, to be over-written by a new emotion. Fear… Bobby was starkly afraid, and he had no way to hide that fear.
“It’s going to be all right,” Deakins told him softly. “The doctors here will work it out. You’ll pull through. Trust them… and trust us.”
Angie came forward, then, smiling at the puzzlement in Bobby’s eyes when he saw her.
“I decided I wasn’t letting Jimmy run off and leave me behind this time,” she told him gently, taking the liberty of stroking his forehead in a soothing gesture. “And besides, no one should have to be sick in the hospital and not have family to support them.”
Bobby visibly relaxed at her kind words, but more-so at the realisation that Deakins wasn’t angry with him after all. Exhausted, frightened and in more pain than he could reasonably stand, Bobby finally gave in to the darkness that was waiting to embrace him.
“He’s out,” Deakins murmured, finally moving back from the bed. Carolyn stood at the end of the bed, watching tearfully.
“He’s unconscious most of the time now. Dr House said his body was systematically shutting down. That… That unless they can figure it out soon…”
She trailed off, leaving the obvious unspoken. Deakins rubbed one hand over his face, feeling suddenly nauseous.
“All right. I need to see this Dr House. Where is he, Carolyn?”
Carolyn hesitated, looking anxiously at Bobby. Alex had gone with House solely on the condition that she stay with Bobby, and not leave him alone. She felt a hand clasp hers, and looked up dazedly to see Angie Deakins standing there, smiling gently at her.
“It’s all right, Carolyn. I’ll stay with him. I promise.”
Carolyn conceded reluctantly with a nod.
“Okay. Th… Thankyou.”
Silence reigned in the office that House and his team used to brainstorm over their diagnoses. Alex had just finished describing how she’d extracted the arrow from Bobby’s body, and cauterised the entry and exit wounds to stop him from bleeding out. Everyone who had been listening – even House – was horrified by what they were hearing.
“And you just went back to sleep after that?” Foreman asked incredulously. “Weren’t you afraid that Mathers might catch up to you while you were sleeping?”
Alex looked up at him through red-rimmed eyes.
“At that point, I didn’t give a fuck whether he turned up or not. I’d just had to push an arrow through my partner’s stomach, and cauterise his wounds. Even if he had turned up then, what could I have done except lie there and let him kill us both?”
“Sorry,” Foreman murmured. “Go on, please.”
Alex drew in a long, calming breath.
“When I woke up again, Bobby was already awake. He… wasn’t good, but he was at least alive. He’d made a brace for his broken leg out of wood…”
“I thought you said both of his legs were broken?” House interrupted but, to his credit, there was no scepticism or sarcasm in his tone this time. Alex nodded.
“They were, but one leg was broken worse than the other, and he never realised the other was broken at all because of it. The pain of one overshadowed the rest, I suppose.”
“Okay, what next?” he asked, the barest hint of impatience starting to creep into his voice. He was starting to feel more and more that this was a waste of time, that there was nothing to be gained from listening to her telling of the story. Alex fired him a dark look, but otherwise ignored his tone. Before she had a chance to go on, though, the door opened and Carolyn strode in, with Deakins right behind her.
“Captain,” Alex said, feeling a wave of relief hit her at the sight of him.
“Oh, great,” House muttered, getting up and retreating the far side of the room for more coffee. Deakins’ piercing gaze went straight to the doctor.
“You must be House.”
“My reputation precedes me,” House retorted. “Goodie. And you must be the overprotective captain who couldn’t stay in New York, where he belongs.”
Chase, Foreman and Cameron all winced, as did Alex, Mike and Carolyn, but House seemed oblivious – both to their reactions and to Deakins’.
“What is wrong with my detective?” Deakins demanded to know in a forcibly calm voice.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Foreman interrupted, hoping to defuse the situation. Deakins turned, glowering at the younger man.
“How? By opening old wounds?”
“Captain, it’s okay,” Alex said quietly. “Bobby and I agreed to tell them. They think that maybe something that happened when we were on the run from Erik Mathers might be responsible for Bobby being sick now.” She trailed off, her gaze going to Carolyn. “Who’s with Bobby?”
“Angie is,” Deakins reassured her. “We didn’t leave him alone.”
“Can we get on with this?” House asked sharply. “Time’s wasting, people.”
Alex glared at him, but went on with her story.
“I don’t remember a lot more of what happened. I know we were rescued that afternoon… And we climbed that rise to get to where we’d have the best chance of being seen by rescue choppers… Mathers caught up to us when we got to the top of the rise. He… He shot me… through the stomach… The last thing I remember is sitting on the grass with Bobby… After that, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the hospital.”
She stopped talking, the slightest of tremors passing through her shoulders as she clenched her hands together tightly in her lap.
“Did Bobby contract any infections from his injuries?” Cameron asked, frowning. “Anything that might have been a bit unusual, but didn’t seem to have a lasting effect on him?”
“Nothing like that,” Deakins answered soberly. “When we found him… When the medics got to him… he was suffering severe hypothermia, blood loss, trauma… everything you’d expect from someone who’d been shot multiple times with arrows, had multiple broken bones and was suffering from extreme exposure. He was pretty damned lucky that he didn’t end up with any infections.”
“Then there has to be something else,” House insisted. He looked back to Alex. “Something that you’re not telling us.”
She bristled visibly.
“I don’t remember everything that happened…”
“Oh, bull,” House retorted. “All that repressed memory stuff is crap! You can remember if you really want to…”
“Well, I don’t want to remember!” Alex exploded. “Don’t you get that? It was the worst time of my life, and I don’t want to remember any of it!”
“Look, it’s obvious you’re on the wrong track here,” Mike insisted, trying desperately to inject a note of calm into the proceedings. “There’s got to be some other reason for why he’s sick!”
Alex stood up abruptly.
“I’m going back to Bobby.”
She strode out of the room before anyone had a chance to stop her. Deakins watched her go, and then looked back at House.
“What Bobby and Alex went through on that mountain was nothing short of hell. If Alex doesn’t want to remember, then I won’t let anyone force her into it.”
House stared grimly at Deakins.
“Even at the expense of Bobby’s life?”
Deakins stood stiffly for a long moment before wheeling around and heading out after Alex. After a moment, Mike and Carolyn followed.
“Maybe we’re wrong,” Chase said quietly. “Maybe his illness has nothing to do with what happened to them.”
“It has everything to do with it,” House snapped. “I’m sure of it. But unless we can get the whole truth out of them…”
“In the meantime,” Cameron interjected, “I’ve been thinking…”
“Oh boy,” House mumbled. Cameron ignored him.
“What about TB?”
“Chest x-rays came up negative,” Foreman pointed out.
“We took those x-rays when he came in yesterday morning,” Cameron argued. “It’s possible that it might have developed since then. It wouldn’t be the first time that evidence has delayed in appearing.”
“Do another set of scans,” House ordered. “Check for TB, and pneumonia. In the meantime, switch his meds to Isoniazid and Rifampin, and up his dosage of penicillin to 150mls.”
“I thought we’d established that it wasn’t pneumonia,” Chase said, puzzled.
“Call me hopeful,” House retorted as he passed them on the way to the door.
“You? Hopeful?” Foreman snorted. “That’d be a first.”
House didn’t crack a smile. They were beyond joking now, and the situation was fast approaching a point where they either took a chance with the detective’s treatment, or sat back on their collective asses and let him die.
“I just don’t like to be wrong.”
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