A/N: This is for everyone who is shivering in the snow as much as Kansas City- like Me. Thanks for all the wonderful support. I'm posting early in appreciation. Till next time,
Mark shook his head sadly and dropped the papers to the table. The analysis of the Haldol he had found in Jesse's prescription bottle matched the drug that was in the young doctor's bloodstream. The grim findings raised urgent questions that could not be answered.
How had the medication been switched? Was it intentional? Did someone have a grudge against Jesse?
Why hadn't he noticed earlier?
Mark rose from the table and started for the door. If he wanted answers, than he would have to go out and get them.
Steve had gone back to the precinct to begin all the paperwork for this new case while Amanda had not yet returned from her search of Jesse's apartment. Although she had stated that she had surprisingly- but delightedly- found three of her good Tupperware containers and her missing Lord of the Rings DVD, Amanda had not found any signs of foul play.
Mark tried to think logically through the ordeal that weighed heavily on his heart. Somewhere, someone has to know something. Mark rounded the corner of the bright hallway, barely aware of his shoes clicking on the solid tile floor. The logical place to start this illogical interrogation would be at square one.
Mark Sloan strode purposefully towards the nurses station on the ER wing. This is where they had been when Jesse was given the bottle. Although he highly doubted that any of the hospital staff were fiendish enough to pull such a stunt, all the bases had to be covered. For Jesse's sake.
He stopped in front of the counter and placed his hands on it, patting the surface to make the nurse aware of his presence.
"Oh, Doctor Sloan, you startled me. What can I do for you? Is Dr. Travis alright"
"Sorry for the fright, Carol" he replied with a non-threatening smile. Mark was very familiar with most of the hospital's personnel, and the middle-aged nurse before him was no exception. "Jesse is still unconscious, but recovering well. I came to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind."
"I believe you were here a few days ago at the time Dr. Travis and I had been talking about his injured knee"
Carol squinted in thought for a moment, then replied slowly"Yeah, I remember that. Didn't you prescribe Ibuprofen? I think I recall how undignified Dr. Travis became" she finished with a smile.
Mark could not allow himself to get distracted. "Can you tell me what you remember of that time"
Carol shrugged. "Not much to remember" she started. "You ordered Dr. Travis to follow your recommendations, then that emergency came in. I didn't see Dr. Travis for a couple hours after that."
"Do you remember what happened to the prescription"
Carol's eyes wandered as she thought. "Uh, yeah. He set them down on the counter before he left. I put them on the desk here and then Dr. Travis picked them up on his way home."
Mark looked over the counter at the cluttered-but-organized-to-somebody desktop. "Were you the only one here"
Carol nodded. "Just me. I was here the whole time."
Mark looked at her carefully before nodding. He wanted to believe her- after all, he could think of no reason for any of Jesse's nurses to be angry with him. Steve would question Carol more thoroughly later, that was certain. But for now…
Mark sighed in frustration. If his initial investigation had turned up nothing, he would have to follow Jesse's footsteps further. Carol said that Jesse had been going home, but Amanda had already been there and found nothing notable.
"Thank you Carol" he said sincerely.
Mark turned around and prepared to leave. Perhaps the locker room would turn up some evidence…
Dr. Sloan froze mid-step. There, up in the dark corner where the wall meets the ceiling, an innocent red light flashed rhythmically. It was not so much the light that held Mark captivated, but the security camera that it was attached to.
A new fire sprung to life inside of Mark Sloan as he walked briskly towards the security office.
Mark, Steve, Amanda and Frank the security officer watched the small black and white monitor in fascinated silence.
A seemingly disoriented man stumbled down the hallway and stopped in front of the nurse's station. The bottle was knocked to the floor and as the man bent down, he withdrew his own bottle from the pocket of his jacket. The medications were switched the bottles replaced. Then the man stumbled down the hall and out of the frame.
"I don't believe it" Amanda breathed, her hand over her mouth.
"Steve, can you" Mark started but Steve was already speaking to Frank.
"I need you to zoom in on that man's face and get me a print out."
Frank started pushing buttons. "I'm on it."
Steve turned to his father. "We'll find him dad" he said, placing a hand on Mark's shoulder. "Don't worry."
Father and son looked into each other's eyes for a few moments before a knock interrupted the silence.
"Excuse me Dr. Sloan, but we need you" the nurse said"Dr. Travis is waking up."
Mark was moving before he realized he was doing so.
He entered Jesse's hospital room without a word, quickly making his way to the younger man's side. Amanda and Steve hung back near the doorway, watching silently.
Jesse was just beginning to come to his senses as he winced and turned his head away from the light. Mark adjusted the IV drip a fraction to ease the young doctor's pain. "Hey Jesse" he spoke softly, encouraging him to regain consciousness.
Jesse swallowed visibly before cracking his eyes open. In the instant those blue eyes began to focus, Mark almost sagged with relief. A smile warmed his face as Jesse began to fight against the trach tube. "Hold still young man. You're gonna be alright. Just give me a second and we'll let you talk."
The nurse stepped forward as Mark placed a steadying hand on Jesse's chest. "Count of three, breathe out" he instructed, knowing Jesse would understand and cooperate.
After the clear tube was removed, Mark's hand remained steady as Jesse coughed the discomfort from his throat. He glanced at Amanda and Steve, who were smiling with triumph for their adopted younger brother. Amanda was the first to step forward. "Welcome back" she said warmly.
Jesse struggled to catch his breath while he looked up at her. "What happened" he rasped.
Mark gently pushed his patient back into recumbancy. "You tried to play the hero again" he said.
Jesse licked his lips and relaxed against the white pillow. "Again"
"Jesse, please tell me that you weren't aware you were taking the wrong medication" Steve spoke up.
Jesse's eyes snapped back into focus. "What"
"It was Haldol, Jess." Mark noticed how the younger man's eyebrows knitted in confusion. "The pills had been switched. "
Jesse's eyes fluttered shut. "That explains… some things."
Amanda's face softened. "Alright everyone, out! Let the man get some sleep." She glared at Jesse dangerously. "When he wakes up again, he's got a lot of explaining to do."
With his last remaining strength, Jesse managed a frightened look to humor Amanda. After his eyes closed and his breathing evened out, the three quietly left their friend in a healing sleep, sure that the younger man was safe and on his way to recovery.
They couldn't imagine it any other way.
One Month Later
Amanda placed a cold, sweaty glass of ice tea on the patio table in front of Mark Sloan. The sun was shining brightly, glistening off every available surface and warming the earth to a very pleasant temperature. Blue waves crashed to shore some distance from the friends and Amanda smiled as she sat beside the older doctor.
"It's good to see him out there again."
Mark looked up at her quickly and smiled. "It is. I didn't realize how quiet this beach was until there was no one to take advantage of it."
Mark and Amanda grew quiet, content to watch Jesse and Steve surf the somewhat tame Pacific waves. As predicted, Jesse's recovery had been long and hard fought, and three times a week he was attending therapy for his knee. The young man never complained, at least not where Mark could hear, but instead pushed himself to escape the confines of the hospital room. His tenacity was admirable.
Steve had, with the help of some of the hospital's residents, found the man responsible and brought him to justice. The results of his actions had been unintentional and now Eddie was a patient in a hospital where he could finally be cured. It was a satisfactory consequence for all involved.
Amanda broke the silence as out in the water, Jesse plunged into the crashing wave. "Are you sure it's alright for him to be out there"
Mark smiled. "Steve is keeping an eye on him. Besides, you've kept him locked in his apartment since his release from the hospital." Mark looked at her. "You gotta let him out sometime."
She managed to look flustered. "I fed him, didn't I"
"I know you like to mother him, but he's a big boy now" Mark chuckled.
"Well you wouldn't guess it by the way he takes care of himself" came the flat retort.
"I also think you've lectured him enough over that as well" Mark replied. Amanda had scolded and berated the young doctor for days after he woke up, badgering him about how none of this would have happened if Jesse had just taken a few says off and gotten some rest. Even the nurses knew the conversation by heart. Mark doubted Jesse would make that mistake twice.
A series of dull thuds brought Mark to awareness. Jesse quickly scaled the steps, followed closely by Steve.
"Hey guys" Jesse panted, sliding into the seat next to Amanda and quickly draining her ice tea.
Amanda snatched the empty glass away and placed it on her left side, away from Jesse. Steve took his seat beside his father and smoothly mimicked the thievery. "Beautiful day, huh" Steve asked, trying to cover his actions.
Mark eyed his son and Jesse carefully. Maybe it was the sun, or the water, but it seemed that a mischief was alight in their eyes that made the senior doctor suddenly very weary. He looked to Amanda for help.
"It is a nice day" Amanda replied carefully, the way one does when the wrong words mean almost certain humiliation.
A certain inescapable dread crawled over Mark as the young men eyed each other suspiciously.
"It's a little hot though" Jesse said calmly, glancing into the sky. "Wouldn't you agree Steve"
Steve nodded, a little too enthusiastically for Mark's liking. "I agree."
There was an eerie silence where no body moved.
Then, suddenly, Steve and Jesse simultaneously ducked and reached under the table, bringing up the largest water guns Mark had ever seen.
As Amanda's screams of protest and revenge filled the air, Mark darted towards the sliding glass door behind him. Even as hard jets of water soaked him to the bone, he wouldn't have traded this moment for anything.
His sons were back.