Trial of Conscience

By Troubleshooter

Chapter 7

A tall form stood in the middle of a hall that seemed to have no end and no beginning.  Gray.  Everything was gray.  She tried to move forward and felt sharp fingernails dig into her back, trying to gain purchase on her skin.  The nails ripped flesh as she frantically twisted away.  Reaching out, she touched a wall to regain her balance.  The walls and ceiling came alive with swirling lines of reds, grays, and blacks as a thick fog covered the floor.  With maddening slowness, the colors pooled and began to drip.   Light, like a winking sliver, peeked through the blackness at the end.  Distorted faces floated by as the sound of metal crunching and glass shattering filled her ears.

Strong hands clawed at the sheets, a sheen of sweat covering her body.  Gasping for air, her heart pounding, she struggled to sit up, but there was so much pain.  An anguished scream tore from her throat.

“Evin!  Evin!  Honey!  You’re okay, you’re okay.”  Sydney held Evin tighter and whispered soothingly to her.  “Relax...relax...don’t move…don’t move...that’s it.”  Sydney felt Evin relaxing in her arms.

“Sydney?” Foggy, everything’s foggy.

“Yeah, it’s me...shhhh...take it easy.  I think you were having a bad dream.”

I’m in a bed.  With Sydney.  Not that I’m complaining, but I would have expected to feel, oh, just a little better than I do right now. Okay, a lot better.  Dull, throbbing pain all along her right side turned sharp as she tried to move.  The room was almost pitch black and a small beeping sound pierced the background.  This is not good.  She took a deep breath and felt something move on the right side of her chest.  Oh, not good at all.  And it smells like a hospital. 

“Evin, you’re in the hospital.”

Fuck!  “What the hell happened and why do I feel like a truck ran over me, backed up, and ran over me again?”

Scooting down a little bit on the bed, Sydney leaned on one elbow, peering intently at the face next to her, barely able to make out the shadowed planes and lines.  Evin stared up at the ceiling, unblinking.

For the past four days, Sydney had put herself on autopilot, not allowing herself to think about what happened, or how close Evin had come to death.  When the tall woman had finally awakened yesterday afternoon, a feeling of utter relief had washed over her.  But, Evin had been so out of it, Sydney had been even more scared.  She hadn’t asked any questions and mostly slept, waking up every once in a while to look around the room, then going back to sleep.  Sydney detected the sharpness in the woman’s voice now.  It hit her that Evin was really okay.

“There was an explosion.  You got hurt pretty bad.  You’re in Lafayette General Medical Center.”  Sydney’s voice was thick with emotion. 

An explosion?  Where?  What the hell happened?  “Andrew...Gary?”  Oh please, God, let them be okay.

“They’re both okay.”  An audible sigh of relief came from Evin as Sydney answered.  “Some small cuts and bruises, but other than that….” 

Thank God.  “Did we get the affidavit from the girl?”

“No.  She’s...she’s dead.”  Sydney’s voice cracked, the stress and the strain of the last few days threatening to bubble to the surface.  “Killed in the explosion.  Her boyfriend, too.”  Now is not the time to lose it, she told herself sternly.  “How are you feeling?”

“I feel like I need to brush my teeth.  I feel like I need a good, long, hot shower.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad, considering I have no idea what happened to me.  And exactly what time is it?  And how long have I been lying here?  I need to call the office. Where’s the phone?”

“Why don’t you let me up and I’ll grab you a toothbrush.  That’ll at least make you feel a little bit better.  And then I’ll tell you everything.  I might even tell you some things you don’t want to know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’ll see,” Sydney teased gently as she climbed out of the bed.

The light in the small bathroom clicked on, partially illuminating the hospital room.  All right, now I can see for myself what the damage is.  Evin tossed the covers down and noted the catheter.  That’s going to be gone in about five minutes.  She pressed the call button on the side of the bed for the nurse, then lifted the gown up and started to pull off the EKG leads and pads.

Sticky.  “Hey, Sydney, bring me a wet washcloth, please?”  Fuck…the girl is dead.

“Sure.”  Sydney grabbed a washcloth and turned the water on.

The alarm on the EKG monitor went off.  Evin winced, struggling to sit up as she tried to reach the “off” button but it was on her right side.  “Will you come turn this thing off, please?”  Got to start making some phone calls.  There’s got to be another way to get that information.  That alarm is so irritating.

“What thing?”  Sydney called from the bathroom as she turned the water off.  “What’s that noise?”

As Sydney stepped out of the bathroom, she was almost bowled over by two out of breath nurses bursting through the door.  One reached over and flipped the lights on.

Everybody looked at each other, wide-eyed.  Except for Evin, who calmly asked, “Would somebody please turn off that monitor?  That noise is irritating.  And I want this catheter out, now.  Sydney, can you hand me the phone, please?” 

Sydney couldn’t believe it.  “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”

The two nurses stood there, looking back and forth between the two women.

“Seeing what they did to me,” she answered absently as she thought about the case.  Who would Battiste have talked to?  There’s got to be another way to get that information.  Maybe a search.  How do I get a search done? Think, Moran, think.

“You took your EKG leads off?”  Sydney asked incredulously, noting the wires and pads hanging off the side of the bed.

“Is there some reason I shouldn’t have?  My heart appears to be working fine.”  Evin said innocently.  She looked at the nurses.  “Will one of you please turn that damn alarm off? And can I please have the phone?”  Got to talk to the office.

“Ma’am, we need to get your EKG leads back on.”  The shorter nurse moved to the bedside table that housed the portable monitor, silenced the alarm, and reached for new pads.

Andrew warned me she wouldn’t like all this.  “Evin, you scared these poor nurses to death with that alarm.  You’ve got to stop doing that.”

Evin regarded Sydney with a puzzled look.  “You say that like I’ve been terrorizing the nurses.  I just woke up.  Can you hand me the phone…please?”

“Oh no, honey.”  Sydney shook her head for emphasis.  “You’ve been awake a couple of times before and had the occasion to scare a very nice nurse.”  Sydney watched as Evin picked up the tubing for her chest tube.  “Will you put that down?”  Jesus, she’s just like a kid.

Evin absently dropped the tubing and looked at her in disbelief.  “What did I do to the nice nurse?  Sydney, hand me the phone please.”

“We’ll discuss that later.”

“Hey, don’t put those damn things back on me.”  Evin glared at the nurse approaching her.  “They itch.  My heart’s working fine.  And I really want this catheter out.  When is this chest tube coming out?”

Sydney looked expectantly at the IV pump, almost hoping that it was time for another dose of pain medication.  She usually fell asleep within five minutes.  Yeah, now would be a good time.

“Ma’am, we just can’t start taking things out.  The doctor...”

“Get him on the phone then.  Or tell me how and I’ll take this catheter out myself.  As a matter of fact, who is my doctor and exactly what surgical procedures have I had?”

The two nurses looked at each other then back at Evin.  The taller nurse spoke up.  “Ms. Moran, we can’t let you take that catheter out.”

The law student saw the flash in the blue eyes as Evin reacted to the nurse’s statement.  Aw, why’d you have to say that?  It’s like throwing a red flag up in front of a bull.  Sydney stepped in between the taller nurse and Evin, blocking Evin’s line of sight.  “Um...Evin, why don’t you let the nurses go call the doctor and I can try to answer your questions?  Okay?  It’ll be faster that way.  If they’re in here explaining things to you, they can’t be calling the doctor.”  She watched Evin process that.

“Okay,” she agreed grudgingly.  “But I want to read my chart.  Please give me the phone.”

The shorter nurse started to say something, but quickly changed her mind.

God, give me patience, she thought as she rolled her eyes. “Evin, I don’t think it’s a good idea to play with the IV tubing.”

Dark eyebrows furrowed, but she dropped the tubing as she watched the nurses walk out.  “What time is it?”

Sydney glanced at her watch.  “It’s 6:10 in the morning. Here’s your toothbrush.”

“I’ve got Davis this morning.”  She took the toothbrush from Sydney.  “Thanks.  I need to call the office and make sure it’s covered. Can you please hand me the phone?”

“Evin, Davis was Friday.  It’s…it’s Monday.”  She watched as blue eyes widened.

“Monday?  I…I…” Evin looked at Sydney in disbelief.  Holy Mother of God.  “As in Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are gone?”

Sydney nodded in confirmation.  “Yes.”

“Fuck!  Hmph.  I need the phone, now,” she muttered and started brushing her teeth.  This feels weird, doing it left-handed.  She flexed the fingers on her right hand and slowly raised her right arm.  Doesn’t bend too well at the elbow.  Nice bandage job.  Four fucking days wasted.  Damn!  Got to get moving on finding those checks.

Sydney watched as Evin paled and her arm started to shake as she raised it.  “Can I ask you a favor?”

Blue eyes popped up and regarded Sydney.  “Ymph.”

I’ll take that as a yes.   “Could you quit moving around and lay back until I can tell you how many staples are holding you together?  Please, before you pop something open?”

One eyebrow arched and Evin regarded Sydney intently.  Reluctantly, she nodded her assent. I am not staying here any longer than I have to.  “Mmphm.”

“Are you in a lot of pain?”

A shrug.

“Well, you’re awfully pale.”

Evin pulled the toothbrush out of her mouth.  “Phone, Sydney, please.  So, how many staples?”

Sydney handed her a cup of water and the small basin.  “I don’t know the exact number.  I haven’t counted.”

“So you’ve seen ‘em?” Evin asked as she pointed to the phone.  “The phone please.”

“No, I haven’t seen them.  What do you want the phone for?”

“I’ve got to call the office.  Wanna see ‘em?”  Evin reached down for the bandage on her thigh and started pulling at the tape.  “What’d they do here?”

Sydney grabbed her hand.  “Do not take apart anything else.  What is with you?”

“What do you mean?  I’m just trying to see what it looks like.  Can you just give me the God damned phone?”

Sydney felt herself snap, the simmering cauldron of emotions she had held in finally boiling.  Wiping furiously at the tears that started to fall, she exploded.  “I can’t believe you.  You’re acting like this is nothing.  Two people are dead.  You’ve been shot at and now somebody’s tried to blow you up.  Do you know you almost died?” 

The small woman started shaking and struggled to stop it.  Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “I listened, God damn it. I listened to how terrified Andrew sounded when he was talking to the paramedics.  I heard him describe how much blood you were losing and the pipe...the wood...I almost....”  Lost you.  I thought I’d never hear your voice again.  Sydney collapsed in the chair as she started sobbing.

“Sydney?”  Evin’s voice was soft and low.  Christ, Moran, you made her cry. 

That voice touched her to her core.  “Yes?”

“I’m sorry you had to go through this.  I’m sorry…those people died.  I…I’m sorry all this happened.’ll find another way to win this case.”

“” Sydney stammered.  “You think I care about the damn case?”  Sydney was standing at the side of the bed now.  She grabbed at Evin’s chest, the hospital gown bunched into her fists.  Green eyes wild with pain and fear looked into blue.  “I thought I’d never hear your voice again.  I though I’d lost you.”  The words were spoken in a haunting whisper.  “Don’t you understand?”  She searched the face of the tall attorney for some hint of comprehension.  “I…I care about you.”

“It’s’s okay...C’mere...come on up here.”  Sydney climbed into the bed and Evin wrapped her arm around her and pulled her close.  “Shhhh...I got ya...shhhh,” she whispered as she nuzzled Sydney’s hair.  It feels so good just to hold her.  “I’m so sorry you had to go through sorry...I’m not going anywhere, I’m right here.”

Sydney sobbed harder, burying her head into Evin’s shoulder.  Evin held her as she cried and continued to whisper soothingly to her.  Sydney’s sobs died down and for long minutes she clung to Evin.

“I’m sorry.”  Sydney sniffled and tried to get up, but Evin’s arm held her firmly in place.  “I got your gown all wet.”

“I’m sure the hospital has another one laying around here somewhere,” she said dryly.   She felt Sydney smile.  “Can I ask you a favor?”

“Sure.  Anything.”

“Sit up for a second.”  Sydney did as instructed.  “Now turn...yeah, like that...put your arm up here...uh, tilt your chin up...good.”

“Am I hurting you?”  Sydney now sat perched across Evin’s lap. 

“Nah.”  Evin lied as she gazed into the most beautiful green eyes she thought she’d ever seen.  “You’re so beautiful,” she whispered softly.  “Can I just look at you for a while?”

Sydney’s face flushed and she looked down shyly.  What she does to me when she looks at me.  Oh, God help me.   A warm tingle spread like wildfire through Sydney’s body.

This is what heaven must be like, Evin thought as she shuddered at the feelings Sydney stirred.

Sydney looked up as Evin shuddered, intense blue eyes catching her gaze.  Her hands came up and held Evin’s cheeks and she leaned in, her lips finding Evin’s.  Her kisses were soft and gentle and sweet, lingering on Evin’s lips as she tried to convey what she felt.  Evin’s response matched hers, neither escalating, both content to just exist in the moment.  When Sydney finally drew back, green eyes met blue and held them for an eternity, two souls speaking wordlessly with one another.

The door squeaked lightly as it opened.  Here come the reinforcements, Evin thought.  A doctor, followed by the two nurses who had been in earlier, strode into the room and abruptly came to a dead stop as piercing blue eyes pinned him in his place.

One of the nurses blurted out. “That woman can’t be in bed with you.”

“She can be any place she wants to be,” Evin growled as she tightened her hold on Sydney.

The doctor rolled his eyes at the nurse.  “I’m Dr. Casabaum, the orthopedic surgeon.   Hello, Sydney.  How are you today?”

“Hi, Dr. Casabaum.  I’m fine. How are you?”

“Good, Sydney, thanks.  And Ms. Moran, are you feeling better today?”

One eyebrow raised as she regarded the physician coolly.  “Compared to what?  I’ve been unconscious for four days.”

Glancing at Sydney as she rolled out of the bed, Dr. Casabaum wondered what such a nice, sweet girl was doing with the scourge of physician malpractice insurers.  He had been in the middle of operating on Evin when someone had informed him that she was one of the attorneys who had cases that were heavily discussed in the “Introduction to Medical Ethics” course taught the first year of medical school.  The surgeon had hesitated for a split second and hoped his premium was paid.

He took a deep breath.  “Has anyone explained to you what happened and the procedures you underwent?”

“Other than being involved in an explosion, no.”

“I’ve got surgery in ten minutes.  When I’m through with surgery, I’ll come back and go through everything and answer any questions you might have.  I’ve written orders to have the catheter removed and I’ve scheduled a chest X-ray for this morning.  I want to consult with the pulmonologist first after seeing your chest films, but I really don’t see a problem with removing the chest tube.  That should answer your immediate concerns.”

“Good…that’ll be perfect.  It will give me time to take care of some things.”

“Fine.  I’ll see you after surgery.”  He turned and walked out the door with the nurses following.

“I need the phone, Sydney.”

“Is that really necessary? You….”

“Yes, Sydney, it’s necessary.”  Evin said angrily.  “Four days are gone.  I’ve got to play catch-up.  Now please, I’ve asked for the phone twenty times.  Will you hand it to me or am I going to have to get out of this God damned bed to get it?  Life doesn’t stop just because I got hurt.”

“No…you’re right…it doesn’t.”  Sydney said quietly.

Why does being right make me feel like an asshole?  Christ, Moran, you’ve been conscious for what, all of forty-five minutes, and you’ve managed to make her cry, piss her off and upset her.  You are a piece of work.  Evin took a deep breath and gentled her voice.  “Sydney?”

“Yes?”  Green eyes slowly trailed up to meet blue.

“I…I…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to yell.”  She raised her left hand and then let it drop.  “I…the last thing I remember is being in the airboat.  We were stopped, talking about what to do.  And then…here…waking up.  Four days…lost.  It’s…I don’t like it.   Not knowing…I don’t know what’s happened.”  Face it, Moran.  It scared the hell out of you when you woke up in this place, so you did what you always do when you feel something—focus on anything but what you were feeling.

Sydney moved to the side of the bed and reached out to grasp Evin’s hand.  “I’ll try and fill you in on as much as I can.  I’ve, um, been talking with Jeffrey and Rachel and Andrew and we’ve been working on the case.  I can tell you what we’ve done so far.”

Evin’s eyes widened in surprise.  “You’ve been working on the case?”

“Yes, the case.  You did teach me rule number one, after all.  Do you have so little faith in your teaching abilities that you think I would forget?  Or so little faith in me?”

Oh, would be a good time to pass out from pain.  “It never…didn’t cross my mind that you…anyone, really…would do anything.”  She squeezed Sydney’s hand lightly as she tried to read her expression. 

“It is my case, too, Evin.  I’ve been working on it a lot longer than you have.  I know I don’t have the experience….”

“Sydney, it’s not about that.  Please…believe me.  It’s not an indictment of you or your abilities.  I didn’t think…” You just didn’t think.  Sydney’s more than competent.  She’s professional, conscientious, and hard working.  You really need to get your ego deflated some, Moran.  It ain’t all about you on this one.  In fact, all you’ve managed to do is get shot at, fined, thrown in jail for contempt, and nearly blown up.  Add the thousands of dollars you’ve spent on investigations that haven’t turned up a thing, the only witness dead….  Oh yeah, stellar job so far, Moran.   “It’s just…I’ve done this for a very long time…by myself.  I’m not used to having anyone pick up the slack.  Thank you.”

A small smile graced Sydney’s face.  “Well, I guess you’d better get used to it then, Counselor, because I want to win this one as much as you do.”

“I’m really sorry, Sydney.  I shouldn’t have assumed anything.”  Evin smiled, then it turned into a frown.  Did you get hit on the head really hard?  “How…how long have you been here?”

“Since Thursday afternoon.  Jeffrey and I got here around two, I think.  You had been in surgery for a couple of hours by then.”

Evin lay there, dumbfounded.  It had seemed like the most natural thing in the world when she had awakened that Sydney was there.  She hadn’t even questioned it.  She replayed their conversation in her mind.  She said something about listening to Andrew and hearing something and wood and a pipe and the doctor knew her and she took care of things with the case and people are dead and.... Moran, you’d better stop and regroup here, find out exactly what the hell’s happened since you checked out of life for a little while.

Concerned green eyes looked at dazed pale blue. “Hey, are you okay?  What’s the matter?  Evin?” 

“Um…I think you need to tell me exactly what’s happened while I was in La La Land.”  Or is that where I am now?

“Are you sure you’re okay?  Are you in any pain?  Does your head hurt?”

“Yeah, yeah…I mean no…I…just tell me what happened, please.”

“And that pretty much covers the four days.”  Sydney leaned over and kissed Evin’s forehead.  “It’s been…um…well, if the roller coaster never goes on this part of the ride again, it will be fine with me.”

Evin was silent for a long while.  I think I’ve had it easy being unconscious this whole time.  What she went through, what Andrew went through....  

“I know that’s a lot of information to handle, Evin.”  Sydney’s voice was soothing.  “Why don’t you just rest a little while?  You’ve got to be tired.”

Evin gazed at the law student lying next to her on the bed.  The stress and strain of the previous four days were clearly visible on Sydney’s face.  How could I have not seen that?  Too damned focused on your own bullshit to see it, that’s how.  Are you even capable of thinking of someone else? Green eyes gazed back at her and she felt a surge of emotion well in her heart. 

“Hey, you okay?”  Sydney asked as she watched the storm forming in the pale blue eyes.  

“Um…yeah…I…uh….thank you, Sydney.”

A small hand raised to Evin’s forehead and brushed her hair back.  “You’re welcome…try and get some rest now.”  She watched as Evin’s eyelids closed.  “I’ll be right here when you wake up, okay?”


Sydney smiled as she felt Evin’s breathing deepen.  And she didn’t even ask for the phone.

A small groan escaped from Evin’s lips as she moved in her sleep.  Sydney looked up from her casebook and studied the sleeping form.  Two more days until Friday.  I can’t believe she stayed here this long. 

Monday had been the worst day so far.  Evin’s mood had deteriorated a little further each time she woke up.  Sydney watched the blue eyes storm with emotion as she got angrier and angrier at anything and everything.  Sydney thought she was having a hard time dealing with what happened, but each time Sydney tried to talk to Evin about it, she was rebuffed.

The conversation had been barely civil with Dr. Casabaum and the neurologist, Dr. Landry. The only good thing was when Dr. Casabaum had told Evin about the compression bolt used to hold her shattered femur together.  It meant that she didn’t have to have a cast and that she could walk in as little as two weeks without needing crutches.

Early Monday night, after the chest tube had been removed, Evin looked at Sydney and said, “Hand me my clothes.  I’m getting out of here.”  It would have been more of a surprise to Sydney if Evin hadn’t tried to leave.  She didn’t even react when Evin grabbed the IV and pulled it out of the back of her hand.

Sydney had thought long and hard about what she would do in this situation.  She had watched Evin closely since they had woken up that morning.  The tall attorney was pale, exhausted, and in pain.  She broke out in a sweat with every movement, the grimace on her face and the shaking of whatever body part she was trying to move refuting her words of “I feel okay.” 

It was clear from Evin’s mood and her tone of voice that rational discourse on the subject wouldn’t work and neither would Sydney arguing with her or cajoling her.  So Sydney did what she thought best under the circumstances.  She walked to the little closet in the room and pulled out the red plastic bag containing the clothes Evin had been wearing when she came into the emergency room.  The operating room nurse had been insistent that she take the bag after Evin’s surgery.  She couldn’t imagine that Evin would want the clothes, but she felt like she should at least ask before throwing them away.  Sydney was grateful now that she hadn’t had the opportunity to ask.

They’re the only clothes she has here, Sydney had rationalized.  And she said she wants them.  She tossed the bag at Evin, who made a weak grab for it with her left hand.  Ignoring the homicidal glare, Sydney asked her if she needed any help.  Evin snarled a “no” and dumped the contents of the bag on the bed.

Sydney watched as Evin proceeded to pass out as the sight of the blood-soaked and still damp, shredded clothing and the smell of fermented swamp water and blood and God knows what else overwhelmed her.  That wasn’t very nice, but Sydney was resolute that she would do whatever it took to keep Evin in the hospital.  Sydney carefully picked up the clothes and placed them back in the bag, almost losing her dinner in the process.  Not nice at all, Sydney Parker, but very effective.  Sydney put the bag back into the closet and called for the nurse. 

Evin awoke to Sydney’s voice, explaining to the nurse that somehow the IV had come out when the tubing tangled with the bed covers and Evin moved in her sleep.  Her anger at Sydney’s little stunt gave way to confusion.  What the hell is she talking about? 

The nurse was holding her left hand and examining the spot where the IV used to be.  Evin watched as the nurse looked suspiciously at her then back to Sydney’s innocent face.  Sydney’s soft, repentant voice and her apology to the nurse for not watching those kinds of things closer, coupled with a promise to do better in the future, heightened the confusion.

Evin could see that the nurse wanted so badly to believe in Sydney, believe the story that it was an accident, despite the signs that it wasn’t.  Oh, she is going to be so good in front of a jury.  So very good.  The sincere, solemn look in Sydney’s eyes as she offered a small smile to the nurse along with an “I know how hard your job is, and I’m so sorry you have to put in another IV, what with all the things you have to do,” made the nurse a true believer. 

Hell, Evin thought, I want to believe it, and I know I pulled the IV out.  Evin watched the nurse leave to get another IV setup.  As soon as she opened her mouth to speak, she was cut off.  Uh oh.  A pair of angrily glittering green eyes were fastened on her. 

Sydney launched into a blistering tirade aimed at the only other occupant of the room.  “You know, Evin Moran, you just astound me.”

Evin flinched, quite sure that the words weren’t intended as a compliment.  I know I don’t want to ask why.

“Do you want to know why?”  Sydney’s hands were now planted firmly on her hips as she glared at Evin.

Evin briefly thought of how unfair that question was.  On the one hand, if she said yes, she knew the answer would be one she didn’t want to hear.  Plus, she wasn’t sure she could muster up enough sincerity to sound like she really meant it.  And that would probably only serve to anger Sydney even more.  On the other hand, if she said no, which she knew she could say with the utmost sincerity, Sydney was going to tell her anyway.  And that heartfelt sincerity would only further serve to anger Sydney even more.  Either way, Sydney would get angrier.  She came to the only logical conclusion she could.  Don’t say a word.

Sydney stared at her for long seconds.  Evin wanted to move, do something, anything, to escape the discomfort she was feeling right then. But it hurt too damn much, so she just looked at Sydney instead as she tried to maintain a neutral expression on her face.

“You were almost blown to fucking bits in the middle of a swamp, been through surgery, received God knows how many units of blood, been unconscious for four days, and just had a chest tube taken out.”  Sydney’s voice rose as the words came out.  “You can hardly move, you break out into a sweat each time you try, and I can see the pain written all over your face.  But, no…all you can say is ‘I’m okay, Sydney.  I feel fine, Sydney.’  You’re lying through your teeth, Evin Moran.  And now you want to leave?  Are you out of your fucking mind?”

The only thing Evin could think was that she really did hate questions. 

Sydney glared at her for another few long silent moments.  “Well, are you?”  Another long, angry pause.  “You must be, because you seem to think that you can just get up and walk out of here as if nothing’s wrong.  Did you intend on driving yourself home?”

It seemed to Evin that her hatred of questions, particularly rhetorical ones, was very intense right now. 

“Because I’ll tell you what,” Sydney stalked over to the closet and pulled the red bag out again.  It took flight once more, this time landing at the foot of Evin’s bed.  “You can just put your God damn clothes on and drive your own sweet ass home for all I care.”

Evin watched as Sydney turned on her heels and started for the door.  Holy shit.  She took it easy on Keller.  “You don’t fight fair!”  Evin called out to the retreating figure.  “That clothes thing….”

Sydney whirled.  “Not when it comes to you, I won’t fight fair.  Not when you’re too damn stubborn to do what’s best for you.”


“Save it!”  Sydney turned and stormed out the room, almost colliding with the returning nurse.

The nurse looked warily at Evin, then back to the door, then back to Evin.  “I need to reinsert your IV.”

“Come on, let’s get it over with.”  Evin said wearily.  You never would think I went to law school with that dazzling rebuttal.  She mimicked herself in her mind.  You don’t fight fair.  God, that’s so pathetic.  “Left hand again?”

“Left arm.”  The nurse moved to the bedside as Evin closed her eyes.  She offered no resistance. 

Evin felt the prick as the nurse inserted the IV.  You sounded like a two year old.  You don’t fight fair?  Might as well have stuck your tongue out at her while you were at it.  Evin sighed deeply.  Maybe Sydney’s right.  Maybe I should stay a little while longer. ‘Of course she’s right.’  Shit.  You’re still there.  I thought at least the explosion had knocked you out of my head.  ‘No such luck.  And about acting like a two year old?’ Just shut up, okay? I’ll stay until tomorrow.  I am pretty tired.  The nurse worked quickly and efficiently and Evin soon felt a pat to her hand.

“There you go.  All done.”  The nurse said. 

“Um…thanks.”  Evin mumbled. 

The nurse looked at her, somewhat surprised.  “You’re welcome.”

“Do, uh…could you throw that away for me?”  Evin pointed to the red bag at the foot of the bed.

“Are you sure there’s nothing in there that you want to keep?”

“Absolutely positive,” Evin said quickly as she thought of the contents.

“Okay, then,”  The nurse took the bag off the bed and moved to the IV pump, fiddling with it for a moment.  “Get some rest.  I’ll be back to check on you later.”

Evin nodded, her eyes already closed.  Just until tomorrow, she thought, as consciousness faded.

Sydney sat in the waiting room, fuming about the incredibly obstinate Evin Moran and wondering why, every time she chose to leave when she was angry, did she forget her backpack, which naturally meant she had no money, car keys, driver’s license, or credit cards.  She jumped as the nurse startled her.

“Um, excuse me.  I just put the IV back in your friend.  I, uh, also gave her a dose of the pain medication.  She, um, wasn’t due any for another hour, but she seemed kind of, well…uh, agitated.”  A conspiratorial grin broke out on her face.  “She ought to sleep for at least four more hours.”

Sydney felt like jumping up and kissing the woman.  “Thank you.”  Grateful green eyes looked at the nurse.  “Thank you for letting me know.”  Four more hours.  Now how am I going to get her to stay until Friday?

On Tuesday, Evin had calmed somewhat, and went to her first physical therapy session.  She had returned exhausted and grumpy, but somehow she looked better to Sydney, more relaxed.  They had spent the afternoon wrapped up together in the hospital bed.

“You know,” Evin’s low voice had slowed to a sensual drawl as she whispered in Sydney’s ear.  “You inspire all kinds of thoughts in me.”

“I know,” Sydney replied smugly.

“You know?”  The dark brows arched.

“Oh yeah, but I think it has more to do with the nurse’s uniform than the hospital bed.”

“Wha...nurse...”  Evin spluttered.

Gotcha.  “Is that a blush?”

“I’m not blushing,” Evin grumbled, even as she could feel the heat rise on her face.

“What do you do with ice cubes?”

An unintelligible groan and the blush deepened.  “Do I want to ask how you know this?”

“Oh, you don’t have to ask, I’ll be happy to tell you.”  Sydney was clearly enjoying herself.  “It seems that not only does IV pain medication make you high, it makes you quite amorous.  You were, um, really in the mood Sunday afternoon.”

Another unintelligible groan.

“Would you like to know what you said?”


“Too bad.  You’re going to hear it anyway.  You termed ice cubes ‘kinky’ and ‘nurse drag’ kinkier.  You scared the pants off a nice little nurse leering at her.  I’m surprised she didn’t run from the room screaming from the look you gave her.”

Evin closed her eyes and moaned again. 

“Oh, yes.”  Sydney chuckled.  “Then you proceeded to invite me into your bed and pouted like a little child when I wouldn’t let you have your way with me.”

“I don’t pout!”  Evin said as her lower lip jutted out.  “I really don’t need to hear anymore.”

“No, probably not, but I’m having fun.  I suspect, counselor, that it’s not too often that you lose control.”  She kissed Evin on the nose.  “You did explain to me that it wasn’t the nurse you were after.  That you just wanted her uniform for me.  I felt oddly flattered.”

Evin squirmed.  Well, at least I didn’t go after the nurse.  “Is there much more?”

Tweak her just a little bit more?  Yeah.  “Well, you made some pretty big boasts.”

Evin gulped.  “I did?”  Is this what performance anxiety feels like?

“Mmmhmm.”  She intoned knowingly.  “And just when I was about to give in, you fell asleep.”

“What?  I fell asleep?”  I must have been out of it.

Sydney chuckled again and nipped her neck then nuzzled her.  “I’m teasing you about that part.  I believe what I told you was ‘Our first time will not be with only half of you able to participate.’  Then you fell asleep.”

“Oh.” The low voice seemed a little uncertain.  “So, what you’re, um, saying is, there will be a first time.”  She finished with a hopeful note.

“I would hope so.”

“Me, too.”

And here it was, Wednesday evening and Evin was still in the hospital.  Some fast thinking, several heated arguments and a lot of patience on Sydney’s part had gotten them this far.  Thank God for Fed Ex and modern technology.  The daily Fed Ex package from her office and Sydney’s laptop helped tremendously.  It also helped that Sydney went to the local K-Mart and bought out the games and puzzle book sections.  She purchased anything she thought would keep Evin remotely occupied for at least five minutes.  Sydney hadn’t realized exactly how many five-minute periods there were in a day.    Two more days to go.

Sydney had almost, almost screamed out loud when she awoke this morning.  If the scream had escaped her lips, it would have been a scream of joy as she realized it was Friday.  Evin gets discharged today.  Sydney was entirely ready to leave the hospital far behind. 

She now sat in a chair out in the waiting room, massaging her temples in an attempt to relieve some of the throbbing pain that had started as soon as she had seen the scowl on Evin’s face.  Two detectives from the local sheriff’s office were in the room with Evin now, taking her statement about the explosion.  Sydney left for the sanctuary of the waiting room after Evin’s answer to the detectives’ first question had been, “How the fuck should I know?” Said in a tone of voice that would stop an elephant dead in its tracks at twenty paces.

To say that Evin Moran was a difficult person to deal with under the best of circumstances was an understatement.  Add confinement to a bed, in a hospital, nurses and doctors parading in and out, and the phrase “impossible to deal with” didn’t even come close.  That thought made Sydney’s headache throb even more.  Black couldn’t begin to describe the mood Evin was in. 

Sydney didn’t think she’d ever seen a temper tantrum of the proportions Evin had thrown this morning.  The sun didn’t rise appropriately.  The office hadn’t called by 6:15.  The food was bad.  Sydney had to laugh at that one. “Evin, it’s hospital food.”  Evin had just glared at her.  The tape on one of the bandages wasn’t straight enough.  That nurse was too nice.  This nurse was a bitch.  She tried three times to goad Sydney into a fight.

And then a detective called to say that he and his partner were on their way to take a statement from her.  Sydney was sure of two things when that particular conversation had ended— that there was no roof left on the building and that the detectives would enter the room with their guns drawn.

The law student took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she relaxed back into the waiting room chair.  She hadn’t been home since last Saturday, and that had only been for six hours.  She had ridden back to New Orleans with Rachel, packed some clothes and her casebooks, and then returned with Carole, Andrew’s wife.  She craved a return to normalcy, then realized that since she had met the tall attorney, life had been anything but normal.  A return to what? Reasonably chaotic?  Hell, I’d settle for anything that doesn’t involve the shedding of blood and hospital stays at this point.

What a week.  Friday had finally arrived and they were going home.  Home.  I wonder what’s going to happen when we get back to New Orleans?  Sydney noted the detectives walking past the waiting room to the elevators.  Interview’s over I guess.  They don’t look too worse for the wear.

When Sydney walked back into the room, Evin was on the phone, sitting on the side of the bed, her long legs dangling, her right arm in a sling.  “Well, I don’t have a God damn fax machine here and the notebook’s packed up.  It’ll just have to wait until I get there.  We’d have already been back if I hadn’t had to wait for the fucking police. This place is making me nuts.... Yeah, she’s here.  Just walked back in....Uh, okay.”

Evin glared at Sydney as she handed her the phone.  “Jeffrey wants to talk to you.”

“Hi, Jeffrey.  How are you?” she said brightly.  “Yeah...I’m doing okay, just have a headache...Uh huh...Right.…”  Her eyes flickered up at Evin.  “Grouchy...Well, I haven’t had to stuff any bodies into linen closets.”  She giggled.  “Hmmm....Hadn’t thought of that....”  A laugh.  “You must think I’m a miracle worker...Right...See you soon.”  Sydney hung up and felt a cool gaze on her back.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had a headache?” Evin said gruffly.  

“It’s not bad.  It’ll go away.”

“Come here.”  She waited for Sydney to come closer and settled her between her legs.  “Where does it hurt?”

“Above my brow.”  Sydney rubbed the area in question with one hand.

“Here, let me see.”  Evin turned her towards Sydney’s right, her left hand starting to massage Sydney’s forehead. 

“Mmmm.”  Sydney’s eyes closed involuntarily.  “Feels good.”

Evin massaged Sydney’s forehead for a while before giving each temple a turn.  I probably gave her this headache.  “I...uh...I’m sorry.  I’ve kind of been acting like an ass.”

A soft smile, a teasing voice.  “Kind of?”  Sydney couldn’t open her eyes.  Evin’s hand felt so good.  “Oh, baby,” she murmured.  “That feels exquisite.”  Her hand blindly reached out and stroked Evin’s arm.  She could feel the muscles tensing and moving under her fingers.  “You feel exquisite.”  The pain in her head started to ease and she could feel her body relaxing.

Evin watched Sydney relax under her touch.  “You ever give any thought to mediation?”

“Uh uh,” came the lazy response.

“You’d make a great mediator.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah,” Evin chuckled warmly.  “You kept me in this hospital four days longer than I would have stayed and you didn’t have to hide any bodies in linen closets.”

“Thanks.  That means a lot coming from you.”

Evin laughed disparagingly.  “No, Sydney, I don’t do the mediation thing well.  I take no hostages.  You do.”

“I do?”  Green eyes opened and she shifted to face Evin.  “Thanks.  My head feels so much better.”

“Yeah, you do.”  Blue eyes twinkled at green.  “You capture people’s hearts.”

“Hmmm.”  Intent green eyes observed Evin.  Have I captured your heart?  

Part 8

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