This is my first Off the Map attempt. It is set in the few weeks following episode 13, assuming certain events which I think will be guessable. Enjoy.
Taking the steps two at a time I heard the familiar sounds of panicked voices coming from within the clinic. I strode into the ward and immediately zoned in on a bed against the far wall. Mina was attempting to restrain a local youth, who seemed determined to be off the bed and away from her.
¨No no! No lo quiero!¨he was shouting, shoving her hands away from him.
¨Es medecina,¨ she explained, sounding frustrated and short tempered as usual. "It will help you, make you better."
The expression on the kids face showed he clearly didn't understand her. "No, tengo que ir a casa. Mi madre-"
"Will be very upset if you die!" shouted Mina, cutting the kid short. He looked startled as she raised her voice but he stopped wriggling temporarily.
Feeling the shadow of a smile for the first time in days I strode over to them.
"What's the problem Minard?"
She turned to look at me, not quite managing to hide her shock at seeing me.
"Umm...I'm trying to give him a tetanus injection, but he just keeps freaking out every time I get close enough. I nearly stabbed him with the damn thing before!"
I gave the kid a reassuring look and explained in rapid Spanish what 'la doctora' was trying to do. His eyes widened as he listened to me. He glanced at Mina suspiciously.
He nodded in response so I turned to Mina. She gave me a sheepish look.
"I think he might let you now that he knows you're not trying to drug him."
"That's what he thought? Sheez, this is a hospital, is it so unusual to be giving people medicine?" she muttered, grumpily readying the needle.
I left her to it, feeling slightly sorry for the poor kid at her mercy. Running my eyes over the clinic I made my way into the office. Zee was sitting at the desk, examining something in the microscope.
"Anything good?" I asked her, leaning against the bookcase.
Her head shot up and she spun in her chair to look at me.
"Ben? What are you doing here? I told you-"
"To sit at home and be bored for a week?"
She frowned at me. "No, I told you to take some time off. You can't expect to just jump back in after..." she trailed off. Neither of us needed her to say the words. Her eyes began to glisten with tears. Clearing my throat I moved towards the door.
"I don't need time alright! I can deal with it. I have dealt with it."
Angrily I crossed my arms, though I realised I sounded more like a stubborn child than anything. Zee gazed at me for a few seconds. I wanted to squirm under her scrutiny but forced myself to return her gaze, cool and even.
"Fine," she sighed, clearly deciding it was a losing battle. "Mina's swamped in there and we've got a full waiting room."
"Great," I said, eager to do something to distract myself. "Where are the others?"
Zee sighed. "Cole took the other two and Charlie up into the hills. A jeep full of tourists rolled."
"Right...wait, what? Other two? Both of them?"
Zee made an indignant noise. "Yes it seems no one is willing to take my orders round here."
"How long has Brenner been back?"
"She wasn't ever away."
"But-" I began.
"You are in no position to argue on that one Mister!" she flared. I held my hands up in defence and hurriedly backed out of the room. I knew by now to disappear whenever I heard that tone.
As I headed back across the clinic the truck raced up out the front, raising a cloud of dust as it skidded to a halt. I ran down the steps towards them.
"What have you got?" I called to Cole. He didn't even look surprised to see me.
"Two passengers with minor injuries. Male driver with internal injuries and head trauma," he called back as he unloaded the patient. A middle aged woman and a teenage boy were sitting in the back. They both held gauze to bleeding head wounds and were staring straight ahead in shock.
"We got this one," said Cole to me as he and Fuller rushed the driver inside.
"Are you sure?" I shouted at their retreating backs, taking a few desperate steps back towards the clinic. When I turned back to the truck Brenner and Charlie were helping the other two patients out. They began to follow the others inside, Charlie leading them. As they passed Brenner looked back at me. Our gaze connected and briefly in her eyes I saw my own pain and despair reflected before she blinked, recovering her blank expression. I stared after her for a few seconds. I knew that expression well. It was what people wore when they were trying to hide torment ripping up their heart. Usually they were trying to hide it from themselves just as much as the outside world. It never worked for long, sooner or later the mask always came crashing down, usually bringing everything else crashing down too. Though as the current state of play was, and as Zee had pointed out, I was in absolutely no position to judge. I certainly was being far from honest with my emotions.
I couldn't deal with that yet though. The clinic still needed to be run. I had been gone for only two days and already I felt like jumping out of my skin.
Glancing around I realised I had been left standing alone, lost deep in my thoughts. Sighing, I mentally pushed everything to the back of my mind, and my heart, and headed back inside.
"Minard where are you up to?" I demanded as I entered the ward.
It had been a long day. Earlier I had been helping Mina in the clinic with the various bumps, bruises and maladies that walked through the door but then the call had come through and I had found myself rushing into the jungle with Tommy, Cole and Charlie. It was always a nerve-racking experience going on 'field trips', as Mina called them. We never knew what sort of catastrophe or danger would await us at the other end. Todays hadn't been too bad though; a small car crash with only three people. Something we could easily deal with.
The surgery on the driver though had taken several hours. By the time Cole and I were finished it was almost dark and the clinic was reasonably empty. As we finished up my mind wandered to my encounter with Keeton as we had arrived back at the clinic. When he had looked at me I had felt like breaking down. It wasn't as if that was a new sensation these days but this was different. The other times when I had nearly lost it were purely me. Either I gave myself the terrible luxury of remembering something- a smile, a moment of pure, unselfish happiness, the feel of light fingers running up my spine- or I was overwhelmed by the sympathy and pity of everyone else. It was the pity that was the worst. I couldn't stand the pity. But no, this was different, because when I had locked eyes with Keeton I could see the raw pain inside. He hid it behind a business-like, almost gruff manner but it was very much there. Inside there was a man who wanted to sob and scream and curse the heavens for taking away two women he loved.
"Just finish up and check on the patient when he wakes up ok?" Cole called as he pushed through the door, heading for the office. I was rudely startled from my deep thoughts. Quickly I refocused on what I was doing. I felt Cole's eyes on my back as he stood in the doorway. I looked up at him and gave him my most reassuring smile before turning back to my task. I held my breath as I waited to hear the sound of the door closing behind him.
When I had finished I took of my scrubs and headed into the ward. The patient wasn't awake yet so I busied myself for twenty minutes with checking IVs and tidying up. It was eerily quiet in the clinic tonight. The darkness had removed the chaotic chatter of the day. The only patients that were left were the driver and an older woman across the ward who had come in with broken ribs. The only sounds were the steady beep of machines, the gentle rustle of leaves outside and the occasional scurrying noise of an animal in the undergrowth. Leaning in the doorway I gazed at the patterns the moonlight made on the veranda, dappled by the swaying treetops. Usually I enjoyed these quiet, tranquil moments. They were calming and excellent for reflection. Lately however I had been fighting against moments of stillness. Whenever I allowed my brain to stop its constant babble of thoughts about work and the others, images I did not want to see crept their way in. Images of buildings burning against the night, of stricken huddles, their silhouettes lit by the firelight, of bodies lying on the ground, bleeding, calling my name.
Involuntarily I shivered as I felt my thoughts heading to a dark place. Just in time I heard a noise behind me in the ward. Heading over to the patient's bed I saw that he was stirring. Fuzzily he looked up at me, squinting.
Patiently I explained where he was and what had happened. When his hands began to shake slightly I took them and gave him a smile. Eventually he drifted back to sleep.
Sighing I got up and turned towards the door. Glancing up I stopped dead when I saw Keeton's figure leaning in the doorway. His eyes were staring at me critically. Something inside me squirmed under his gaze. I was too aware that he knew what I was hiding.
I cleared my throat slightly and edged towards the door. "I've just finished with the patient. I um..."I trailed off into silence. He was still staring at me.
Desperately I wanted to just get out the door without any confrontation. I didn't think he was the type to have a heart-to-heart but with the way he was looking at me right now, well, perhaps anything was possible.
Silently I moved to the door and paused, waiting for him to move out of the way. I was extremely conscious of his eyes on me but I refused to look up, to meet his gaze. We stood there, my eyes on the ground, his eyes on me, for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds. Eventually he shifted slightly to the side and gratefully I escaped past him onto the veranda. I only got a few steps when I heard his voice, a stricken whisper.
Slowly, reluctantly, I turned. His body language hadn't changed, he still stood with his arms crossed defensively, but his eyes were almost pleading. He didn't say anything else and we stood looking directly at each other for a few moments. It felt as if neither of us dared to even breathe and the silence and emptiness of the night was pressing in on us. Finally his eyes dropped and the connection was broken.
I spun around and walked away into the night.
She turned and walked away without a hesitation or glance back. Reluctantly I watched her figure disappear into the night. The silence of the darkness pressed in on me and I felt a silent scream of agony and frustration build within me. Gritting my teeth I forced it back down. I wanted to run after her but I didn't know why. Long after she had disappeared from sight I stood in the doorway of the clinic, staring into the darkness.