Missing Scene(s): The Boost Job
Disclaimers: Standard...Want 'em, but can't have 'em. At least that's what the Alphabet People say.
A/N: So sorry about the length of time it is taking me to update my fics. Hope the conclusion doesn't disappoint!
At Arm's Length
With Eliot secured, the paramedics lifted the stretcher onto its wheels without difficulty and quickly put their equipment bags on Eliot's legs for transport, giving Nate instructions to the hospital as they did.
"Is he going to be alright?" Sophie asked anxiously, hovering near the stretcher, Nate's arms around her shoulders.
"We're taking him directly to the OR," Kevin said, "The doctors are ready for him. His chances are good if we can get him there soon, but I can't guarantee anything." With that the two men rolled the stretcher out the door and the rest of the team followed, everything else forgotten except for Sophie, who grabbed her purse on the way out.
The drive to the hospital was hell for them, watching the ambulance weave its way through traffic, having to slow down because of drivers who weren't paying attention.
"Get out of the way!" Parker kept screaming at them, sticking her head out of the window of the SUV as they followed close on its heels. Hardison tried to pull her back into the vehicle, but she doggedly wrenched her arm away and stuck her head out again. He gave up.
When they arrived at the Emergency Bay, the ambulance was descended upon by orderlies, who opened the back doors and whisked Eliot away before Nate even had a chance to put the SUV in park. They rushed into the hospital, but he was on the way up to surgery before they got a chance to see him, so Nate went out to repark the vehicle in the parking lot as the others were directed to the surgery waiting area.
It was hours later before anyone came with news; Parker had toured the entire top floor of the hospital three times, declaring it one of the easiest places to get in and out of: "Why, the roof access doesn't even have a lock!" She had found multiple points of access on each wing, dozens of ventilation shafts that could, and did, lead to the patients' rooms, the pharmacy, the emergency room, and even the operating theatres. She didn't say if she'd seen the one Eliot was in, but her pale face and trembling hands attested to the answer.
Hardison had cemented their story and IDs with his ever present iPad, and then gone through the histories and resumes of every doctor and nurse in the hospital, figuring out the best specialists and re-directing their case-load to include the hitter.
Nate drank coffee and paced, trying his damndest to ignore the fact that he was in a hospital again, this time waiting to hear news if one of his team was going to live or not, and Sophie tried to calm his steps with soft words of encouragement from the couch where she sat with Hardison.
"Nate," she said for the thirteenth time, finally exasperated. "Sit, please. You're making me dizzy walking around in circles like that."
He started to, but at that moment a doctor in light blue scrubs entered the room.
"Family of Eliot Stavanaugh?" he asked, and Nate bounced right back up, along with the others, who crowded around the man.
"How is he?" "Is he okay?" Can we see him?" The questions blurted out of anxious mouths and he held up a restraining hand.
"He's made it through the surgery to repair his lung, but he's still in rough shape. The crash left him with some torn muscles in his shoulder, several badly cracked ribs and a massive concussion, and frankly, I'm surprised he could function after such a blow."
The team wasn't surprised that Eliot had functioned, and well enough to fight off a mob of men and then fix them dinner afterwards. It was part of Eliot's nature to protect and care for them.
"The nausea he suffered is common after a blow to the head, and the constriction of the chest muscles was enough to snap one of those ribs, which in turn punctured his lung. If you hadn't been with him, he wouldn't have made it. We'll be monitoring him closely to make sure pneumonia doesn't develop. However, he is stabilized now, and we will be moving him into a private room soon."
They heaved a collective sigh of relief and the man left, instructing the nurse at the desk to let them know as soon as Eliot had been settled into his room. Now that he'd come through the surgery, they all inherited Nate's wandering feet and they paced, turning the small waiting room into some sort of bizarre miniature racetrack in slow motion.
Less than an hour later the nurse appeared to lead them to the room; she needn't have bothered since Hardison had already found out the room number, the route and at least half a dozen alternative points of entry and exit for the room. Patiently following the woman, they walked with some trepidation towards the room.
The nurse opened the door for them and quietly left, leaving them to enter of their own volition. They did so with Nate at point and saw Eliot in the bed, looking pale against the white sheets. There was a nasal cannula running under his nose for oxygen, and numerous wires running from his body that connected to monitors that beeped, hummed, and flashed. IVs were inserted into his wrists and another monitor was clipped to his finger, all feeding information to the nurses at the front desk.
They could see bandages wound around the hitter's torso above the blankets, and it was marred by the tube that was still taped into his chest to drain the fluids that were continuing to build up.
Parker's eyes filled immediately and she sniffed, a small, lonely sound, and Hardison put his hands on her shoulders.
"Why did I tell him to just 'Get over it'?" she asked. "It's like we expect him to be...Superman, unable to get hurt."
"We'll be more careful, Parker," Nate promised. "From now on, we'll try to be more careful."
Awareness returned slowly, and Eliot first homed in on the rhythmic beeping that seemed to follow his heartbeat. After a time of floating and listening, he realized that it did follow his heartbeat, and then the purrs, clicks and whirrs of other sounds slowly invaded his consciousness.
He listened and extended his other senses before committing to opening his eyes and he felt the presences of others around him. His nose told him that he was in a place of disinfectants and injury, and that, added to the other information he'd gleaned, told him he was in a hospital.
He stifled the groan of that discovery and opened his eyes. Blinking in the dim light, he looked around sleepily.
"He's awake!" He heard a chirrup above his head and looked up, not half surprised to see Parker's head sticking out of the vent above his bed. He blinked again and watched as she contorted herself to exit the vent, her bare feet straddling him on the bed railings as she eased down. She jumped off the bed, never having even touched him, and landed lightly on the floor, smiling manically the entire time.
He offered her a tired smile in return.
"Hey there, sweetheart," he heard the soft British voice, and a hand settled lightly on his head, avoiding his bruised temple. Sophie stroked his hair away from his face and he closed his eyes for a moment, content to let her mothering instincts care for him for a change.
"Hey, man!" A boisterous voice chimed in, and he opened his eyes to see Hardison's bright white smile directed at him as he held up two Wii controllers. "Got the fishing game set up for us whenever you're ready!"
Eliot would have rolled his eyes except for the fact that his head told him that was a bad idea. He appreciated it giving him advance warning this time.
Moving his gaze to the side he saw Nate sitting in the chair beside him, suit coat wrinkled and tie askew, attesting to the fact that he'd been there probably since Eliot had been brought in. He dipped his head and Nate did as well, acknowledgement passing between the two men.
Eliot watched the others as they occupied themselves, Parker and Hardison teasing each other as they played Wii Fishing, since he had neither the desire nor coordination to at the moment. Nate and Sophie talked quietly between themselves, and if he closed his eyes he could pretend that they were back at Nate's apartment after a post-job briefing.
The hitter frowned as his vision started to sway and spin, making him dizzy. He shook his head lightly, his brow furrowing, but it didn't help.
Eliot heard Nate's soft query, asking him if he was okay, but he didn't answer. He blinked against a sudden lethargy that made him feel like he'd fall asleep in moments, but then gasped loudly, his hands going to his temples as a sudden bolt of pain shot through his head.
"Eliot, are you okay?" Nate asked, seeing the hitter shake his head, an expression of confusion on his face. Sophie straightened from her seat as he spoke, her eyes shifting to the hitter as well.
Nate sat straight up in the chair as Eliot moaned, his hands grabbing his head and his face contorted in agony as he twisted sideways in the bed.
"Eliot?" he asked, his voice tight with worry. The others heard his tone of voice and they turned, dropping the controllers and abandoning their fish.
"What is it? What's wrong with him?" Parker's scared voice asked.
Nate reached for the call button but it was too late: Eliot started seizing.
"Sophie, get a nurse!" Nate yelled, rushing to the head of the bed and gently pulling the pillow out from under Eliot's head and lowering the head of the bed until he was flat. Parker started to grab at him but Nate held her back.
"No Parker, don't hold him down, you'll only hurt him worse."
Hardison was on the other side, his hands gently beside Eliot's head to keep him from slamming into the railings.
Two nurses rushed into the room then, with Sophie on their heels as if she were herding them. Nate pulled Parker back as one of them nudged Hardison out of the way. It was one of the hardest things for Nate to wait and watch as Eliot's seizure slowed, then stopped, leaving him lying flat on the bed, unmoving.
"What happened?" the nurse asked, turning to the mastermind.
"He was fine, until a few minutes ago. He looked funny, like he was confused, and then he grabbed his head like it hurt, and then he...he was just seizing." Nate said, feeling Parker shaking in his hands.
"Will he be okay now?" she asked, her voice soft and small.
"I have to check with the doctor," the nurse informed them. "He's probably going to order a CAT scan or an MRI to find out what has happened. But we'll do everything we can to make sure he's alright," she smiled at the blonde thief before walking out the door.
The team paced around Eliot's room once more, waiting for him to be brought back from the tests so they would know what was wrong, but unfortunately the hospital wasn't on their schedule.
It was two hours before the door opened and Eliot was wheeled in, the bed returned to its former position and locked into place, the IVs and monitors hooked back up to the unconscious hitter. He was still pale, but the heart monitor showed a steady and sleepy pace, and his blood pressure, while elevated at the time of the seizure, was back to normal. Oxygen was still being supplied through a cannula tucked behind his ears, but he was resting comfortably, from what they could tell.
A doctor followed the orderlies in, carrying Eliot's chart and made sure all of the connections were made, then turned to them as they waited patiently.
"I'm sorry it took so long," he said to Nate, glancing at the chart. "We took a CAT and PET scan, and both showed us a small subdural hematoma, a brain bleed. Those can cause dizziness, confusion, sudden headaches and the seizures that Eliot suffered. From what we can tell, it was caused by the head trauma from the original crash. We have him on an anti-seizure medication right now, and it should allow him to rest and heal with no side-effects. He's sedated right now, so he'll be out for a few more hours."
"Did he aggravate any of his other injuries? His ribs?" Nate wanted to know.
"No, thankfully the seizure was short enough that it didn't cause any other harm. His lungs look good, so there's no worry there either."
Nate nodded and thanked the doctor, letting the door close quietly as he left. Looking back to the bed where the hitter lay motionless, he let out a silent breath.
Sophie walked up to the bed and leaned over, gently brushing a strand of hair out of Eliot's face. He mumbled softly and his eyelids flickered, but there was no other response.
"Damn," Hardison said softly. "Dude's like a cat. Got nine lives."
"Let's just hope he still has more," Sophie's softly accented voice said. "In his line of work, he needs them."
Like the doctor had said, a few hours later Eliot started to stir. He blinked slowly, his eyes focusing on the ceiling as his brain processed his whereabouts. He already knew that his team was there, so he didn't bother with faking sleep like he normally did when waking in a foreign place.
A gentle hand smoothed his forehead and he looked up into Sophie's smiling dark eyes. "About time you woke up," she chided. "You've been sleeping for hours. How are you feeling?"
He took a moment to answer and heard the others moving. His ribs ached, his lung felt like there was a poker going through his chest if he moved wrong and his head throbbed, but he only said his customary, "I'm fine."
Her eyes lost their sparkle as she tilted her head at his lie, but she didn't call him on it. She knew that he had to put up his front, to be tough, to not hurt so he could get back to doing what he thought of as his 'job'. She just wished that he realized that they looked upon him as more than just his job, that the sum of all his parts was what they cared about, and not just the 'hitter' aspect of him.
"Not yet," she said. "But you will be." At arm's length was not where she intended to let him stay.