It's funny the things that go through your head as you're dying.
The finality of this hits Cal, head in the dirt, iron on his tongue and he has a sudden realisation of complete clarity. So this is what it's like mixed with the roaring screaming of nerve endings and his heart stuttering and fluttering in his chest as he feels himself choking on his own blood. He hadn't seen this coming. He honestly hadn't.
He'd wondered more than a few times in his line of work and in his 33 years if people knew on the day they died, if on some level they felt something different, something afoot. Ellison's boots disappear into the night and Cal lies in a puddle of rainwater and his own disappearing blood. He tries to think. No then. They don't know. He didn't. Nothing amiss today. Your regular Thursday shift work, no evidence jumped out at him proclaiming this would be his last day on earth. He knows it is though. He can feel it in each laboured breath, in the copper on his tounge, sliding down his throat. His chest rattles. Pneumothorax. He's pretty sure the knife pierced his lung, if not the first time then definitely the second.
'Please don't let Ethan find me' he thinks. 'Please'. 'Oh Ethan. I'm so sorry' he thinks. 'I'm so sorry I can't be here to look after you Nibbles, forgive me.'
And suddenly he lets himself shake and give into the pain because it's more than he's felt in his whole life and he knows he's in shock and doesn't even know the worst of it. It's heroic he supposes. Could have been a worse death, but he's suddenly very aware he's never going to turn 34. Never going to tease his brother again, never treat another patient, drink another pint, see another sunrise. He won't ever get married or have kids then. That wasn't the way his story ended. This is it for Caleb Knight. Oh god this is it. And Ethan…oh poor Ethan, he's going to be left all alone, and what about when he gets ill? What about then, who looks out for him then?
Cal tries as hard as he can to roll himself over but everything's starting to go dark now, the edge of his vision begins to fade. He tries to think of the last thing he said to Ethan, right before he sent him off to Alicia, was it something memorable or something stupid? It's disappearing, everything's disappearing.
He wishes he wasn't alone. Wishes his brother was with him right now and it's selfish and it's pathetic maybe but Cal needs him more than he's ever needed anyone in his life and he wants his brother. His phone lies opposite and where he's lying he can see it swallowed up by rainy puddles in the night. It lights up green. 'Nibbles'.
Cal can't make his arm move, he can't make anything move. He wills it, tries so hard but he's lost too much blood, too much time. The hospital looks so different from down here he thinks. And then he's back with his mom, pushing Ethan's buggy over the hill by their house, 'sing to him Caleb, sing to your brother…' and he's holding Matilda, he's rocking her, kissing her sweet baby forehead, under her chin and making her smile. He can feel the wind in his hair as he holds Emilie as she dies overlooking the beach, 'and Cal and I will be doddery old men by then, Cal's on his fourth wife…but we come back every year and we look out at the sea and we say 'here's to you mum'. Then Ethan, Ethan at 2, Ethan at 15 all silly horn rimmed glasses and stammer, 'leave me alone Caleb', Ethan at 22 in med school, Ethan angry 'what are you doing here?' 'I'm the locum', Ethan hurt 'who looks out for me Caleb', Ethan stretchered in, chest injury and bleeding, Ethan punching him 'it's about you Cal, it's always about you.' Ethan fighting for him 'nobody touches my brother…' Rock paper scissors, and Ethan's stupid decision to always go with scissors. The look in his little brother's eyes when he fixes you with that gaze 'i'm always going to look at you and think 'yeah that's my brother'. 'Yeah and you've got me for life Nibbles'.
He has, he always will.
A tear makes its way down Cal's cheek. Ok. He thinks. Ok Caleb.
He's not a religious man. He doesn't know if there's anything else out there. He's a realist, a cynic even and he's not making it here. He's a doctor too and that part knows the grevious nature of the wounds. He feels his life leaving him. Suddenly there's movement and the sky that was beginning to be swallowed up in black gives way to blurry shapes. Someone is shouting, moving, it's blurry, just shapes and blur but he likes to think it's Ethan. Ethan coming to hold him.
'It's ok Nibbles' he tries to say but nothing comes out but a garbled moan and what he imagines to be a fair amount of blood. 'It's ok, I'm ok.' Someone grabs his hand. Someone holds it in their own, there are hands on him, the blurs stretch in and out, infinite and colourful even in their fade and Cal thinks it's almost the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Maybe it's Ethan, maybe it's Emilie or his Mom, but they are beautiful and as his eyes close for the final time he has one thought on his mind. 'My safety net's here'.
Charlie keeps pressure on the horrific mess that is Cal's chest, next to him Connie's on her knees in the rain both of them frantic, staring at the young man in horror bleeding out before them.
'Keep those eyes open Cal' Charlie shouts, 'come on Cal stay with us'.
Cal's too far gone though, he looks up at Charlie like he's not seeing him, or seeing someone else and when his eyes close there's a ghost of a smile on his face as his chest stops moving. Charlie's seen it all working at Holby he's lost people young and old, brutally, and slowly. This one feels the most wrong.
Somewhere nearby in a puddle Cal's phone is ringing. Charlie can just make out the word 'Nibbles' on the screen.
Connie runs to get help. Charlie does the only thing he can do. He holds Cal's hand and sits with him in the rain.