AN: Okay, this is a risky enterprise because the beginning is going to be very unpopular. However, I will once again request that you trust me when I say, without giving away the plot, THIS IS A DASEY, even if it doesn't look like it from the word go. It is actually, I think, typical of my stories...
Please give it a chance. You won't be disappointed (I hope).
Do I sound nervous enough? Good.
Chapter 1 – Trauma
"Time of death…10.53pm." The figure in green announced resignedly.
The frantic atmosphere which had perpetuated the room for the past twenty minutes slowed to a respectful crawl as the other green-clothed figures first stopped for a second of respect, and then altered their courses to began the clean up that followed death. A tall, attractive male doctor slapped his hand affectionately on the shoulder of the smaller figure that had made the grim pronouncement.
"We did everything we could, Calam. When they get a bullet there…they don't stand a chance." He meant it sincerely, but he had the type of jovial manner about him that made even the grimmest of statements sound like he had made them in jest.
The smaller female figure, still frozen in its pose, understanding that he had meant it with sincerity, nodded. "I know. Believe me, I know."
Her male co-worker straightened. "You want me to inform the next-of-kin?"
She shook her head on her way to the door. "No. I got it." The attractive brunette in her late twenties had been the lead doctor on this case. She wasn't accustomed to letting someone else take on her responsibilities – even if, like this one, the case opened up barely healed wounds. She paused, aware that he might take offence at her refusal.
"Thanks Steven. I appreciated your help tonight."
Steven shrugged. "You'd do the same for me, Case. I know that. Besides, it's what we're here for."
Casey McDonald nodded again and turned back to the door. She frowned and paused again. "Oh…and less of the Calamity Jane references. That was one incident in Med school. Just because you bailed me out then doesn't mean you get to rail me about it everyday for the rest of our careers."
"Aw…What's Wild Bill Hickok without his Calam?" Steven joked.
"A cowboy, Steven. Just a cowboy." Casey replied rolling her eyes and thumping her way out of the room. His joke had jarred against Casey's current emotional state even though as a doctor in the middle of a shift she shouldn't have an "emotional state". Steven had never been particularly sensitive to other people's moods.
If he had, he would have insisted that he take the informing next-of-kin duty.
A while later, Casey left the small bereavement room biting her bottom lip and with her fingernails digging into her palms to hold her emotions in check. She should have returned to the nurses station to see if there was anything new come in but instead, Casey walked determinedly to the room set aside for the staff to take their oh-so-rare breaks. To anyone looking on, she would have been the picture of calm.
It wasn't until she had reached the safety of the sparsely-decorated enclosure and the door had closed behind her that she ran. She sprinted to the female washroom, straight to a cubicle and immediately vomited into the pan, sweat pouring down her face.
She vomited twice more and then stood up, the tears flowing freely and her breath coming in chokes. Casey slammed the cubicle door shut behind her, locking it, and slid down the wall of the partition, her head sinking into her lap.
There she remained for some time, aware that she should be back out on the floor doing her job, but also aware that if they needed her she would be paged.
Eventually, Casey climbed to her feet, flushed the toilet and unbolted the door. At the sink she washed her face and hands thoroughly and glanced at her pale, washed-out reflection in the poorly lit mirror.
"You stupid fool!" She admonished herself. "This is why you became a doctor. If you wanted the flowers and chocolates you should have gone into ob/gyn not trauma. You knew before you started that you'd be dealing with GSWs!" She hissed. "You knew you would be dealing with young males. Hell! You knew you would be dealing with GSWs in young males. It's why you chose this life – you chose it to make a difference. So get a fucking grip! You can't vomit and cry every time something reminds you of him."
But as her voice broke on the word him, the reality was she knew that she always would.
"Hi Case!" Ralph greeted her as she walked into his bar later that night. He sounded enthusiastic, but really he didn't want to see her here.
Ralph liked Casey, loved her even - in a completely non-romantic way, but though he would love to spend time with her he would rather it was anywhere but here in his bar.
The trouble was she was here rather too much: too much for his own peace of mind, and too much for her own health.
Shit! These doctors were the worst at looking after themselves.
"What can I get you?" He half-mumbled, as if hoping for her to have suddenly morphed into someone different in the last three days since he had last seen her and that she would ask for something non-alcoholic.
"Usual." Casey said, reaching into her purse for some cash. "In fact, make it a double."
Ralph, on his way to the rack at the back of the bar which contained the Jack Daniels, paused.
"Are you sure, Case?" he asked, his voice serious. Casey normally started slower than this. He was hoping for longer to gauge her mood, although asking for doubles from the outset didn't look good.
Casey glared at him and sighing, he pushed the bar up on the JD bottle and her glass filled with a double measure.
Ralph didn't refuse to serve Casey…he never did, because to do so would mean she would move on to another bar. At least if she drank here, when she got beyond capable she was amongst friends.
What he did do, when she wasn't looking, was phone Sam.
"Hey Dude. Sorry to bother you so late."
In his bedroom, Sam glanced at the clock. "S'ok. But you do realise it's after 11 don't you? Not all of us run late-opening bars. Some of us have to be up at 6am." Sam's voice was characteristically calm. He knew Ralph of old and although he would always be a little "Ralph-ish" at times, Sam knew his friend had matured into someone slightly less of a loose cannon than he used to be. (slightly less – there was still the matter of Sam's bachelor party).
Ralph would only phone this late for something important. Sam had a sick feeling he knew what it was.
"Yeah. Sorry. It's Casey."
Sam swore softly as Ralph confirmed his worse fears. He sat up in bed. "Again?"
"Yeah. Normally, I wouldn't bother you unless I didn't think she was capable of getting home, but she's only just arrived and she's started on the doubles already."
Sam sighed. "Okay. I'm on my way. Just keep an eye on her till I get there." He hung up and switched on the light. Beside him in bed, his very pregnant wife blinked.
"What is it?"
"Casey." Sam said, his tone speaking volumes. "Will you be okay if…?"
"Just go, Sam. Your sister's across the street if I need someone. You can't leave Casey in a bar, even if it is Ralph's. How drunk is she?"
Her husband was already on his way out of bed. "She isn't, not yet. But Ralph's worried about the rate she's drinking at."
Ruth shook her head in disbelief. She was fond of Casey and didn't like to see her friend this way. "Will you phone Nora?" She asked, watching as Sam dressed.
Sam's reply was in the negative. "Casey doesn't want Nora know about this. She thinks she doesn't have a right to grieve and that she shouldn't be grieving more than the rest of the family…or me."
"The rest of the family grieve, they just don't show it."
"I know. Casey's problem is that initially she dealt with her grief by taking up a career that might have made a difference to…the outcome."
"That was a healthy way to deal with her feelings, wasn't it? I mean she was already training to be a doctor. Lots of people use personal experience to determine their specialty."
Sam, now fully clothed, shook his head. "It didn't help - not when she has to deal with people brought in the same way Derek was on an almost weekly basis. She thought she could help and that she would become desensitised in the process. But instead, she finds herself reminded regularly that she lost her step-brother in violent circumstances."
"But drinking? Surely that affects her work?"
Sam shrugged. "Most of the time it isn't too bad. She only drinks if she doesn't have a shift the next day and she can normally get herself home. That's the good days. The bad ones…Ralph has his work cut out."
"It's been seven years, Sam. She can't go on like this."
"I know. I've told her that. Fortunately the drinking has only been recent. I think to start off with she used her studying to absorb her. Now there's nothing else there. She won't tell her family, and only Emily, Ralph and Us still stay in touch with her." He grabbed his keys from the cabinet in the corner of their room. "I'll see you when I can. I'll get her home and settled. Look after bump. Bump, look after Mommy." He bent to kiss her swollen tummy and then her own mouth. "I love you."
"I love you too." Ruth smiled. "Give Casey my love. Tell her to get her ass over here and help me plan for this baby."
Sam left the room, thanking every deity he could think of that the woman he had just left had said "yes" two years ago. Not every woman would understand his need to go and rescue his former girlfriend in the middle of the night – while his own wife was pregnant.
But Ruth did.
She also understood on the one day a year when her husband broke down and sobbed like a baby. She said nothing, but rubbed his back and giving him space to grieve in his own way for his best friend on his best friend's birthday.
"Tell me Ralph." Casey slurred slightly louder than was comfortable. "Do you still have those pleather pants?"
Ralph coughed in embarrassment, but only a small part of it was about the aforementioned hosiery. He hated seeing Casey like this.
"Of course not. They ended up getting torched shortly after graduation."
Casey blinked blood-shot eyes. "Really? Why d'ya do that?"
"I didn't." Ralph said without thinking. "Derek did."
Casey's hand stopped halfway to her mouth, a new double shot of JD in its grasp. After the pause, in a flash of movement, the hand continued its journey, shooting the fire liquid into her mouth and down her throat in one go. Casey gasped.
"Sorry." Ralph said. "I shouldn't have mentioned him."
"Don't be Ralphie. People should talk about Derek more. He'd be turning in his grave if he thought he wasn't the centre of attention." Casey said with a sad echo of the old antagonism that she used to share with her late step-brother.
"He'd be turning in his grave if he could see you right now." Sam said approaching Casey from behind.
"Sammy!" Casey exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Come and sit next to me. Ralph! Get Sam a drink."
Sam shook his head at Ralph then he mouthed "How many?"
In reply, Ralph held up four fingers and mouthed the word "Doubles". Sam swore softly and then deftly removed the glass from Casey's fingers.
"Come on Casey, let's get you home." He insisted, grabbing her elbow.
"OOoo! Are you kidnapping me?" Casey squealed with delight. "Should I scream for help?"
"Only if it makes you feel better." Sam replied wryly, wondering what the hell Derek would have made of this Casey.
By a process of manipulation and cajoling, they got Casey out of the door and into Sam's car. He strapped her in and watched her wriggling to make herself comfortable and he knew that she would be asleep before they reached her house less than ten minutes away.
He was right and getting a sleepy Casey out of his car was harder than getting her out of the bar – which was saying something. But he managed it at last, fishing the keys to her apartment from her purse and letting them in through the front door.
For a moment, Sam stopped and stared, almost ignoring the weight against his shoulder. The apartment was a mess. There were dirty clothes strewn around the main living room, dirty cups stacked on the side in the kitchen and an overall air of neglect.
This was not what he had been expecting. On the other few occasions where he had previously been obliged to bring Casey home, her apartment had been clean and tidy – almost clinically so. He glanced at the girl clinging to him.
"Oh Casey!" He closed his eyes against the sight. "Why?"
She giggled. "Why what?"
"Why are you letting yourself go like this?"
"Like what?" She said, but her voice was sleepy and he knew it was pointless.
"Come on." He said, adjusting her weight again. "Let's get you to bed."
"Sammy, you're a married woman. You can't do this."
He snorted. "Casey McDonald, you seriously need to get your eyes tested."
"My eyesight is 20/20." She objected.
"And yet, I'm a man."
"Sam? Have you been drinking? You need to stop. It's not good for Bump. I've got some leaflets on heavy drinking somewhere. I'll look them out for you."
By this stage, Sam had managed to get Casey into her bedroom. He helped her onto the bed and tucked her in. He left the room to find painkillers and water, and then placed them on the table next to the bed. As an after-thought he put her bin next to the bed.
"Casey? I'm going now…okay? I'll call you in the morning. Ruth sends her love. She wants you to go and see her to talk about the baby. We'll make arrangements tomorrow. Don't do anything silly, hun. Okay?"
"M'okay." Casey murmured into her pillow and started snoring almost immediately.
Sam straightened from the bed and looked around. The bedroom was in the same degree of chaos as the rest of the apartment apart from one corner. There a small table was situated, its surface covered with a collection of photographs. Unlike everywhere else, this table and its contents were well dusted.
None of the photographs was less than seven years old, but they all had Derek in them: sometimes with the whole family, sometimes with friends, sometimes just alone. His best friend even saw himself in one of the pictures and it caused a lump to rise and embed itself in his throat.
"Oh Casey!" Sam whispered. "We all thought you cared the least. I guess you cared the most."