To The Bone

Another short Chicago Hope fic. The conversation between Jack McNeil and Diane Grad on the stairwell after she cuts herself with a scalpel contaminated with blood from an HIV positive patient and he almost kills her with a golfball. Please review!

Disclaimer: I don't own Chicago Hope.

To The Bone

After all that talking about how she couldn't trust him, Lisa went and kissed Bobby Yeats! It was totally and completely hypocritical. Chicago Hope made a first rate golf course in his opinion. That is, untill he hit her square in the head. After being verbally harassed for a few minutes, Jack turned around and walked up to where Diane sat, crying. He sat down beside her and rubbed her back in hopes of comforting her. After that didn't work, he pulled her into a gentle embrace. He knew his attempts at asking what the matter was would prove fruitless, but he couldn't just let her suffer alone.

"Shh, it's okay. Do you want to tell me what's wrong?" Jack asked sympathetically.

Diane just sobbed harder. Jack continued to rub her back gently. All Diane could think about was Billy and Emily. If she died, what would happen to them? Billy would be heartbroken, and Emily would grow up without a mother to take care of her. There was nothing worse in life than that, Diane knew. Jack just sat, patiently waiting for Diane to speak. After a few minutes, she drew a deep, shuddering breath and began to voice her concerns.

"I was in the O.R. with Dennis. We had to perform an Emergency C-section on a woman, her baby's heartrate declined. I put the scalpel down in the wrong place and I reached for the suction. I cut myself with the scalpel and contaminated my blood." Diane choked.

"That can't be all there is to this story. Go on." Jack said quietly.

"She was HIV positive." Diane deadpanned.

"How deep was the cut?" Jack inquired.

"To the bone." Diane sighed.

"There's still only a low chance for contamination. Did you rinse it with betadine?" Jack asked.

"Betadine, water, soap, rubbing alcohol. Anything I could lay my hands on. What if it's not enough?" Diane queried, fighting back tears.

"For now all we can do is hope that it is. Even if it isn't, you have a baby to take care of and a husband to love. You have to be strong, Diane. You are one of the strongest women I know, and you can fight this." Jack reassured.

With those words a fresh batch of tears spilled from her eyes. Jack pulled her closer and she cried against his chest. His problems with Lisa seemed so trivial compared to what Diane had to face. After a few minutes of her crying, Jack's scrub top was streaked with her tears. Once Diane composed herself and pulled away, she wiped the droplets from her face and dabbed at her red, puffy eyes with a tissue. Jack interlaced his fingers with hers. Not in a gesture of love, but in a gesture of comforting friendship. He gently stroked the back of her bandaged hand with his thumb. After a few more minutes, Diane spoke again.

"I know I have to be strong, but I know what happens to people with this disease. I've seen it destroy families, lives. I can't let that happen to me. I can't let it happen to Billy or Emily. Every day there are people dying of AIDS. I mean sure I can live a full life without getting sick for a long time, but in the end it'll get me. I'm not going to survive this!" Diane cried.

"You don't know anything for sure yet, Diane. Worst case scenario, you get HIV and then AIDS. That will be a long way down the road. There's a good chance that by then there will be a cure. Even if there isn't, at least you know you can look forward to being surrounded by friends when it's your time." Jack comforted.

"I don't want to die, Jack." Diane admitted.

"Nobody does, but it's something we all have to face. It's paradoxical, but it's true. I promise you that you have mine and everyone elses full support if anything should happen. I'm a gambler, Diane, and right now I'm willing to place my life on the fact that you will live yours to the fullest, no matter what the outcome of this day is. Even if you don't win this battle, you'll win the war." Jack whispered.

"I don't know if I have it in me to fight in the first place." Diane sighed.

"You do have it in you, and you have an army of loving, caring, supportive friends to give you all the backup you need in beating the odds." Jack said firmly.

A weak smile flashed across Diane's face momentarily. Jack hadn't lied when he said that he and the others would be supportive of her. He spoke for everyone when he said that she would have backup for beating the odds. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Jack looked back on what he had just said and was shocked at how comforting and philosophical he had been. It was totally out of character. It was amazing what a crisis could bring out in a person. At the same time, Diane was wondering about Jack.

"Why, may I ask, were you playing golf in the stairwell?" Diane inquired.

"Well, let's see. I've had six cups of coffee, so sleeping is out of the question. I may as well brush up on my skills." Jack lied.

"Why the hospital, though?" Diane questioned.

"I'm on call. That, and it's three in the morning. Do you know any golf courses that stay open twenty four hours?" Jack laughed.

"I suppose not." Diane smiled.

"Come on, I'll walk you down to the ER. You should go home and get some rest." Jack suggested.

"Alright." Diane agreed.

Jack stood and offered Diane his hand. She gladly took it and he pulled her to her feet. He grasped her arm firmly and steadied her as they walked together off toward the ER. After they reached the lounge, Jack gave Diane's hand one last reassuring squeeze and he turned to leave.

"Thanks, Jack. For everything." Diane smiled.

"That's what friends are for." Jack reassured.

"See you." Diane said.

"Later." Jack replied.

He turned and left the doctor's lounge. Diane stood there, amazed at how good a friend Jack McNeil could be if he tried. There was more to him than he let on. One day Diane would be sure to sit down and talkd with him some more. Right now, she just wanted to go home, hug her baby girl and husband, and melt into bed. If she had been infected with the virus, she wanted all the time she could have with her loved ones. Diane let one last tear fall before gathering her thoughts and leaving for home. She prayed everything would be okay and decided to move on, for now.

A.N.: What did you think? Roses are red, violets are blue, tell me what you think, by clicking review! Danke! -Julia-