Author's Note: I know… I need to be shot, not poor Ray; it's been that long since I updated this thing. Here's me hoping you haven't all lost interest by this point, because I genuinely am sorry. I got myself stuck for how to continue, and a lot of the beginning of this had to be rewritten because I was so unhappy with it O.o Yeah… anywho, here's the update. Better late than never…? Yeah, sucky thing to say, heh…
CHAPTER NINETEEN: WHEN MY MIND IS FROZEN
It had been a couple of days since the chaos of the attack, and after being forced home to rest, shower and get a good meal, she soon found herself back in the hospital, perhaps rather predictably. She'd been given a few days off to 'recover', along with Sam, but found that she didn't want to stay at home. Staying at home meant her mind wandered, and she was no more wiling to let that happen than she ever had been; Abby despised having nothing to do. She'd never gotten used to the feeling, and as such, had always hated it, even when she was a child.
Heading back through the doors into the hospital, she saw familiar faces hard at work, and mustered a smile as Carter looked up at her.
"What're you doing back?" he asked the woman as she came up to the desk, standing in front of it as opposed to moving around behind it out of habit. He'd been using the computer, and as such, was standing there almost as if he'd been waiting for her to come along. Abby wouldn't have been surprised if he had been expecting her. "I thought you had a couple more days off."
"I do." She slipped her hands loosely into the pockets of her coat, and shifted on her feet. "I thought I'd…"
"Come back in and check on Ray." It wasn't even a question, and Abby's somewhat sheepish smile no doubt confirmed any suspicions he had probably had to begin with. Carter glanced to her calmly. "Well, he's certainly not lacking for company…"
Even before Abby could ask what he meant by that, someone came up beside her, and touched her arm subtly to get her attention. Turning her eyes, she saw Neela. The other, younger doctor offered her a smile, and then glanced to Carter. Looking back to Abby, she said, "Heading upstairs?"
A nod was her minimalist response. Gazing one more time to Carter, she turned and headed for the elevators, Neela walking alongside her. "You on a break?"
"Yeah. Figured I'd head up and see how he's doing."
Abby laughed quietly to herself, and then the sound trailed off, having never truly manifested to begin with. She sighed, almost wishing she didn't have company.
"I think sitting around doing nothing is driving him crazy," Neela continued. Abby nodded again, pressing the button as they reached the doors. It was only a short wait before the elevator arrived, and they stepped aside to let a bed be wheeled out, no doubt coming down from x-rays. Stepping in, she pushed for the right floor. "You okay?"
"Hmm?" Abby looked to her friend, and then smiled, feeling a little ridiculous for being so quiet at all. "Yeah… yeah, I'm fine."
Neela quirked a neat, dark brow. "You don't look fine."
"Sorry." She smiled faintly, even as the doors opened, and they headed out. Down the hall they walked, side by side, quietly. Abby's mind, for possibly the hundredth time since it had all happened, replayed the events, over and over, more vividly in certain places. Shaking them off as they came up to the right door, she glanced through the open blinds on the other side of the glass, and then pushed through slowly.
Bored obviously wasn't the right word for how Ray Barnett was probably feeling. Abby walked through the doorway, and offered a smile as he glanced in her direction. The way he returned it seemed almost forced; as if he didn't genuinely feel the expression at all. Abby's own smile faltered a little, even as Neela followed her inside, closing the door quietly behind her.
"How are you?" Abby asked, coming up to his bedside. She automatically glanced at his vitals, which had improved, if only a fraction, since the last time she'd seen him.
"I don't think I've ever sat still this long," he replied, and she noticed the weariness in his tone. Her smile faded completely after that.
Neela came up to Abby's left. "Your vitals look good," she commented, and then cleared her throat almost awkwardly as if she wished she hadn't said that out loud.
Ray glanced at her, and then returned his eyes to where they had been focused for most of the time they'd been in the room. Abby wasn't sure whether it was the very end of the bed, or his feet under the sheets. She furrowed her brow, and then glanced to him. "Ray…?"
"I'm fine," he mumbled, glancing to her and offering another one of those faint smiles. With a sigh, Abby sat herself in the same chair she'd used for her vigil before he'd regained consciousness after surgery. She didn't know what to say, and apparently, neither did Neela. The other resident stood there, crossing her arms lightly over her chest, and looking around the room.
In the middle of checking the board, and initialling one of his patients with a swift 'A.M.', he turned to the rack, and started rifling through.
Okay, what do we have here? Vomiting and d— nope. Chest pain? Ugh. It'll do.
He pulled the chart out, and checked it over, flipping the page, and then returning it to its place, even as two women came up behind the desk, one of them looking more or less how he always felt after a few too many beers. Abby had looked better, definitely. Not that he was judging.
"How's life up in recovery?" he found himself asking as he pulled his pen from the pocket of his white coat, moving a little closer to the two women.
"Fine, Morris; why?" Neela sounded almost suspicious, for some reason, casting a wary glance in his direction.
"Just curious," he said. "Ray's not going crazy yet then, huh?" He smiled, adding a little chuckle at the idea of the male intern trying to sit still for more than five minutes… and failing miserably.
Abby offered him something of a glare, and he was rather taken aback at the sight of it. She moved out from behind the desk, and towards the exit, mumbling a hasty, "See you later," as she went. Neela turned her eyes to the redheaded doctor almost reproachfully.
"What'd I say?" he asked, shrugging in confusion. Neela sighed, rolled her eyes, and then headed for the door as well in pursuit of the other woman. "It was a joke!"
Some people just have no sense of humour…
Neela took to jogging, checking there was no ambulances coming into the bay before she quickened her pace. The other woman didn't stop, and Neela only managed to catch up with her as she was headed toward the EL. "Wait," she urged, taking Abby by the arm as she matched pace. "What just happened?"
For a while, Abby didn't talk, or do anything. She sighed heavily, reached up to tuck a strand of rebellious hair behind her ear despite the Chicago breeze, and then looked at her friend.
"Abby… what's wrong?" Neela knew she was frowning, and quite deeply at that. Something wasn't right here, and she knew she wouldn't be able to relax until she figured out, or was told, exactly what was going on.
"And that's a lie," she contradicted, trying not to sound too blunt. "Come on, back there… up in Ray's room… with Morris. What's going on?"
"It's fine, Neela, really."
"No it's not." She would have laughed if she hadn't been so concerned; even frustrated. "And stop saying everything's 'fine'." Abby had kept saying it, since walking into the hospital a couple of hours ago. In fact, Ray had said the same thing… she found herself wondering if Sam would give an identical response to any inquiry after her well-being or state of mind.
Abby looked at the other resident, and was silent for a time. It was clear in her gaze that she was trying to form an appropriate response, and wasn't having much luck. "And why shouldn't I say it?" she finally responded, shrugging under her jacket. Neela almost envied her for the extra warmth.
"Because it's not true."
"How do you know that?"
Neela had been waiting for the challenge; in fact, she would have been a little worried if it hadn't come back at her like that. "Because I'm not an idiot. I've worked with you for months now… Ray too. Nothing's 'fine'. Far from it…"
"Can you blame me?" Abby screwed her eyes shut. "Him."
Releasing Abby's arm, Neela sighed, and contemplated how to continue. Could she really press this matter? Did she really have the right? After all, she had never been through something like Abby, Ray and Sam had, and quite honestly, was thankful for that. In her mind, no one should ever have to endure something so terrifying and life-threatening, and three of her friends — or people she certainly considered friends — had suffered through it; one of them had almost died. She had no idea how that felt… how they felt, and couldn't even begin to assume.
"He'll be okay," Neela found herself saying before too long, not entirely sure she believed it for herself once the words had escaped her mouth.
Abby met her gaze, weary and even melancholy. "Will he?" It was almost another challenge, but this time, Neela didn't take it; simply waited for the continuation. "How do we know that? You saw him up there… it wasn't him. It wasn't Ray." She had briefly gestured in the rough direction of the recovery ward, where they had visited their fellow resident, but her eyes didn't leave Neela's. "Quiet, unresponsive… way too thoughtful." It wasn't a joke, and Neela didn't want to laugh anyway. None of this was funny. "And you didn't see him after he woke up, when he realised he wouldn't be back to work for weeks." Abby finally quieted, and sighed, shuffling her weight on her feet a little, as if awkward after her 'rant'. "We don't know how he's really taking it, and he won't let us ask."
"And it bothers you…" Neela wasn't questioning that. It was perfectly natural to worry about something like that.
"Yes! Of course it does. He nearly die— he did die, for a minute." Abby's voice quieted. "And I think he knows it, too."
Neela's eyes narrowed. "Knows what?"
"That he… that his heart stopped beating. He knew, somehow, when Dr. Langley and I were talking to him, and we hadn't said anything about it. That's scary, Neela, it has to be. Imagine waking up and knowing you'd died, if only for a minute?" She paused. "How would you feel?"
Considering her answer carefully, Neela chewed on her bottom lip for a while. No matter how she answered this, it would probably sound wrong, she realised. "I'd… feel lucky."
Abby sighed. "Well maybe he doesn't see it that way. Maybe…" Her voice trailed off, and her shoulders slumped in exhaustion. "I don't know. I don't know what's going on in his head, and that bugs me, and I can't ask him, because he won't tell me… and that bugs me!" Her frustration was giving way to an obvious weariness, and Neela frowned.
"You should go home," she prompted quietly. "Get some rest. You're still exhausted, and coming back here for hours at a time and sitting there with him when he's like that… it's not helping."
Another sigh spilled out of the older woman. "But we can't leave him on his own."
"Maybe…" Neela began pensively. "Maybe he needs to be on his own for a while." She shifted her weight. "To think things through; figure out how he feels. If you give him the time, maybe he'll talk to you about it when you ask, next time you visit him."
Apparently turning this option over in her head, Abby glanced across the street, quiet. When she finally looked back to Neela, the younger resident could see the agreement there, even before Abby nodded her head. "All right…"
"Give him some time," Neela added, perhaps unnecessarily. "I'll drop by to check on him again before the end of my shift, to make sure he's okay." Hesitantly at first, she laid a hand on her friend's arm. "Ray's stubborn. He'll be okay."
It provoked a faint, but real smile from Abby, and that comforted Neela, who returned the expression. Before long, she was watching the other tired doctor continue on her way to the EL, steps heavy with tiredness but no longer so frustrated. Unsure as to whether or not she had really helped, Neela turned and headed back to work, jogging when she got to the bay to keep up with the ambulance that was pulling in, lights flashing.
The head of his bed was still propped up, as if he wanted to keep focused on something, but the television up on the wall was switched off, and the remote was off to the side, ignored. Ray didn't much feel like watching television, and it was probably obvious, just by looking at him, as he lay there. He was partly slouched, even for someone lying in a hospital bed, and his shoulders were slumped as if in exhaustion; he was pale and his eyes looked tired; his hair was lifeless as opposed to the normal spike it held, hanging down above his eyes and temples; whenever he wasn't looking around the room wearily, he was staring at the end of the bed. Subconsciously, he listened to the beeping of the heart monitor, and then looked up at the IV he was connected to, sighing lightly so as not to aggravate the wound in his side.
It would heal, he reminded himself again, having lost count of how many times he had said as much, or even thought as much. It would heal, but it would take time… time he wasn't used to spending off his feet, or feeling helpless. He had given up on feeling helpless a long time ago, and to be thrown back into that state without any say in the matter bothered him more than it really should have.
He remembered Dr. Langley asking if his family's number was anywhere in the hospital staff records, to which Ray had simply shook his head. When prompted for it, he hadn't responded, and after that, the woman had taken the hint, and left. Not only did he not want his family — what little of it he was in contact with — near him when he was like this, but given that he wasn't originally from Chicago, or anywhere near it in the United States, he seriously doubted anyone would come… even if he'd wanted them to. Thankfully, no one had asked why that was. He didn't feel like sharing. He didn't even feel like thinking about it and depressing himself even more.
Lying there, half-propped up by the angle in the bed, he wondered what had been done with Atkin's body. Had anyone been contacted to claim it? And if not, then what had happened with it? He knew, under normal circumstances, that if absolutely no one could be found to claim the body, then it would be cremated, but he couldn't help but wonder, for some reason, whether the situation would change that 'ritual'. Ray recalled the brief police visit, and how pointless it had really been. The questions had been completely unnecessary, and Ray had come very close to asking them to leave, before a nurse had noticed his frustration and done it for him. He remembered her name was Laura, though he had only seen her once or twice since; not enough to really make remembering her name useful.
He had refrained from asking how long it would be before he was released from recovery… how long it would be before he could go home. To his dismal, little apartment above that takeout that always stank the place out somehow. Sighing, he wondered if he really wanted to go back to his apartment. Before the chaos of a few days ago, he had been in the process of looking for a new apartment, but he could hardly do that now, could he? Even after he was released, apartment hunting wasn't an ideal way to spend time when you were meant to be recovering from a gunshot wound.
Ray dropped his head back against the pillow, staring up at the ceiling silently, mind blank, save for one thing…
There was something he needed to tell Sam.
To Be Continued…