Title: i am folded, and unfolded, and unfolding...
Characters: Alex/Lexie, Meredith/Derek, Teddy, Cristina, Mark, Jackson, Bailey (mentions of Reed, Charles, April, Owen, Richard, Callie and Arizona).
Word Count: 4400
Prompt: From llywela13 . The cast reacting to Alex's injuries and post surgical complications | Post season six finale.
Summary: Set in the immediate aftermath as news of the injured and the dead is still filtering through. How every deals... or doesn't deal...
Disclaimer: At my user info. page.
Author's Note: Holy medical research brain overload batman! Thanks to cardio nurse extraordinaire nursebadass for her professional expertise. I really struggled with a format for this due to the nature of the prompt. I'm still not entirely convinced. Title from 'Colorblind', Counting Crows. Lyrics from 'I'll Be There For You', Bon Jovi.
I am folded, and unfolded, and unfolding...
I know you know we've had some good times,
now they have their own hiding place.
I can promise you tomorrow,
but I can't buy back yesterday...
The ambulance ride to Seattle Presbyterian is hellish. The drivers know what they're doing, but it's far from smooth and her head bounces off various pieces of medical equipment more than once.
Plus he codes.
There's also that.
His surgery is touch and go and try as she might he simply refuses to stabilise. His heart rate remains through the roof and his blood pressure fluctuates wildly between being right up there with it or stalling somewhere at her toes. He bleeds out the transfusions as quickly as they can pump them in and eventually she has to get out well before she's entirely happy all her bases have been covered.
She seeks out Cristina as soon as they have him settled in recovery. There is a frantic edge to her search that doesn't feel entirely real and she suspects it's built around the fact that, last she heard, her resident was still trapped inside a hospital where a rampant gunman, more than willing to make good on his promise of death and destruction, was on the loose.
But she suspects it has even more to do with needing her professional confirmation.
Confirmation that she's done all she can for now.
Confirmation that he needs to fight like hell so she can get back in there and fix the rest of the unholy mess inside his chest.
That the next twenty four hours will be crucial feels like a trite affirmation to mask her own rising insecurities.
She finds her slumped against a wall just outside recovery. There are ghosts in her eyes already that have Teddy wondering exactly what the hell has gone on while she's been elbow deep in the chest cavity of her friend.
"Cristina, thank God you're here. You've heard then? I don't... I need you to look at the scans. I don't know anyone here. I don't trust them. I need you to look at the scans."
Cristina's forehead creases into a confused frown. Her eyebrows draw together almost comically and Teddy feels her own slide into a crude mirror image.
"What? Derek? No, Alex."
"Wait. Derek was shot?"
But her name disappears like an echo into hastily vacated space as the swinging door to recovery slides closed with a puff of cold air.
The information rushes around her insides like disturbed insects. Derek, Alex, Reed, at least three others that she knows of already.
How many more before it's all over?
She takes a deep breath or three before turning and following Cristina back in. Pushes at the swinging door that's only just come to a complete stand still.
Sends it flying once more.
From across the room she can see that Cristina has stopped mid-step. Her arms swinging limply at her sides.
"Cristina?" More cautious this time.
The sound urges her back into action and she's at his bedside before Teddy can quite catch up. Is opening his chart and fumbling clumsily at his scans before Teddy can offer a gentle warning for what she's about to find.
She can almost see the point where all the air rushes out of Cristina's lungs. Deflates and capitulates.
It probably looks worse than it is. Only not really. Because it's bad.
Really bad. And she's suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. Because he's one of theirs. Firmly ensconced within the Seattle Grace inner sanctum. And she's not there. Not yet, maybe not ever.
And if he doesn't make it, that'll be on her.
There is sound behind her. Teddy probably.
And she should probably listen.
But her eyes are scanning numbers and she's memorising words and meticulously scrutinising scans and definitely not looking at the vent. Or the bags of blood. Or the muddy pink gauze that is already starting lift off at the edges.
She's swallowing compulsively. Because she had her hands in Derek's chest not hours earlier. And a handgun pointed at her head. And surgery was always her salvation.
Until it wasn't.
"Crap." Not a word as such. An exhale. A rush of air.
"When he stabilises we'll have to..."
Teddy is still speaking. She hears the start of sentences but manages to drown them out before they develop into more complete utterances that she's not ready to hear.
That she'll never be ready to hear.
"You can scrub in."
She looks up at that. Meets Teddy's pleading gaze with a blank stare.
She leaves then. Turns without a word and stalks back out the way she came in.
She passes Jackson in the hall. A seated silhouette with his own blank stare. She's not entirely convinced he even notices her and she thinks, vaguely, that she should probably assess him for shock, but she's shocked herself and Meredith is about to be and that's already so much more than too much for her to deal with.
She pauses half a dozen steps away. Takes a moment to reign in her panic and to get some semblance of control over the starkly unfamiliar emotions buzzing around in her chest.
Meredith is curled in a chair beside a sleeping Derek in the ICU. His evacuation had been surprisingly drama free and her surgical prowess had garnered her lavish praise from the well meaning Seattle Presbyterian staff.
With their jarring scrubs in a shade of red that is too much and not enough like the colour of his blood.
"Mere?" She attempts a half hearted smile. Her lips stick to her teeth and her eyes dry out as she widens them for too long by a fraction and Meredith's face falls into a worried frown.
So she guesses she doesn't quite pull it off.
No. "How's he doing?" Not even close.
"Good. Great. He's doing great. Considering."
"Good. Okay. That's good." She starts nodding. Forgets to stop. "Good."
She's still nodding. Can feel her hair shifting on her shoulders. The sound of the strands rubbing against each other reverberates like a symphony inside her skull.
Meredith stands. Immediately tense. "Cristina?"
"What? Cristina." She's moving towards her now. A reflected image looming into view. Rods and cones and visual information travelling from retinal cells along nerve fibers to the lateral geniculate nucleus and the superior colliculus in the primary visual cortex...
And she hates that he's reduced her to a bumbling mess who can't even articulate a complete sentence.
Cristina bundles passed him with an unsteady stagger that is oddly incongruent with what he knows of her. Seems more suited to someone like Lexie Grey or April Knepner or maybe even the blonde cancer chick who up and left all those months ago and seemed to appear at random before disappearing into the ether forever.
He thinks she'd probably stagger. And cry. And be scared. And-
He can't feel his legs. He's uncomfortably numb from the waist down. But he doesn't think it'll matter because he has no where to be. No where else to go. No one to call and they told him Reed died and he has vague recollections of vomiting at the news and he's not sure who else knows because no one has said anything to him and he'd like to think they'd say something. If they knew. And apparently it was a bullet between her eyes. Which is oddly fascinating.
If he's honest with himself.
But it's Reed. And he liked her. And she was an outsider like him and now there's one less of them to forge ahead with.
He hates guns. And he thinks what he did in surgery with Cristina was pretty freaking amazing and that she was pretty freaking amazing but he's having trouble remembering everything and his hands won't stop shaking so they're shoved in his pockets, deep and dark, because he has to hide them from Dr. Hunt.
A surgeon's hands must never shake.
He'll never make it if his hands shake.
So they're shoved in his pockets. Deep and dark.
He's watching Meredith and Cristina with a sense of detachment. Like maybe they're not really there. Or maybe he's not really here. And he thinks he can hear yelling, which also doesn't seem quite right.
But then Meredith is running and Cristina is off after her and there's something about the way they're moving that has him lurching to his feet, sprinting to catch up.
Pins and needles and numbness and fog and they're headed to recovery and something fills him up. Balloons his insides. Because he thinks, for a second, that maybe it's Reed. And maybe she's not dead. And maybe the bullet between her eyes had simply been a case of Chinese Whispers that got completely out of hand.
But he doesn't think they'd run this fast for Reed. He doesn't think they'd argue as loud or that Meredith would so readily relinquish her stoic vigil or-
Not Reed. Not anymore.
She's in the process of ordering new films when commotion fills the otherwise hushed space. The high pitched squeak of rubber soled shoes on linoleum, sliding, skidding, stopping. Panting breath, frantic and panicked and just the functioning side of hyperventilation.
Grey. Yang. Avery.
Meredith's fingers are in her mouth. Teddy's half convinced she's going to gag on them, choke. Vomit all over the polished floor.
A surge of envy floods her veins. Bitter and sharp.
She doubts with a heavy heart that she could garner a similar reaction.
Should she ever find herself in Karev's position.
And she hates herself for the thought even as it builds inside her. Becomes all consuming, blinding white.
She's moving again. Creeping forward by inches, flanked by her sentries.
She barely recognises Jackson, the glazed glint in his eyes is almost more troubling than the faded blank in Cristina's. Than the hysterical terror in Meredith's. At least she understands those.
"No, no, no, no, no..."
"Um, I don't think-" She slides a glance around the room. Takes in the stares they're getting from the regular staff members, instantly uncomfortable in the blood red scrubs that again place her on the other side. "Let's talk outside, okay?"
But Meredith is far from capable of listening and she's fairly certain Jackson hasn't so much as blinked since he slid to a stammered stop behind them and she knows without doubt that Cristina isn't going anywhere without the other two.
They've closed ranks. That much is obvious.
Machines start to wail.
Resolve destroying. Teddy spins on her heels and begins to bark oders like they're not even in the room anymore. Efficient professionalism underscored with a feint hint of unbridled panic.
Red blurs in her vision as staff she'd barely noticed swarm his bed. Cut off her view.
Seconds, minutes, hours.
Cristina moves in. Oddly tentative until Teddy catches her eye and they fall into sync. Unplugging and plugging in and getting ready to move.
And then they are. Moving. Wheeling him out. Before she even has an opportunity to say hello.
Because she's never been one for optimism and neither has he.
She's shoved aside roughly as they stream past and someone is screaming. Filling the crowded space with a haunting bray. Hands cover her mouth. Hot and heavy, and a face fills the void she had been disappearing into.
"Shhhh. Please shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up-"
And the screaming has been silenced. Exchanged for manic chanting and laboured breath.
She thinks maybe it was her all along.
But it's Jackson now. And she's quiet so he can stop but he's not and the realisation is blinding.
"Jackson." Muffled as her lips slide against his slick palm.
She wrenches her head back forcefully. Clamps her hands on his shoulders viciously. Digs in her nails and barely resists the urge to shake.
Shake until the sound fades.
It's a tension pneumothorax and Teddy has it decompressed before she can even fully comprehend what's going on.
She peels away as they wheel him towards radiology. Nauseous and spinning. Groping blindly for something solid to hold her up. Finds nothing but empty air and no resistance and commands herself to pull it all together because she barely even recognises the sound of her own voice anymore.
Tentative and rare.
Jackson and Meredith are right where she left them. Staring at each other blankly, like maybe they don't even know each other at all.
Meredith startles at the sound of speaking. Spins to face her, lips pressed together in a thin line.
"Oh god." Breathless. "Is everything...? Is he...?"
Jackson still hasn't moved.
"No. Not really-" She baulks at telling them the truth but they're both surgeons and Alex is all for the truth and it feels like she owes him at least that.
Even though she doesn' t really owe him anything at all.
"- they're taking him to radiology. Teddy was hoping to wait until he'd stabilised before she took him back to surgery but I think they're hoping to go back in now. She wants me to scrub in but-"
"What?" In unison. Faces, voices, confusion, fear.
And he still hasn't moved.
The words are out. Slipping and sliding off his tongue. Bitter and thick.
They almost feel like the truth.
And the first time doesn't hurt quite as much as he thought it would.
Jackson is swaying. The movement almost imperceptible. And if she was capable of focusing her splintering attention on more than one thing at a time she may never have even noticed. He's not really looking at either of them. Appears to have adopted a middle distance stare that is more than a little disturbing.
Rumbling around in her echoic memory are his words. Reed's dead. Reed's dead. Reed's dead... "Oh..."
And if Reed's dead. And Alex is shot. And Derek is shot. And Owen, if Owen is shot.
She takes off at a run. Fumbling in her pocket for a cell phone she already knows isn't there because she's reached for it on half a dozen previous occasions as the afternoon has unfolded. She can hear thundering footsteps echoing in the empty hallway behind her.
And she wonders when they reached a stage where one of them running means the others all fall simply into line and follow.
No questions asked.
It's an oddly comforting revelation amid the quagmire of terror and confusion that have become her unrelenting default in the space of just one tumultuous afternoon.
There's a phone at the nurses station in the ICU. She hasn't actually seen it there but it's a nurses station and while she may not be on home soil she still knows her way around a hospital.
Clamping the earpiece between the side of her face and her shoulder, she points trembling fingers at the blurred and blurring numbers. Misses twice. Starts again.
Barely contains the overwhelming need to scream at the very top of her lungs.
"Pick up, pick up, pick up, pick up-"
Cristina and Jackson are hovering. And at least he looks a little more alive. And at least she's stopped the incessant twitching.
And... "pick up, pick up, pick up..."
The elevator pings. Doors to her left swing open with a rush. A voicemail message is all that greets her panicked pleas.
But it's okay.
And she doesn't answer her phone and she doesn't cut her voicemail off and she doesn't call back.
But it's okay because she's standing right there.
Less than an armslength away.
The reciever hits the desk with a dull thud. Bounces off discarded charts to land somewhere at her feet.
"Oh..." Breathless and foggy. "Oh, thank God. Lexie..."
The place seems to errupt around them. A heady mixture of choas and relief.
Meredith and Lexie are staring at each other. As though they're not entirely sure how to react. And they want nothing more than to bury themselves in the other's arms but it won't be in keeping with the relationship they've forged and they're tentative. Cautious and guarded.
And he has his own questions. Head and stomach and all the spaces in between packed full of them.
There are various Seattle Presbyterian staff members milling around. Red scrubs announcing their presence more completely than any formal introduction ever could. Some are staring. Wide eyed and open mouthed. Some are attempting in vain to restore a desperate sense of order and calm. It's not working.
It's not even close.
Callie and Arizona are pressed together so completely it's becoming more and more difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. Bailey and April are circling each other. An incongruent pairing. Separate but together. The Chief, the ex-chief, maybe even the new chief, the re-instated chief... Richard. He is off to one side. As though his presense alone has the capacity to keep them all together.
And he thinks that might just be the truth.
He slips off without fuss. Filled to buzzing with an increasingly desperate need to see for himself. Sure in the knowledge that no one here is capable of colouring in his many blanks.
Derek is sleeping when he arrives. And looking a hell of a lot better than the scrolling pictures his imagination had been busy conjuring seemed to indicate he would.
He blames Karev for skewing his expectations.
He blames Karev for much more than just that.
She keeps forgetting.
She keeps forgetting that Tucker Junior is with his father. That he's not stuck in daycare with a murderous gunman on the loose.
She keeps forgetting that Charles Percy is dead. Does random sweeps of her surrounds looking for him. He came to warn her once. She so desperately wants to return the favour.
She keeps forgetting that she's scrubbed her hands. Looks down fully expecting them to still be covered with parts of him. The parts she couldn't quite manage to keep inside.
She keeps forgetting that Alex Karev might be about to join him.
Until she remembers...
The hallways here are slightly different. The colouring is off. The ceiling height is a little lower. The bulletin boards advertise unfamiliar upcoming events. But the smell is the same and the sounds are the same and so she creeps along with one hand pressed to the wall.
More than ready to lie again. To lie to save her life.
At first she doesn't recognise him. Continues to scan the room, searching, searching. And in the end it's Teddy Altman who catches her attention.
Her mouth opens into a soundless o. She can feel the muscles in her face shift to accommodate the movements.
Because it's him but it's not. And the difference shoves her equilibrium so far sideways that she almost staggers to her knees.
Of all the people she's come into contact on a regular basis with at Seattle Grace, she thinks Miranda Bailey is the least familiar to her. There is an aura that surrounds the woman. Formidable and assured. Confident and brilliant and strong.
The Miranda Bailey here now? This is not the Miranda Bailey that she's come to know and respect.
She crying, which in itself is odd. And her mouth is opening, closing, opening in soundless, cycling waves.
"Doctor Bailey? Miranda?"
Eyes slide sideways to settle on her face before flitting back to where Alex is sedated and ventilated and barely hanging on by a thread.
"Is he going to die?"
The words are emotionless. Cold. A slap in the face.
Not to mention completely discordant with the tears and the trembling and the unbridled fear.
"What? No. No. No." Builds a degree of confidence with each repetition of the word.
"No, he is not going to die." Spat out. More to convince herself than anything else.
Miranda nods. Inhales sharply. Nods again.
"Good. Okay." Glances up just long enough to lock steely eyes with her own. "That's good."
And just like that, she's back.
The world seems to right itself by inches in response.
The crowd begins to disperse. She notices that Mark has vanished. Dr. Bailey is no longer in her reach and everyone else is breathing in a barely discernible unison.
She says Alex at the same time Lexie sighs Derek at the same time her internal scaffolding seems to collapse in on itself. Sends her sliding to the linoleum floor at her feet.
"I miss Izzie..."
"What?" Lexie and Cristina in symphony. Peering down at her curiously, like maybe she's about to lose her mind.
Which is funny because she lost that hours ago.
"I miss Izzie. She'd have an entirely inappropriate monologue to reel off about fate or karma or the way the rain falls in June and... just, I miss her..."
"He called her name-"
She cuts the rest of the sentence off abruptly. Furious with herself. For doing exactly what she'd spent the last god knows how long swearing she wouldn't do.
She sighs, resigned to her fate. "Doesn't matter. It doesn't change anything so it doesn't matter."
They let it go, share raised eyebrows and shrugged shoulders, and while she's more than grateful she also knows without even having to think that it's only a temporary reprieve.
The tension that's filled every cell in her body is starting to fade out. Replaced with a heavy dread that she can't quite manage to decipher. She knows she should go see him but the thought makes her stomach twist and her heart race.
Fills her with such a mind numbing exhaustion that she doubts she'll manage to put one foot in front of the other ever again.
Meredith raises a hand in her direction, as though expecting Lexie to haul her to her feet. She stares back at it, blinking dumbly until Cristina shoves her asides and threads her own fingers through Meredith's, solid and strong and every other adjective that Lexie knows she could never hope to be.
He thinks April might be one decent crash away from oblivion. She doesn't appear to notice him until he's inches from her face.
If it's warm where she's going he thinks he might like to join her there.
She drags Meredith to her feet, lends a fleeting thought to the fact that there's two of her now and lets her head do a slow spin at the realisation.
She notices with a distracted stutter that Owen isn't amongst the milling crowd. That now is the first time she's thought about him is telling. That she isn't filled with an overwhelming need to find him, even more so.
"C'mon, let's go."
She leaves her fingers twisted through Meredith's as they make their way along the whisper quiet hallway. Lexie replacing Jackson at their heels.
The ICU is surprisingly calm. Especially when compared to the chaos she left it in. She can see Sloan slouched in a chair beside where Derek appears to be somewhat awake. Meredith untwists her fingers and makes a beeline in his direction so fast she barely notices the movement until her hand is empty.
Teddy is locked in conversation with Bailey at the foot of where Alex has been situated, his chart folded protectively across her chest.
Cristina's fingertips twitch to take it from her and so she settles for studying the monitors instead, iridescent green numbers working their way into her view. Lexie makes it half way into the room before she stalls and she has to remind herself how shocking he looks because she's starting to become accustomed to it.
She thinks the Seattle Presbyterian staff have given up even trying to control the sea of blue scrubs that have taken up residence within their white washed walls.
All the air inside her is stuck. Turned to immovable lead in her chest.
But he shifts then. His fingers twitch and his eyelashes flutter and she's by his side before reason tells her to slow down. One hand on the side of his face and the other twisted impatiently in his. Her lips in his hair and her tears, saltwater slick on his skin.
As the doubt falls away. Slides to her toes and dissolves into the floor.
Hands settle on her back. Placed there steadily, an unwavering pressure. She spares a glance, finds Bailey. Stoic and sure. Draws in a ragged breath that solidifies the parts of her that had been steadily disintegrating into dust.
Consciousness comes like a body slam, lands him flat on his back on the mat. There are no solid images to ground himself with and the world blurs to grey and pink in his periphery.
He wants to panic. Feels, somewhere innate, that it would be an appropriate reaction. But he can't quite manage to assemble all the required elements. His heart pounds to the beat of a thousand drummers and his heavy fingers twist savagely in the material beneath him. But his lungs continue to fill with a steady rhythm that feels far from natural and try as he might, his throat just refuses to constrict into anything capable of producing a scream.
No matter how desperately he wants it to.
Later there is noise.
A bright white island.
It feels like he's drowning in it. The weight of it settles on his chest, takes up the space he's sure his heart and lungs have violently vacated sometime between now and...
Between now and before. But he's not really certain when before actually was. Or where now is.
And he's pretty sure he's crying.
Which is freaking unacceptable either way.
He feels fingers curl into his. Small and warm and familiar and he'd curl his own back if he could manage all the movements required.
If he had the strength for anything beyond a blissful, sliding surrender.