Life Support - Part One: Allergies
Chapter One (Set hours after 02.03)
Andy was dreaming. She was dreaming of Luke calling her name. She could hear his deep voice over the steady pump of the respirator and the beep of the heart monitor. Beep…Beep….
"McNally. Wake up."
So everything is okay, then, she thought. Beep…Beep…Beep. His heartbeat was like a lullaby—a comfort or promise of normalcy, not far off. Normalcy. Whatever that was like. Beep…Beep…Beep... A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. She jolted awake.
"Andy, it's time to go."
Andy was slumped over the bed by Luke's knees—her trembling hands twisted between his solid, still fingers. Was I trembling just now? She thought. While I slept? The beep and suck of the life support machines whirred in her ears, much louder than in her dreams.
"Andy, come on. Time to go." Sam Swarek stood over her with a hand on her shoulder, and gently pulled her into an upright position. "It's almost midnight. There's nothing more you can do tonight."
"How did you get in here?" she near-slurred, her lips numb from sleep and grief.
Sam leaned over her and carefully untangled her hands from Luke's. "You're snoring, McNally. Keeping the whole ward up. Get your stuff and I'll take you home."
Andy stood but kept her feet planted. She stared down at Luke. He was pale and drawn; his face slack. This wasn't the peaceful look of total relaxation she only ever saw when he slept: this body was disconnected. Luke was far away, she was sure. The next 48 hours will be critical. What was she going to do? Go home, scrub blood out of the carpet, and then watch TV with a beer and some potato chips? No, she was staying.
"This is not a suggestion, McNally. Get your ass moving or I'll carry you."
"Sam, I can't…" Andy finally turned and looked at Sam. He had deep bags under his eyes, and his hair was a mess, no doubt, from running his hands through it repeatedly. He looked worn-out, and Andy realized that he didn't want to argue. He simply didn't have it in him. And neither did she.
"Andy, there's nothing you can do here tonight. Whether you leave or stay, the result is the same." Sam reached out and scooped his arm around his partner, pressing his hand into the small of her back and guiding her away from Luke's bed. "I'm not leaving until you do. So, if you won't go home and get some sleep for yourself, than do if for me. Okay? For your old partner." They'd reached the doors of the ICU. "No, don't look back," he continued, pressing her forward harder. "I'll bring you back first thing tomorrow, but right now, you need food, rest, and a change of clothes."
Andy was sweat-drenched and starving. Her lungs were raw from sobbing and her eyes scratchy from the tears. As they walked through the automatic doors, she found it easier to think of anything other than Luke. Sam's steady hand on her back, guiding, got her through the lobby, out the doors, and into the passenger's seat of the squad car.
"Just take me home, Sam," she said wearily, as she laid her head back and closed her eyes.
"Nope. The barn first." Sam tugged on her stiff bullet-proof vest. "Can't sleep in that. Or with that gun on your hip. Well, I guess you could, but if you shot yourself in the leg, I think EMS might think your place is cursed or something." Andy tilted her head left to look at Sam. He made a hopeful grin, but it faded fast. "Sorry. Just trying…"
The ride to the barn was silent. Andy tried to focus on the passing lights of Toronto. It was a weeknight, but people were out on the streets, moving between all-night coffee shops and clubs. The city certainly hadn't stopped since Luke had been shot, but Andy felt like her own world was skating on a different plain. Her eyes were blurry, the people on the streets were streaks of colour, and she just didn't care. At the station, Sam signed the car in and Andy headed towards the locker rooms. It was mid-shift for the night watch, so the station was quiet. She discharged her gun and stowed it, then limped to the women's locker where she stripped off her sticky uniform. Her vest had never felt so heavy as she lifted it over her head. If Luke had been wearing a vest…
Andy's muscles were sore, but she couldn't figure why. When she was done changing, she sat on a bench and waited. This was the part when somebody came through the door and said, "Are you okay?" Maybe Traci or Noelle, but since this was the women's locker, more likely Sam or Oliver would slip in, giving a discreet grunt to warn any other ladies of their presence. Andy would tell the visitor, "I'm fine." But she wasn't, and nobody entered anyway.
Andy couldn't get past the guilt and blame. The logical side of her knew that her part in the night's events was important, but still just a part. She kept going back to that moment when they discovered Luke on her living room floor, and everything in her body and brain just halted. Luke might have died while Andy kneeled there in hysteria. Thank goodness for Sam. Right, Sam. He's waiting.
Outside the locker, a freshly changed Sam was leaning against the wall and playing with his phone. He didn't bother smiling when she emerged, but just started at a steady pace toward his truck. He probably wants to just dump me and get some sleep, Andy mused. She didn't care what he thought. She only wanted to be alone with her thoughts. In the truck, he put the keys in the ignition but didn't start the vehicle.
"Can I take you to Traci's?" he asked instead.
"Just home. I don't need the company." She paused. "Or supervision, if that's what you think."
"I just talked to Jerry. They're still at your place taking measurements. They'll be finished up in an hour, but crime-scene clean up won't be there till morning, and-"
"You're right, you're right," she interrupted. "Of course I can't go home." Andy sighed deeply and ran through her options. "Not Traci's. Leo will be there, and of course, Dex, too." Could Andy keep her tears in check when little Leo asked to play trucks with her tomorrow morning?
"God no!" she laughed. Tommy wouldn't know what to do with her. He'd probably suggest they get a drink together. The last thing either of them needed. Andy bent forward and rested her head in her hands.
Sam turned the truck on and shifted into drive. "Okay then," he said, and pulled out of the squad parking lot.
Andy was surprised and relieved minutes later as they pulled in front of Sam's modest townhouse. She knew Sam wouldn't make her "talk about it," so at least she'd get that quiet time she so craved. She'd only been to Sam's place once—on the night of the blackout. How ironic, she thought, that when I hurt the most, I end up here. But tonight was nothing like the blackout.
Once inside, Sam led her straight to his bedroom.
"Is there a spare room?" she asked, leaning out the doorway and gazing at the other two closed doors down the hall.
"Yeah, but the bed is real crappy," Sam replied, as he went to his dresser and started fishing through the top drawer. "There's an ensuite off this room, and the sheets are clean, so I'll take the spare. Feel free to use the shower." He pulled a couple items of clothing from the drawer. "Here, this should be long enough. Or these should fit if you pull the drawstring real tight." He handed her a big t-shirt that said Fire and Water across the front and a pair of flannel pants.
Andy looked down at the worn fabric in her hands, collapsed down onto the bed, and suddenly, she couldn't breathe. As if she'd turned to him and said, Sam, I'm having a panic attack, Sam dropped down before her on his knees, and drew her close. Andy struggled for air. Her throat was closing up and she started to make a strained choking noise. Sam's arms tightened around her and he rubbed circles on her back. "Slow down, Andy. Just breathe." He pushed her back suddenly, catching her face in his hands, and looked straight into her eyes. "Right here. Look at me. Are you looking?" She nodded. His brown eyes were huge and intense. Sam's hands gripped her at her jaw, unwavering. She could feel the driving calluses on his palms. "Andy, you are not the sort of girl who cries. You're a cop. Be the Officer McNally who I know always has my back on the street. Be that girl right now. She'll get you through this." Andy licked her lips, and nodded.
Sam was right. She needed to be strong right now, because if she broke down, she may never get the pieces straight again. She nodded harder. Then she wound her arms around Sam and buried herself in the crook of his neck. In and out, she felt her throat loosen as she took in Sam's steady form, his familiar smell, and his own balanced breath. Ever since the night of the blackout, Andy had never imagined she'd be this close to Sam again. She hadn't wanted to be this close. Sam was always complicated.
When she'd gathered herself, Andy slowly pushed away until she could see Sam's face.
"Okay?" he said.
Andy rose, unsteady but determined to be strong, and padded to the ensuite. The warm water of the shower soothed her sore muscles and seemed to wash away some of the night's trauma. It was like the shock and horror had clung to her skin, branding and burning her, but the water hurried some of it down the drain. When she was done, she slipped the big t-shirt over her head and came out to a quiet room. The lights were dimmed. A glass of water sat at the bedside table, and Sam had pulled the covers back. Gratefully, Andy tucked herself between the blue sheets, sighed, and closed her eyes.
As she drifted off, she heard Sam moving about beyond the bedroom door. She heard his soft release of breath as he leaned in to see that she was settled, and then softly closed the door behind him.
Sam awoke with a stiff neck and a cramp in his left foot. His face was scrunched into the back of the couch, blocking out the dim light of the rising sun. He could hear that Andy was up. She seemed to be moving through the kitchen, which was adjacent to the living room. Sam willed his eyes to open. Maybe she just needs water, he thought. It's too early to go to the hospital…
Sam spun over and propped himself up on his forearms. "You okay?" he got out, as he shook his head, hoping for clarity.
"Yeah." Andy was standing at the kitchen counter, her hands up in surprise. "I just knocked a glass over…. Sorry." She pressed her lips together like she was afraid he'd scold her.
"No worries," said Sam, before he fell back onto the couch and pulled the blanket up to his chin again. He'd never get back to sleep now. "You need something?"
"In here. By the green chair." He rolled over and buried his face in the cushions again.
He heard Andy drop the broken glass into the garbage. He remained still has Andy walked around the counter and into the small living space. The green chair creaked when she sat down and the cordless beeped as she lifted it from the dock. He waited to hear numbers being punched in, but instead, silence.
He rolled over again and squinted at her. "What?"
"I thought you were sleeping in the spare bedroom?" Andy sat on the edge of the cushion with the phone clasped in both hands. Her hair was frizzy in the mornings, Sam noticed.
He grinned at her. "I told you the bed was crappy." He closed his eyes.
She was quiet for a moment, before making a small noise of surprise.
"What now?" Sam asked without opening his eyes.
"It's just…it's just really nice of you, you know, to give me your only bed."
"Don't sound too surprised," Sam said as he sat up (it didn't seem like she was going away any time soon). He folded and shoved his pillow behind his back. "I may not be prince charming, but I ain't a bad guy either."
"It's not that I don't think you're a gentleman," Andy started to babble, "It's just that normally—"
"Don't start digging yourself a hole this early, okay? At least get the coffee started." Sam glanced over at the kitchen clock. 5:12AM. "Who are you calling at this hour anyway?"
Andy wrung the phone in her hands nervously. "Best. I, uh, I gotta be with Luke today. I think he'll understand that I can't work…even though it's short notice. Maybe he won't be at the stati—"
"Andy, I've already done it."
"Huh?" Her eyes snapped up to meet his.
"I talked to Best last night while you were in with Callaghan. I booked you and me off for today and the whole next block, so that means Callaghan's got twelve days to get his shit together before you're back on the job."
"Both of us are off?" Andy looked downright confused.
"Well, somebody's got to drive you back and forth to the hospital, I figure."
Andy looked down at the phone again. "Well, technically Luke's not using his Charger right now, so—"
"Fine. No worries. I'll drop you at your place this morning and you can do your own thing."
"No!" Andy's head snapped up. "I'd rather…I mean, it's just that…I could use your help with a few things." She searched Sam's face, and Sam suddenly realized that she was worried she'd offended him. He nodded, softly. "Good," she continued. "We'll go by my place first…"
"I'll need to get new clothes, and Luke's cell charger. I've got to call his family…"
"I've never met any of them, but I don't think anybody's called yet. Maybe Best did…"
"Coffee. Make coffee. Talk after coffee."
She cocked her head and took a good look at him. He grinned a silly wide grin, as if to say, pretty please? As Andy got up to make coffee, Sam saw a little smile play across her lips.
When Sam pulled his truck up to Andy and Luke's front door—to the home she was previously proud to live in—her fingers went numb. This is where is happened. This is where Luke was shot with his own gun. It's my fault. She felt tears form at the corners of her eyes, and she closed them in an effort to calm herself.
The sun was just rising in the East, casting sunbeams at odd angles between the houses in her neighbourhood. The advantage to arriving this early was that none of the neighbours were likely to rush out and question her. She and Sam had easily planned their day over coffee and toast. It seemed to Andy that there was so much to do, when really, most of her day would be spent sitting by Luke's side, waiting. She was working on very little sleep. By the time she'd settled at Sam's place the night before, it had been close to one. Her body woke her naturally at five the next morning. If Luke didn't wake up today, Andy could doze beside him. She wanted to be there when he first opened his eyes.
Andy dropped down from the truck and went to the front door. She hesitated with her key, at first, until Sam trotted up beside her and leaned against the house.
"It's a door, McNally. You open it."
Andy was caught with an odd sense of de-ja-vu as he said this, but she also heard the subtext: Stop working yourself up. Do what needs to be done. Sam had chastised her in the past for over-thinking the little things, and not thinking enough about what really mattered. Entering her own house: little, she decided.
It wasn't, though. Inside, both Andy and Sam discovered the folly of white carpets. The deep crimson blood stains were offensively close to the front entrance. Andy stopped in the doorway and caught her breath when she saw. She didn't have time to think about it though, since Sam pushed her into the entrance and shut the door behind them.
"McNally. Change your clothes. Cell phone chargers—yours and Luke's. Snacks for the hospital."
Andy tore her eyes away from the dark stains. "Right," she nodded, and headed down the hall.
"And brush your teeth, too," he called after her. "I'm not letting you back in the truck otherwise."
As Andy changed, she tried to busy her mind. She thought about Sam, and how supportive he'd been this past twenty-four hours. She had multiple voicemails on her phone from Traci, Dov, and Chris, as well as Noelle and Oliver, but she hadn't called any of them back. No one really knew what to say anyway. She hadn't turned to Sam for support, but rather, he'd just been there, and it seemed like he intended to stick through it. Sam was easy to be with, and he didn't pressure her to talk. He seemed more focused on forcing her to take care of herself while she was busy thinking of Luke. Also, she liked the way he hadn't let her horror consume him—he was still lightly joking with her, and he certainly wasn't treating her any different than normal. Perhaps, gentler, she thought.
Andy sat on the bed and listened for Sam. The clinking of glass suggested he was in the kitchen, probably gathering those snacks he was so insistent upon this morning. Were the snacks for her or him? She imagined Sam in the kitchen, pawing through the granola bars, but when she saw in her head how close he stood to the pools of Luke's blood, she shivered. How could she stay here alone tonight? Crime scene clean-up would be here later, but even with the stains gone, it didn't change the fact that Luke had been shot in the living room. Her actions had facilitated an unstable man to break into her house and shoot her completely unawares fiancé.
Andy reached under the bed and slid her backpack out from under it.
"Either you and Luke have really old-school cell phones, or you were holding out on me in the snacks department," Sam teased when she came into the kitchen toting a near-bursting backpack.
"Can I stay at your place for a few nights?" she said with a sigh. It hurt her pride to ask.
"Yeah. Whatever." Sam dropped a box of granola bars into a grocery bag he'd found. "I like the couch."
"No Sam, I'll take the couch."
"So you can tell Traci? You know how I feel about my spotless reputation."
"Stop. I don't want to impose, but—"
"Andy, I get it. I wouldn't want to be here alone either. We'll work out sleeping arrangements later." He gave a slight nod, asking her to accept, and she grimaced, but nodding back. "Let's get going. There's an unconscious man waiting for you."
It was getting to be about 3pm, and Sam still hadn't heard from Andy. He'd decided from the moment that he'd seen Callaghan unconscious and bleeding on the floor, that only he could get his partner through this. Still, her night-owling at the hospital, plus her early arrival in his living room, had wiped him out. Oh yeah, and there was the emotional drain, too. He had dropped Andy at the hospital that morning, didn't go in himself, and then went to do a few errands. He'd noted the food and beverages in Andy's kitchen, and picked a few of each up. Apparently the girl had a Cheezie fixation. He'd also grabbed the two movie rentals on the coffee table, and returned them, though he knew she was too distracted to notice.
It felt good to Sam, to be taking care of somebody else. He'd never been as close to a partner as he was to Andy. When she'd taken the bullet just a few weeks before, Sam had learned the truth behind that old saying about how hearts can jump up into throats. Turns out, it's true. Sam had responded to some awful events in his career: gun fights, fist fights, car accidents, missing children, missing adults, murders, rape—but he'd never been so terrified as when he watched Andy's body fly back and slam into the concrete. He remembered how his hands shook as he ripped her vest off, patting her stomach and looking for blood. When his eyes finally focused, he saw the casings stuck in her vest, and he experienced brief relief—until he remembered there was still a shooter out there, and the ring of rookies around them would do little to stop bullets. I gotta go be the boss now.
Later, when he pulled her behind the communications truck, Sam was raging with frustration and worry. He wasn't sure if he was going to scream at her for scaring him so damn bad, or if he was going to kiss her. Fate intervened.
Sam thought about all this as he tried to nap in the early afternoon. He thought about this new need he'd developed: to take care of Andy McNally. And yet, despite his penchant to make her laugh and keep her safe, he had unwavering faith in her competence and courage. How can you take care of someone while at the same time, trust them to perform well in dangerous situations? But this was just another of the mysteries and frustrations he had with their partnership. Then his mood dropped, when he thought about their partnership, and her engagement to Luke (unconscious or not), and the decision he'd made earlier the day before that might change everything.
At 3pm, Sam called Andy to see if she wanted a pick-up.
"Sam." Her voice cracked.
"Everything okay? Is Callaghan awake?"
"No, that's just it. He's worse. It's his brain."
"But he was shot in the stomach."
"It's my fault."
"Back up. Start at the beginning." Sam started to head for the front door. He kicked through the shoe pile. "How is his brain your fault? Wait, no, start at what's wrong with his brain."
"He's had a stroke. No, they said it's not a stroke. It's an embolism. Like a…a blockage, you know? They say it's a reaction, like, an allergic reaction to a medication. They're thinking maybe one of the anaesthetics, or maybe an antibiotic? They're not sure. And they keep asking me, 'Is he allergic to anything? Does he have any allergies?' But I don't know, Sam! I'm his fiancé and I don't know!"
Sam had his shoes on and he was heading out the door. "Where are you now?"
"In the waiting room outside ICU. All the machines started going off, and they kicked me out."
"I'll be there in ten. Can you wait?"