By the time Cal made it to the Observation Ward his energy was flagging. If not for Jacob's insistence, and the fact his flat was literally in ashes, he would have discharged himself and gone home. As it was he was more than ready to drop into his bed (in a private room, perks of being a member of staff) and sleep for at least half a day... or half an hour, anyway, until a nurse came to wake him up and check he hadn't developed a brain hemorrhage.
When he walked in and saw his brother perched on the edge of his bed, he knew that half-hour nap wasn't coming his way any time soon.
"What are you doing here?"
Ethan's burns had been bandaged and he had a hospital gown thrown on over his trousers, but his pallor was grey and sickly and his breathing was laboured. Despite this, he got shakily to his feet when Cal entered, a look of determination on his face. "Cal... you've got the wrong idea."
Cal squeezed his eyes shut, trying to get a hold on his temper. He was too tired to argue. "Why are you here Ethan? Don't tell me you've been discharged already."
"I escaped." Ethan's impish smirk was undermined by the grating rasp of his voice. "Getting more and more like you every day."
This was the wrong thing to say. Cal's eyes narrowed. "You can't use me as an excuse every time you pull a stunt like this you know."
"No- no that isn't what I meant."
"Isn't it?" Cal challenged, anger rising along with his voice. "Because you never did anything like this before! You're not irresponsible, you're not stupid or- or suicidal! And neither am I!"
"No!" Ethan shook his head frantically, the movement dislodging a round of coughs. Between each of these he managed to choke out, "I- I didn't do it... because of the Huntington's or- or because of..." Here the coughing fit grew so intense he couldn't continue and was forced to grasp onto the hospital bed for support.
Cal was still enraged, but it didn't stop either his brotherly or his medical instincts kicking in when he saw what was happening. "We should save this for later, you need to be back in the ED."
"No!" Ethan pushed himself upward, forehead beading with perspiration. "I- I did it b- because you're m- my brother!"
Cal stared. He remembered those same words but from a year before, on the bridge when Taylor was being arrested.
"When- when the phone call cut out... I kn-knew something was... wrong." Ethan could feel his knees buckling beneath him, but he needed to get this out. "... And- and when I- I saw the flat I c- I couldn't wait for- for the fire service. I couldn't Cal..."
Just before Ethan collapsed Cal grabbed him and pulled him awkwardly onto the hospital bed. "You need oxygen, quick." He started looking around for the relevant equipment, but things were set up differently here to the ED. "I can get a nurse-"
"Cal," Ethan wheezed. "It's... it's..."
"Ethan if you say "it's fine" I swear to God-"
"Cal." Ethan raised a finger and pointed feebly to where the oxygen mask was hanging on the wall.
Oh. So maybe it was in the same place they kept it in the ED.
Cal unhooked the mask from the wall and got it set up swiftly over Ethan's mouth and nose. "Better?"
Ethan sucked in greedily. After a few moments he took the mask away to say, "I'm-I'm..."
"I know. Me too." Cal cleared his throat awkwardly and added, "You sound like you smoke fifty packs a day."
Ethan lacked the energy to reply, so he used his spare hand to replace the mask on his face and wondered if his vision was so blurry because his glasses were missing or because of something else. God he was tired...
He forced his eyes open. "What?"
"You should really be back in the ED."
Ethan laughed, which was a bad idea as it sent him into another round of chesty coughs.
Cal instantly flew into Doctor-mode. "What is it? Are you in pain?"
"No, it's- it's Rita," Ethan explained, as his breathing calmed down. "She's going to be furious..."
He was right.
"Where have you been?" Rita exclaimed the moment Ethan was wheeled in. "I have been absolutely frantic! You could have been passed out somewhere or-" She stopped short when she saw who was pushing his wheelchair. "Oh. Cal. Aren't you supposed to be in Observation?"
Cal flashed his best and most disarming smile. "I think you misplaced something?"
""Misplaced" isn't the word I'd choose." Rita glared half-heartedly at Ethan, but couldn't bring herself to be too angry when she saw how he was slouched in the chair, breathing deeply from an oxygen mask. She crouched down in front of him and asked kindly, "How are you, darling?"
"Actually," Cal interjected, placing a cautionary hand on Ethan's shoulder when he opened his mouth to answer. "We have an agreement that he won't be doing any more talking for a while. His vitals are all fine, but I'm guessing his carboxyhaemoglobin levels are still pretty high..."
"Well he disappeared on us before we could finish oxygen therapy, so that's no surprise," Rita grumbled. She looked between the brothers questioningly. "You two seem like you're on better terms."
"Yeah sorry about before," Cal said, looking at Rita but squeezing Ethan's shoulder. "I was..."
"Seeing as a roof fell on your head, I'll forgive you." Rita winked and took the wheelchair. "Come on then Ethan, let's get you to a room. You coming with us big brother?"
"Er that's ok." Cal said. When Rita raised a questioning eyebrow he explained quietly, "I don't really think Ethan wants me there."
"Really?" Rita enquired innocently. "Ethan do you want him there?"
Ethan blinked blearily. Still not allowed to talk, he reached a hand out to snag Cal by the sleeve and looked at him pleadingly through half-lidded eyes. Stay.
"Looks like he wants you here to me," Rita grinned, especially careful not to comment when Cal started blinking rapidly and swiped a hand across his eyes. It had been a long, emotional night after all.
Iain wrapped his arms around Rita's waist from behind. "Is your shift almost over?" He was out of his paramedics uniform and had a plastic bag dangling from one hand. "Only I happen to have a free afternoon..."
"I'll be done in a few minutes," she said, pecking him swiftly on the cheek. "But I thought you finished hours ago?"
"Went back to Cal and Ethan's flat to grab a few things." Iain hoisted the bag so she could look inside. "What was salvageable."
"That was it?" Rita looked markedly unimpressed by the contents of the bag. "Poor boys. At least Ethan's spare glasses are in there..."
"Got those from his locker." Iain sighed, wishing he had something better to offer Cal and Ethan after the destruction of their flat. "Best go and give them the good news..."
Cal's reaction was much the same as Rita's when Iain gave him the bag; he tipped it out onto his bed and stared at the jumble of assorted items in something akin to horror. "This is it?"
"'Fraid so," Iain whispered apologetically, glancing to Ethan who was asleep on the opposite bed. "Your brother had his wallet and some clothes in a case - Jez put it in his locker - but other than that... Anyway." Iain decided from the look on Cal's face it was a good idea to change the subject. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm hopped up on painkillers which is great, but every time I get to sleep a nurse wakes me up and asks my name and age."
Iain smiled sympathetically. "Sorry mate."
"It's not so bad," Cal smirked. "Gives me the chance to slip the good-looking ones my number at the same time. Actually, Iain," his tone grew suddenly serious. "I should say thanks for all you and the other paramedics did for me and Ethan."
"That's alright." Iain shrugged. "Just doing our job... and honestly it's him you should really thank. Quite the hero your brother."
Cal looked over to Ethan, still dead to the world, and smiled. "Yeah I heard he got you guys to go in without the fire service."
"That's all you heard?" Iain chuckled. "That's not even the half of it..."
"What do you mean?"
Iain hesitated, guilt darkening his expression. "Look Cal, you know me, I'm not always one to stick to the rule book. And there was a block full of flats, full of people and we were responsible for all of them... but an incident like that if you go in too early you end up with more casualties than you started with. Which is exactly what I told Ethan when he showed up."
"But he argued? Persuaded you to go in anyway?"
"A bit, but when he realised he wasn't winning he gave in."
"But you said-?"
"Sorry I mean I thought he gave in." Iain corrected himself. "Soon as we turned our backs he ran inside. I tried to follow him but he knew where he was going and I didn't have a clue, especially not with all the smoke and fire and everything. Honestly I thought he was a goner, but I saw him after the fire service arrived, dragging you out of the building with a fireman." He shook his head in disbelief. "I never thought Ethan had it in him..."
"Yeah," Cal admitted regretfully, eyes on his brother again. "Neither did I.".
A week later Ethan and Cal moved into a new flat. Ethan's cough remained persistent and he'd been mercilessly ridiculed by Cal on account of the inhaler he'd been issued by Dr Keogh until it cleared up, but both brothers were on the mend.
The evening before they were due to start back at work Cal knew there was something he needed to say.
Ethan looked up from his laptop - Cal wondered if he was researching Huntington's symptoms again - and smiled absentmindedly. "Sorry I was miles away. What was that?"
Cal took a deep breath and tried again. "Thank you."
Ethan looked perplexed. "What for?"
Cal shot him a deathly look that clearly indicated there was no way this was about to become a deep heart-to-heart. "Just... thank you, okay?"
"Ethan," Cal warned. "I'm not saying it again."
"Alright." Ethan went back to his laptop. After about five minutes, he said, without looking up, "Cal?"
"You're welcome." Still not looking at his brother, but beaming with undeniable satisfaction, Ethan stood and gathered his things together. "Goodnight."
Cal kept his own voice just as carefully neutral. "See you tomorrow." He watched Ethan leave the room from the corner of his eye and turned his attention to the television. Mission accomplished.
A/N Ta-dah! Hope you enjoyed, please do review if you have the time.