A/N: I know it's been a while since I've updated this, I've been struggling with writer's block like you wouldn't believe and I had exams to contend with before that as well. I am going to make every effort to get these updates more consistent from here on out though. And if you haven't given up on this fic I thank you for coming back to it.
She watches as the crowd around her disperses, murmuring among themselves about the news she's just given them.
She begins to wonder if she was too hard on Marcus and his speech-making capabilities the other day; hers don't seem to be much better. She'd have been infinitely more comfortable back in her OR with a scalpel in her hand.
At least there was something to react to there, some sort of guide, some sort of visible, tangible progress or set-back that she could address. Pressure and problems, demanding her attention, forcing her into action, into making decisions, into doing something.
Nothing killed her confidence or her capability so much s the dull expectation of a silent crowd.
Maybe that was strange. How easy she found it to literally have another human being's life in her hands, to be able to kill them or save them as she wanted. She had the power of life and death in her OR. She could bring about happiness or heartbreak on a whim.
She found that easy, but she couldn't make a simple announcement. Perhaps she was just used to her surgery, her small scale life and death as it were. The details were easier to focus on than considering the bigger picture as she had to do now. Or maybe this was so hard because somewhere in the back of her head she knew that she, with Marcus, now held the fates of every one of those people that had been before her in her hands.
She gives herself a little shake and tries to refocus herself on something else; a distraction from the thing that's bothering her. She turns her attention to something else that's been niggling away at her in the back of her mind for a little while now; Marcus.
She had been expecting to catch his eye on the edges of the group as she'd addressed them; sure he'd have come slinking back into camp almost unnoticed, a habit he had picked up that had made her jump more than a few times before she'd gotten used to it, once it was clear that she had spared him the task of speech-making.
She'd been certain he'd want to assess the reaction of their people to their news first-hand himself so they could then discuss their next move.
He'd been conspicuous only by his absence however. She scans the crowd properly now, giving it her full attention, thinking he'll be easy to spot among the masses, identifiable as the only person moving towards her as opposed to away like everyone else.
The camp has almost completely cleared before she forces herself to accept the simple fact that he isn't here. But that doesn't make sense. He should be here, with her, he should be back by her side. He's breaking his own curfew for one thing...
She can feel it, some strange old instinct twists in her gut. The kind she's learned to trust; the kind that's saved lives by leading her to follow a seemingly baseless hunch. She follows it now and tries to stop the panic that's fluttering at the edges of her steadily fraying nerves.
She catches Jackson who seems to spring to attention at her touch and notes the faint pangs of worry she had been sure she'd been hiding so well almost at once.
"What's up?" He asks, stopping and turning to look at her properly, concern wrinkling his brow.
"Have you seen Kane?" She asks tersely.
This question seems to throw him slightly, clearly not what he'd been expecting from her. But he rallies quickly enough to answer it.
"No, I thought he came back with you?" He says, eyebrows raised slightly.
She shakes her head brusquely, not looking at him, worrying at her bottom lip as she ponders this.
"You don't think something's happened to him?" Jackson asks, sounding doubtful at best; sceptical at worst.
"I don't know what I think, Jackson." She murmurs tensely, looking around them, grim doubt settling firmly in the pit of her stomach, slowly fermenting into anxiety with every second she wastes in uncertainty.
She turns away from him and instead strides purposefully towards their tent, some kind of possessive blind hope fuelling her without warning. It's empty. And that stalls her with the efficiency of a solid brick wall. Even though she knows she should never have expected anything else.
A shock of frustration hits her in that moment with a ferocity that seems disproportionate to the situation but he's gone, he's gone and she doesn't know why and she needs to. She knows something has happened, she knows it and everyone else seems calm and unconcerned, they haven't noticed, they don't care but she knows.
Letting out a rough snarl of fury to try and relieve some of the emotion burning through her and clouding any rational thought she'd had before. She manages to level herself a moment later after taking several deep, slow breaths and allowing herself to actually properly assess the situation when she then catches sight of a radio left pointedly on her bed.
Marcus had been badgering her with days to use the radio and to take it with her when she left camp or if she was out of his sight for more than a few hours so he wouldn't worry her. He'd taken to very deliberately placing it on her bed or on her desk in medical where she couldn't fail to miss it. She had scoffed at him before and insisted to herself that he had been overreacting but now she could have kissed him from it. He would certainly have his radio on him, all she had to do was signal to him, just hearing his voice would settle everything now she was sure, faint and crackly across the poorly tuned radios or not, just hearing him say he was alright was all she needed in this moment.
She snatches it up and irritably fiddles with the temperamental dials until she finally finds the right frequency, which seems to take decades, "Marcus?" She demands of it.
She lifts her finger, waiting for his reply, needing his reply, waiting for his voice, for the flood of relief to course through her system at the sound of it. She waits. And waits. Her frantic heartbeat counting out the seconds that pass as it pounds against her ribs so violently she wonders why it doesn't hurt.
"Marcus are you there?" She tries again.
Fear trickles through her like ice water, spreading through her like a creeping poison. But despite that, she feels strangely calm now. She knows now; knows rather than suspects. Because if he was in a position to reach his radio he would have answered her, she has no doubts about that.
Uncertainty cripples her. It drives her to desperation. To find a answer, to find an end, an explanation, something final, something tangible, something that she can process and handle and combat. There's nothing she can do with doubt. But she knows now. She knows now that something is wrong. And now she can do something about it.
Instinct drives her and she lets it. Lets it fill her, lets it take control of her automatic actions because that then lets her take control of everything.
The radio is quickly replaced in her hand by a torch and a med kit is slung over her back not long after. She signals two guards as she leaves the tent and they fall into step behind her as she marches purposefully out of the gates, not taking a moment to pause and consider if this is a good idea or not.
She retraces her steps back towards the place she had left him with ease. Darkness has properly descended over them now and the lights cast from the torches encircling their camp soon cease to be of any use to her. She's flying blind with nothing but her memory and instinct to guide her to him.
Still, she's done a lot more with a lot less to go on before. She'll find him. She has to find him.
Something stops her from calling out to him forever. The same something that's making her skin prickle and crawl that has nothing to do with the light yet insistent breeze that's picked up around her.
She moves slowly, cautiously, with that feeling of unease still twisting in her gut; that certainty that something is wrong, the mounting tension it inspires in her with every step she takes as though each one might be her last.
She sees a deeper darkness and a lurking danger in every shadow and she's sure that every second that drips by is another note that's building in a crescendo towards a deafening, terrifying peak.
Her breath catches sharp as nails in her throat when the thin beam of her torch in her hand lights suddenly upon his.
"Marcus." She whispers urgently, darting forwards without pausing to consider the potential danger the darkness around him may have swallowed the moment he fails to respond to her.
Her heart does a little more than catch in her chest when she draws near enough to see the blood staining the grass around him and soaking his clothes. Red. So much red everywhere, too much. It'll be a miracle if he's still alive-
She stops then, refuses to let herself so much as contemplate that idea.
Sinking to her knees beside him she gropes desperately at his neck for a pulse. It takes her too long to find it to the point where she's panicking when she finally does. Faint and thread but there, unmistakably, unequivocally there.
Instinct begins to thrum through her system them, along with a healthy dose of adrenaline that floods through her veins a moment later and any thought of panic is pushed firmly to the back of her mind as she springs into reflexive action.
She turns on the two guards behind her, "Go back to camp, bring me help." She orders curtly.
"But ma'am-" One begins, both clearly reluctant to leave her vulnerable and in potential danger now.
But she doesn't have time for that and every second they waste only increases the chances of losing Marcus and that is not an option that's even remotely open to her right now, whatever she has to do to avoid it.
"Now." She snarls, her voice rising in a tone that brokers no arguments.
They both turn and head back to camp at a run, leaving her alone with her patient...With Marcus. Though she tries to push that thought, that attachment from her mind. The last thing she needs the last thing he needs is personal feelings clouding her judgement right now.
"Marcus." She breathes as clearly as she can while trying to stop her voice from shaking, "Marcus can you hear me?" She asks, the edge of desperation in her voice palpable.
She closes her eyes tightly, attempting to ground herself, to refocus, to draw on her training, her instincts once more. Because she couldn't lose him, she had to save him, she had to.
She snatches up her torch again from where she'd dropped it as she ran to him and holds it in her mouth to leave her hands free to work. The beam wavers and trembles even as she does and she snarls incoherently in frustration with herself.
She makes herself stop for a moment and takes a few deep breaths, pulling herself together again. When she opens her eyes again she's calm at last and she's ready because the alternative is her going to pieces right now and letting him die and she'll be damned if she lets that happen.
Leaning down she unceremoniously tears open his shirt to give her a clearer picture of what she's facing. The sodden fabric splits easily at her encouragement but for a moment she wonders what good it's done her.
All she can see is red, bright shocking crimson everywhere she looks. The contrast between the burning scarlet and his now chalk white skin is thrown into even starker and worse relief by her torch.
Her breath catches in her chest. She forces herself to see past it, willing her practical eyes to pick out the source among the chaos, a skill she's particularly adept at in her speciality of surgery. Failure to find the flaw in the system of her patient almost always comes down to life and death for her. Finally, she finds them, three wounds in his chest and abdomen.
Her fingers provide her with the details her eyes can't discern. The cuts aren't too long or too wide but they're deep. They were the result of a knife being plunged viciously into him over and over again. Her stomach contracts in fear and in fury at this discovery.
She glances back towards camp. The path is empty, devoid of help. She's on her own for now. She curses silently, willing them to hurry up before she turns her attention fully back to him. She tears into the med kit she had snatched up with her own instinct before she left camp and opens it. His blood on her hands stains the sterile covers on the bandages. She splits them open then proceeds to carefully pack his wounds in an attempt to contain the damage that's been done.
It's the best she can do up here alone and in the dark, without any proper equipment. She then binds the wounds as tightly as she can in a further attempt to keep pressure on them and prevent him from losing any more blood.
Then she stops. There's nothing more she can do. She's stalled and fear begins to blend through her veins again, taking hold once more, making her shake violently though the air around her is still relatively mild. Panic sets in again and she begins to choke on the air around her as though it's become water, drowning her.
On some wild instinct, she reaches out and takes his hand in hers and squeezes it tightly. It helps her somehow and an almost hysterical laugh bubbles up from her chest at the twisted terrifying irony of the dying man's grip steadying the woman who's the only one who can save his life.
She glances back desperately towards the camp, fury and frustration ripping along her already shattered nerves. She despises this, this stagnation, this helplessness, being utterly unable to do anything for him. And all the while his life hangs in the balance, he's lying there bleeding, dying and there's nothing she can do about it. Not a damn thing but kneel by his side in the grass and clutch his hand and hope and beg and forbid him from leaving, force him to hold on until she can save him. And she will. She has to.
A rough tremor runs through her, her eyes snapping shut, emotion welling inside her to the point she can barely stand to contain it, sure it's going to tear her apart. She wants to scream. To make them hurry up and reach him, to make whoever had hurt him feel her pain and her rage, or even just to relieve some of the intense, drowning pounding pressure building up in her body right now.
She's about to get up, try and signal to the camp somehow, no matter the good it'll do, just to feed like she's actually doing something other than just sitting here watching him die, when he shudders at her side.
Her attention snaps back to him, her hand gripping onto his so tightly she's losing feeling in her fingers. She watches him, terror flaring through her in surges, seeming to short-circuit every part of her. She can't move. She can't think. She can't breathe.
"Abby." He whispers, his voice so faint and strained that had they not been alone and had it not been so quiet she might have missed it. But she hears and the way relief floods her she might have just heard him call her name as they reunited after weeks of uncertainty rather than simply a few unbearably long minutes.
Her throat so tight she's sure something will snap as she manages to choke out, "Marcus?" His fingers flex weakly around hers and that seems to ground and stabilise her, "Marcus can you hear me?" She asks, her voice as calm and clear as she can make it through the fear that continues to lap at her even now.
His breathing is shallow and laboured, his eyes still closed as his lips faintly frame around her name once again, "Abby."
It's more of a prayer than an answer to her question.
She places a hand on his forehead, trying to calm him as he begins to shiver and shake hoarsely, helplessly whispering her name again, "I'm here." She soothes softly, wishing she could do more for him, "I'm right here, Marcus." She breathes tenderly. "You're going to be alright." She says fiercely, the words as much an oath to herself as a promise to him, trying to keep him as settled as she can, gripping on to his hand as tightly as she can.
"Marcus?" She murmurs uncertainly, her voice catching as he stills under her touch again, exhaustion claiming him and taking him from her again and with him the little bit of fierce courage and composure she'd managed to summon for his sake evaporates as well.
"Marcus, no." She chokes, her voice breaking violently on the last word, "Marcus, no, no stay with me, stay with me, please." She croaks, the 'please' she couldn't help tumbling out changing her firm order to a desperate plea but she's beyond the point of caring about that now.
"Come on." She says , her voice rising in tandem with her panic, "Come on, come on, come back." She gasps, her voice so cracked now even she can barely understand the words, "Come back, don't do this to me." She says, a bit of anger and frustration strengthening her now, "Don't do this to me, Marcus." She breathes, her voice dying to barely more than a whisper once more, "You can't do this to me now, Marcus, you can't." She croaks, "You can't, you can't. Come on!" She snarls, "Marcus!"
"Chancellor!" She forces herself to turn away from him, anguished at the sound of her name shouted as the guards finally return to her.
"About time." She snaps, her voice thick with emotion, her frustration more with herself than with them but she had to do something to relieve the tension locking her body in a tense hold.
She supervises them transferring him onto a stretcher, making sure they don't make his injuries any worse in the process. She gives his hand a final squeeze as she issues instructions to the men carrying him; the touch of his hand her final silent request to him to hold on, just a little longer and she would help him; she would put this right.
Then she turned and ran ahead of them, back to camp to set up and prepare herself for his surgery.
It helps. Running back to camp. Her feet pounding against the solid earth beneath her. Her mind begins to clear somewhat, set coherent thoughts are able to form in her head again. She has a purpose again, something she can do, something to help, something that makes her feel useful again. It enables her to think straight; to process what's happened and figure out a clear cut way to approach things now.
She hurtles into medical a few minutes later, out of breath and wheezing slightly but determined all the same. Jackson hurries to her side as she begins setting up.
"I heard when the guards came back." He says looking a little shakier than usual, "How is he?"
"Bad." She answers shortly, her nerves too frayed to find any more gentle and eloquent way of answering his question.
"I need a trauma kit, as much saline as you can find, any painkillers you can get your hands on, whatever size catgut we have left and something to sterilise this place before they get here."
It feels good to have a grounding, a routine, something that centres her. It's good to feel in control again, to set Jackson to work and know she could count on him to do as she'd asked. It calmed her that little bit more. This was her comfort zone. This was her element. This was where she felt safe and secure. Though a small part of her couldn't help muttering in the back of her mind that she'd rather be making a hundred more speeches in front of a flat, faceless, disinterested crowd than be performing the surgery she was now faced with; surgery to save the life of her friend.
She goes into one of the back sections of the medical area. This part is always quiet and peaceful, the walls are thicker here and as most of the equipment stored is for her use in surgery, it rarely attracts the attention of anyone else and it's somewhere she can trust to swallow her for a few hours and give her some time alone to think. It's strangely soothing for that reason.
She takes her time picking out her gown, trying to let herself relax into the routine. She peels open the sterile packaging around one of the surgical gowns, laying it out on the small table in front of her in preparation for putting it on. She likes this part, she always has. The idea that the gowning process takes her out of the routine of her day-to-day life, where she's a mother and a citizen and a Chancellor. Here she's only a doctor, only a surgeon and that reminds of her of that fact. Clean, and crisp, and professional.
Her personal feelings washed away with the surgical scrub that she moves over to apply once she's finished fastening the ties on her gown. She lets the tap run while she rubs the yellow liquid up and down her arms, between her fingers, coating her hands in it. It always leaves them soft afterwards, scrapes away the harshness left by her day, peels away another slight layer of her skin it seems, leaves her fresh. If only everything were so easy to wash away from her.
She watches as she rinses her hands and the scrub disappears down the drain, leaving her skin tingling slightly. She closes her eyes a moment, resisting the urge to brace herself over the sink for support, knowing it'll mean rewashing her hands, something she doesn't have time for yet. She forces steel into her spine then turns and faces what's to come.
There's still too much emotion in her. Too much Abby, too much of the part of her that's become so attached to him recently, that cares for him, that needs him to get through this. Not enough of the Dr Griffin she knows she needs to be right now to save his life. And it's so hard to let go of it, to let go of it all. And she's usually so good at it. So practiced, so adept, so able to separate herself out, to distance herself, to have nothing connecting her to her patient but her skill and her scalpel but this, this feels different, he is different. He's all she's had these last few weeks. What would she do without him? What would she do if he died on her table today?
She gives herself a little shake, trying to push all of this away. Her mentor had taught her years before on the Ark when she'd been training that personal feelings in the OR were just as likely to kill her patient as shaking hands or a dirty blade.
But how, how is she supposed to separate herself from this now? The Ark had such a small community that chances were she would know her patient but not like this; never like this. It was never someone like Marcus, never someone she knew so intimately, never someone she had been through so much with, not like this.
Everything was already so twisted and confused when it came to her feelings for the man who was soon to be on her table. How could she just put them all aside now? Just like that? Suddenly feel nothing for him at all? With his life cradled in her hands that, for all their experience and for all of the calming familiarity of her OR that she had been counting on, for all the settling nature of her routine and the soothing breathing exercises she'd used to perfect effect for years, were still shaking.
You just have to. She growls firmly to herself. He needs you to. So pull yourself together. Or he's dead.
She heads back through into the main bay. Jackson's already laid out and done everything she had asked him to and is in the midst of scrubbing himself in when she enters. She moves to stand beside her table, examining the tools laid out before her. She picks through them, familiarising herself with the order she knows in her sleep but it's another habit; another ritual of hers that she adheres to now while she can.
She glances over her table again and removes the gloves from it. She understands Jackson being driven by force of habit and forgetting her own personal preferences in the moment; it's been the only thing driving her since she stepped in here.
She's never been fond of using gloves in her surgeries. Thin though they may be they always just seemed to her as another barrier between herself and her patient. Her fingers are more sensitive without them too and she prefers to rely more on touch sometimes than on pure sight.
Chaos suddenly erupts before her to disrupt her placid, settling thoughts of routine. The plastic flaps in front of her are pushed roughly aside as the guards bring Marcus to them. Jackson helps them guide him onto her table then she orders them out and asks them to keep his condition to themselves.
While her main focus is on him; her patient, she knows that having rumours spreading like wildfire, as they're want to do in this environment, through the camp that one of their chancellors is currently bleeding out in medical while the other races to save his life, isn't something else she needs to have to deal with on top of everything else that's landed on her doorstep today.
Jackson has already taken a pair of scissors and cut away what remains of Marcus' torn shirt and proceeds to remove the makeshift bandages she had strapped around him earlier as well so she has a clear view of what she's facing.
It's nothing pretty. Jackson lets out an involuntary hiss of shock and dismay at the sight of his wounds. Even she has to admit to herself that it looks worse than what she'd been anticipating and remembering from when she'd checked him over earlier.
Under the harsh work lights above them the wounds look longer, deeper and far more fatal than they had beneath her small torch beam.
For a moment she wonders if she might be fighting a lost battle. Then she swallows and steels her herself, forcing a calm she doesn't really believe to settle over her.
"Okay." She says in a rallying tone, "Remove the packing in the wounds then flush them with saline, get rid of as much blood as you can, let me see what I'm doing, alright?" Jackson nods in affirmative and she leaves him to it.
She turns back to her tray of tools and peels open the wrappings on one of the scalpel blades herself. A nurse would usually have attended to all of this for her but there's no time to start considering what she'd like to have down here, all she has is what she's got and it's damn well going to have to be enough. On the Ark she'd have had a small team scrub in with her for this type of surgery. Down here all she has is Jackson and his hands are full as it is. They'll have to be enough. They're ones she trusts at least.
She fits the blade to the handle then turns back and is caught and struck almost dumb by the fact that Jackson hasn't moved to follow any of the instructions she'd given him.
He's standing stock still, staring at her looking blank and drawn as though trapped in a moment in time, unable to escape for whatever reason, rooted to the spot, unable to tear his eyes away from her face, something strange welling in his eyes that she has no time to try and place now.
"Jackson." She snaps, her voice loud and sharp and urgent, trying to pull him back into the present with her.
It's been years since he'd frozen in the middle of a surgery with her and not since he'd been training had he frozen this badly. She knows this is more personal for him, for both of them, but they don't have the luxury of letting that get in the way right now and Marcus doesn't have the luxury of time to waste and make allowances for this either.
"Saline." She says, her voice crisp and clear, attempting to jolt him back into action, hoping firm, set instructions will help to ground him, give him something to focus on, "Flush his wounds. Now."
Jackson's eyes flick towards Marcus and then fix on her once more and even though it happens in seconds it seems to take an age; an age they don't have.
"Abby, I, he-" He stammers helplessly, staring at her blankly, looking utterly lost now.
"What?" She snarls, her patience snapping as she strides forwards, having no idea what could be so impactful that they're having to stop everything in the middle of an emergency surgery.
Jackson slowly moves his fingers away from the side of Marcus' neck and he moves round to her side of the table before he finally answers her, his voice weak and shaky but clearly audible in the silence of the room,
"His heart's stopped."
A/N: Thank you for reading! Comments as ever, are very welcome and definitely encouraged.