Still dressed in her bloodied scrubs, Regina sat outside the operating room suites in the waiting room, oblivious to the noises and activity going on around her. All that she could think of was that she had told Alex not to go after Dana and now a day later an innocent boy was dead and Alex was in critical condition with a bullet in her chest.
Whatever happens, no matter how bad it is, you canít be there to keep picking her up. The words kept running through her head and she couldnít help but feel somewhat responsible for what happened tonight.
The blonde-haired resident tilted her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, seeking a respite from her clamoring thoughts. It had been two hours and Alex was still in the OR. There was damage to her spleen and her lumbar vertebrae had barely been spared the damage that the bullet did as it penetrated her body.
"Here, Regina, take this." Sandy sat down next to her and handed her a cup of soup and some tea from the cafeteria.
"I canít eat this, Sandy." The resident shoved her friendís hand away and lifted her head, a forlorn look in her tear-stained eyes.
"Youíve got to try and eat something, Regina." Sandy squeezed her arm. "Jon is getting her personnel folder for an emergency contact. Is there anybody I can call? Any family that could be here for her?"
Regina stared at the opposite wall, fighting back another wave of intense emotion that was threatening to overwhelm her. "I donít know. Her mother Ė she hasnít spoken to in a long time. IÖI think sheís in Arizona. I really donít know. Oh God, Sandy, I told her not to go after Dana. What if she had found her?" She dropped her head down into her hands and stifled a sob. "None of this might have happened."
Sandy shook her head vehemently. "Donít even think that. No one is responsible for that boyís death except Dana. Besides, if Alex did find her, who knows what might have happened. Dana might have been crazy enough to shoot her in some back alley and leave her for dead. At least it happened here, and thank God we were here for her."
Regina shuddered at the thought. "Sandy, you know she was coming after Alex."
The nurse nodded her head grimly. "I know."
"Oh God, this is such a mess." Regina jumped to her feet and paced anxiously back and forth across the crowded waiting room.
Sandy sat quietly watching her distressed friend. "Regina, thereís not a whole lot you can do right now. Why donít you get some rest? Iíll wake you as soon as I hear anything."
Regina stopped pacing and turned around to face Sandy. "Iím not leaving her. I want to be here when she wakes up."
The nurse pushed herself up to her feet and caught Reginaís arm. "Hey, you need to take care of yourself right now so you can be there for Alex when she does wake up." She held up a hand to forestall the protest on Reginaís lips. "I donít want to hear it. Sleep in one of the on call rooms."
Regina hesitated as her green eyes searched the nurseís. "You promise youíll call me as soon as sheís out of surgery?"
"I swear youíll be the first to know." Sandy wrapped her arm over Reginaís shoulder and led her out of the waiting room.
Together they walked down the quiet corridor passing the doors that led into the surgical suites. Sandy felt Regina stiffen at her side and clutch at her arm as soon as they turned the corner into the hallway that led to the ER.
"Shit, what is he still doing here?" Sandy growled under her breath. "Didnít you get a restraining order?"
"Yes, but he can still be here if itís work related. Oh God, I canít deal with this now."
Derrick walked toward the two women. "Regina, I was looking for you."
"What do you want, Derrick?" Regina asked warily.
He spread his hands a part as he got closer. "I just wanted to make sure you were ok."
Sandy gave him an incredulous look as she strategically guided Regina around the officer. "You want to make sure sheís ok? Thatís a laugh. You were there, you asshole. What do you think?"
Derrick persisted, following them down the hallway. "You know Regina, none of this had to happen. All you have to do is just walk away from that doctor and everything would be back the way it was Ė your family; us."
"Us?" Regina whirled around and glared back at Derrick defiantly. "You self-serving son of a bitch! Donít you dare walk in here and talk to me like what we had was something special. It was a lie, every last bit of it was a lie!" She was so angry she was shaking as she stepped closer to him. "If you hadnít run into the room and scared the crap out of that man he would have never pulled the trigger on that gun. We almost had him talked out of it. You might as well have shot the gun yourself!"
The door burst open at the end of the hallway and Dr. Washington stormed toward them. "Hey! What the hell is going on out here? I can hear the noise all the way down at the desk." His eyes narrowed as he recognized the police officer standing in front of Regina.
He stepped up in between Regina and Derrick and went nose to nose with the taller man.
"You! Havenít you caused enough trouble around here for one day? If you had kept your mouth shut about that drunk driver that man would have never reacted the way he did."
"The father had a right to know what happened to his son."
Dr. Washington grabbed Derrickís shirt and shoved him back against the wall. "It was bad enough they had to deal with losing their son today, but you had to go and dump that piece of news on them as well. There was a time and a place for it. Outside the trauma room as their son was dying was not it." His eyes flashed angrily and he balled his right hand into a meaty fist.
"Jon, no!" Sandy grabbed the doctorís arm to keep him from hitting Derrick. "Let it go, Jon. Heís not worth it."
The doctorís nostrils flared as he let some of the anger fade, then slowly he released his grip on Derrickís shirt and stepped back from him. "You get your ass out of this hospital, now," he growled. He turned to Regina and Sandy. "Come on, letís go ladies."
As Regina walked by Derrick he grabbed her arm and sneered at her. "Regina, maybe you ought to wake up and realize your real family is more important than whatever that woman can offer you."
Regina reacted without even thinking and backhanded him hard across his face, snapping his head back. "Get out, Derrick. Just get out, you bastard!"
Stunned by her reaction, Derrick rubbed his jaw and blinked, clearing his vision. He watched in a daze as the three of them walked toward the ER, leaving him standing alone in the hallway.
Most of the staff was quiet, talking in hushed whispers as the three of them entered the ER. It was always difficult losing someone so young. It was an exercise in carefully preserving their own composure for their own sakes and the sake of the loved ones who were only beginning to grieve the tragic loss.
This, coupled with the additional strain of having one of their own critically injured in the melee that followed, taxed the staff to their emotional and physical limits.
Jon quietly disengaged himself from the two women and walked over to a small cluster of medical staff. "Come on people, I know this has been a shitty day for us, but weíve still got patients to take care of." Reluctantly, the small group dispersed quickly, the routine of their work a balm to the chaos that had reigned earlier.
He turned to Marcus who had stayed on beyond his shift to help out. "Everyone has their assignments?"
"Itís all taken care of, Jon. I called Dr. Ortiz and let him know what happened. Heís going to help cover Dr. Marguliesí shifts in the meantime. Iíll stay and help too."
Jon nodded his head, knowing that Marcus was voluntarily giving up his vacation to help out with everything. "Thanks, man. I owe you one."
Across the hallway, Sandy guided Regina into one of the exam rooms and ushered the resident up onto the treatment table.
"Sit. Let me see your hand." She shook her head as she inspected the growing purplish discoloration on the back of the residentís hand. "Nice job, slugger."
Regina slumped forward as her body acknowledged the pain shooting up her forearm. "I broke it, didnít I?"
"Looks like it. Hold still," the nurse admonished gently, inspecting the residentís swollen hand.
"Great, a perfect end to the day." Regina winced as Sandy wrapped a bag of ice around her hand with an ace bandage. "Is my father still here?"
"One of the nurses sent him down to the cafeteria when all hell broke loose up here. Heís around here somewhere. Things are still pretty wild around this place. Iím going to get one of the docs to x-ray this and then cast it for you. Just rest for awhile." Sandy saw the look of worry in her friendís face and squeezed Reginaís shoulder. "Sheís got the best people taking care of her."
Sandy left the room and returned several minutes later with one of the new residents in tow. "Regina, this is Roger. Heíll take care of you."
Regina looked over at the exhausted looking doctor and sighed. "All right, letís get this done with."
The resident that Sandy commandeered to take care of Regina gingerly held the womanís arm. "Dr. Kingston, this will go a lot faster if you sit down," the dark-skinned man advised her as he wrapped strips of fiberglass around her hand and wrist.
Green eyes flashed angrily and then she relented, sitting down on the stretcher. "Sorry," she muttered, trying to contain her nervousness.
"Regina." Her father walked into the exam room as the intern finished wrapping the fiberglass strips around her arm to cast the fracture. His eyes widened when he saw the cast being applied to her arm. "What happened to you?" He laid a hand on his daughterís shoulder as he came up beside her.
"Itís a long story, Dad." Regina looked up at him miserably.
He sat down beside her on the stretcher, waiting in silence until the exhausted looking intern finished his job and hastily left the room.
"Howís the doctor who got hurt?" he asked softly. There was no need for him to ask about the boy. He overheard some of the staff talking as he walked back into the ER minutes before.
The fair-skinned residentís body sagged and she shrugged her shoulders in response to the question. "Sheís in bad shape. They donít know if sheís going to make it," she whispered, fresh tears falling anew and staining her scrub top.
Gently brushing the blonde hair back behind his daughterís ear, Robert pulled her against him. "Youíre good friends with her?"
Regina remained silent, watching her fatherís eyes as they looked into hers. She hesitated, moving her hand idly over the lightweight cast she was wearing, as she studied him anxiously.
He dug inside one of his pockets and pulled out a hard candy, offering it to her. She shook her head and smiled at the familiar gesture from her childhood. I wish it were still that easy to make everything all better, Dad. "No thanks."
"Youíre my only daughter, Regina. There was a time when you could tell me anything."
She laughed suddenly. "I was a kid then, Dad."
"Youíre still my kid, no matter what."
She swallowed nervously and gathered her courage as she gazed up at the anxious brown eyes. "Dad, what would you say if I told you Iím in love with her?"
A startled expression came over his face and he looked down at his hands while he fiddled with the plastic wrapping around the hard candy. "HÖhow long have you known her?"
"Six months." Regina stared down at her hands. Six of the best months of my life, she thought to herself. Everyday was an adventure. She looked forward to each shift they worked together, and felt a soul deep loneliness each time they parted company.
"How can you be sure?"
Iíve never been surer of anything in my life. "How did you know you loved mom?"
Her fatherís breath caught and his eyes widened in surprise and anger. "Youíd compare this to your mother and I?" His voice was tinged with disbelief as he stared at his daughter.
Regina sat up straighter and squared her shoulders. "Iíve never felt more complete than I do when Iím with her." Why didnít I tell her that when I had the chance to?
The door opened and Regina looked up as Sandy poked her head in and motioned her over.
"Tina called. Theyíre just bringing her up to recovery now."
"Dad, Iím sorry. Iíve got to go."
He held her arm for a second, his eyes filling with tears when he let her go. "Iíll be at the hotel until tomorrow night if you need me."
Regina jumped off the stretcher, ran out of the room, dogged a stretcher being wheeled down the hallway by an orderly, and barely missed plowing into one of the housekeepers who was mopping the floor.
The surgeonís words echoed hauntingly in her head long after he had left the recovery room.
She lost four units of bloodÖthere was damage to her spleenÖswelling in her back from the bulletÖcompressing the spinal cordÖthe next seventy-two hours are critical for her.
She lost track of the hours while she sat in the uncomfortable chair, facing the hospital bed in the recovery room and then later in the Intensive Care Unit after they transferred Alex. Her eyes watched the steady rise and fall of the dark-haired womanís chest as oxygen was pumped in and out of her lungs by the ventilator.
The blonde looked up over her shoulder and gave a tired half smile as Tina walked into the dimly lit room. "Thanks for letting me stay with her."
The nurse rested a hand on the residentís shoulder. "Itís good that youíre here for her, but you need to get some rest, too."
"I will," the resident answered absently. She stared at the steady green fluorescent blips on the monitor recording Alexís heartbeat and respirations.
Tina stood next to Regina for a moment before she spoke. "Alex is strong, Regina. Sheís going to pull through."
Regina nodded her head and said a silent prayer that Tina was right. Right now all she wanted in the world was her best friend and her lover back.
"If you need anything, let me know." The nurse squeezed her shoulder and then left her alone in the room.
Not watching as Tina retreated from the room and left them alone, the blonde moved to the edge of the hospital bed. Carefully, to avoid the tubes and IV lines that snaked over her body, she slipped her hand under Alexís and squeezed it gently.
"Alex." She brought her lips close to her ear. "Iím right here." The blonde brought the back of the womanís hand up to her face and held it against her cheek. "You hold on, you hear me?" She reached up and stroked Alexís face with her other hand. "I canít lose you." Not after I just found you.
The rhythmic whoosh and click of the ventilator at the bedside penetrated the drug-induced fog. Alex blinked and opened her eyes. Her eyes focused briefly and she saw the white speckled surface of the ceiling tiles above her bed. She didnít know how long she had been out, only sensed the passage of time by the amount of light reflecting through the window on her left. Her first clear realization was the bone-deep throbbing pain in her chest, followed by the strong perception of someone sitting by the bedside, watching over her.
Echoes of frantic voices replayed in her head as vague memories slowly surfaced and then disappeared. She remembered seeing the flash of metal and feeling the sudden, intense, crushing sensation in her chest as she fell to the ground.
A surge of pain rolled through her and she thrashed her head against the pillow, briefly fighting the ventilator. A soft voice whispered re-assurances in her ear and a gentle hand brushed her bangs off of her face before she slipped back into the opiate induced stupor.
Regina closed her eyes, feeling the tears starting again. "Youíve got more courage than anyone I know. I need you to be strong and fight; promise me youíll fight. Iím going to be here when you wake up." Regina bent over and kissed the brunetteís forehead. Please donít leave me.
She was dressed in scrubs, standing alone in an empty room devoid of light. Her hair hung loosely around her shoulders and was pulled back on the sides by two small braids that were bound in the back by a leather barrette. Am I dreaming? She turned around, rubbing her hands over her arms as a chill settled over her. Why am I so cold?
Behind her she felt a faint breeze and looked over her shoulder to see a door cracked open with a soft, white light filtering into the room, casting a bluish hue along the wooden floor. She could feel it gently beckoning to her and moved toward it.
There was no fear, just a sense of restfulness and peace. Her hand was on the door, pulling it open when she felt a momentary heart-wrenching wave of emotion that left her breathless and doubled over.
Alex turned and found herself standing face to face with Regina, close enough to touch the smooth skin of her face, to whisper in her ear, to feel her heartbeat, only she couldnít. Something separated them. She felt her heart breaking as she felt the pain of their separation and then the room, Regina, and the light were gone.
Someone cleared their throat from behind her and Regina turned around to focus on the tall, blonde-haired woman standing outside the door.
"Dr. Kingston, I know this isnít a good time but I need to talk to you." Dr. Mitchardís eyes flicked once to the bed where her chief attending laid hooked up to a myriad of lines and tubes and then returned to Regina.
The resident straightened slowly and walked to the door of the room as the Vice President motioned Regina to follow her. Reluctantly, she followed the stern looking woman down the hallway and into an empty ICU room.
"Iím asking you this in strictest confidence, Dr. Kingston," the doctor said as she turned around and made eye contact.
The resident felt her heart constrict at the words. A thousand confused thoughts whirled in her head, closing her eyes she willed her heart to stop racing and think clearly. "I understand, Dr. Mitchard."
"Before tonight I asked Dr. Margulies about Dr. Jamesonís interactions with a specific drug company. I need to know if she discussed anything with you."
Her first reaction was anger that the VP didnít even bother to ask how Alex was, followed by a gut reaction to proceed cautiously. The blonde hesitated, remembering that Alex had told her to stay out of the whole mess. Iím sorry, Alex. I know you didnít want me involved but I donít have a choice anymore.
"She didnít tell me anything specific," Regina answered carefully.
The doctor studied her closely and Regina had a strong sense that the woman didnít believe her. "Dr. Kingston, I know youíre good friends with her and I understand your concern over what happened tonight, but I need to know if she has any documents that might help with the investigation. Without them, things look very bad for the whole ER department, your attending included."
"Why? I donít understand."
The executiveís eyes narrowed as she studied the young doctor. "Dr. Kingston, the drug company is under suspicion of fraud and the hospital is linked to them. We need to disassociate ourselves from whomever, or whatever happened, as quickly as possible."
It suddenly became very clear to Regina what the Vice President was trying to do. Alex told her she needed to find out just how many people knew about what was going on and from the urgency in the womanís voice she guessed their illustrious VP had either tacitly approved of it by not intervening or had been a willing party to it all along. Regina seethed as she stood in front of the woman.
Disassociate, my butt. Youíre looking for a fall guy and you think with Alex out of commission she makes an easy target. Well, think again, Dr. Mitchard.
"Dr. Mitchard, Iím afraid I canít help you. I donít know anything about any documents." Regina turned and walked quickly out of the room. The landscape had shifted dramatically in one short meeting and the person she once trusted was no longer the ally Regina thought she was.
She slipped back into Alexís room and stood at the bedside for a few minutes, until one of the nurses came in and asked her to leave so she could change the bandages. The blonde leaned over and kissed Alex on the forehead, ignoring the curious stare she got from the woman.
Regina wasted little time returning to the ER and immediately went in search of Dr. Washington. She found him tucked away in one of the exam rooms pouring over a pile of charts.
He looked up and sat back in his chair when she walked in the room. "How is she?"
"They gave her four units of blood and repaired the damage to her spleen. Theyíre worried about what damage there might be in her back from all the swelling."
His eyes narrowed, sensing the conflict within. "What else is bothering you?"
Regina looked up at the ceiling and blew out a breath. "Dr. Mitchard just paid me a visit. She wants to know if Alex told me anything about Dr. Jameson."
Jon set his pen down and crossed his legs. "At this point I think everyone knows he was getting kickbacks from the drug company."
Regina shook her head. "Theyíre looking for someone to take the fall. I think theyíre going to point the finger at Alex."
"How can they? She didnít do anything wrong."
"No, but sheís looking to do damage control before the investigation shows that this was going on right underneath her nose and she didnít know about it."
The doctor sat back in his chair and blew out a breath. "Shit! Allright, let me think about this, Regina. In the meantime, go home. You need to sleep."
Regina didnít go home and what little sleep she did get through the night was fitful. Her mind played tricks on her and she kept suffering through the same dream that replayed each time she fell back to sleep.
She kept seeing herself reaching out and holding Alexís face between her hands. Her friend, her lover, was dying, and she could feel her slipping away in the dream. She couldnít do anything to stop it from happening. Finally, after waking with a cry the last time, Regina hauled herself off the stretcher she had collapsed on in an empty exam room and stumbled up to ICU.
The blonde walked up to the nursing night shift on the unit and asked for Alexís chart. She knew she shouldnít be doing this; she was using her privilege as a doctor to read the medical record but she had to know how she was doing. She flipped the pages to the last entry and felt a weight lift when she read that they had taken her off the ventilator. She headed directly to Alexís room, drawing the curtain and pulling the chair up beside the bed. No one contested her being there. Dressed in her scrubs and lab coat they didnít question her presence, at least for now.
Regina pulled a chair up and sat next to the bed. She rested her head on the bed rail and watched as Alex slept unaware of what was going on around her. Scooting closer she reached her hand out and traced her fingers over womanís face.
"Alex, itís me." She glanced up as a nurse entered the room, but continued to talk to her softly. Heavily sedated or not she knew that many people could hear what was going on around them even if they couldnít respond to it. "Everyone in the ER is asking about you. Jon said he was going to come up later today and see you. I miss you, Alex, please come back. We need you." Bending forward, she kissed her forehead.
The room was dark again as it was outside when Alex blinked and opened her eyes. Her first clear realization was the deep, throbbing pain in her chest although the tube in her throat and chest were gone. She heard the whirring and clicking of the IV pumps as their motors pumped the fluids into her veins. Slowly she turned her head and saw blonde hair spilling over the shoulders of the body sitting slumped forward onto the hospital bed.
She turned her head slowly to the right and saw a bed rail, beyond it was a sink and a cabinet. A window to the outside world told her it was dark out. She turned her head back to the left and saw the body sitting slumped forward on the bed, head resting on crossed arms.
Tentatively, she moved her hand, touching the soft blonde hair splayed out over the mattress. A sense of utter relief flowed through her when she felt the soft strands of hair run through her fingers. Youíre real, itís not a dream.
"Regina?" It came out in a hoarse whisper.
The blonde head lifted, eyes blinking in slow comprehension. "YÖYouíre awake." Regina slipped up beside the doctor and caressed her face with her good hand.
"IÖloveÖyou," Alex whispered, leaning into the hand that was touching her face.
"I love you, too, sweetheart."
Alex swallowed painfully, her throat still sore from the breathing tube. "Dana?"
Regina swallowed and slowly nodded her head. "Sheís alive."
"Shh, get some rest."
"You saved me." Alex moved her arm and took hold of Reginaís hand.
The resident shook her head. "It was a group effort, believe me."
Alex winced and swallowed painfully. "My chest hurts."
Regina leaned over and kissed her lips. "It should after what you went through. Go to sleep."
Alex shook her head. "Donít want to miss you."
"Iím not leaving," Regina whispered.
Alex reached up weakly with one hand and pulled Regina to her. "I love you."
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