A/N: Like most of the characters in Miracle Day, I feel Esther has been very short-changed by the show's writers. Good thing the writers gave us two whole months of a story hole to fill in! I like to think that Esther is the one who saved Jack after he was shot. That she kept the two of them going until they could hook back up with Gwen is something that I fully believe that character could do, if the writers would just, well, write her correctly. So here's my go for at least the first day after Jack was shot. Minor spoilers – well, Jack got shot. That's really the only spoiler. If you haven't watched the show or don't like it, maybe us writers can make it enjoyable for you! If folks like it (read: I'd love some reviews) I'll try more. I have another story to finish, but this one wouldn't leave me alone….
"Just click it!" Esther told Jack as he ran, looking for a car to steal with keys in hand.
He did, saw the lights flash on a nearby SUV, and then heard the voice yelling, "Hey! You!" and a moment later Jack heard the gunshot. What he felt then he had felt before, many times: the searing flare of hot metal ripping through his skin, exiting at a weird angle, stealing all of his strength as it fled his body, leaving his legs boneless, unable to hold his frame any longer. He stumbled as he heard Esther cry his name, and he felt the blood begin to seep away.
This time, of course, was different, and this time there was fear coursing through his veins as the precious blood left his body and he couldn't hold himself up and Rex had to rush to his side, heaving him into the backseat of the SUV he was going to steal and shouting at Esther to look after him. Jack heard their voices through a tunnel, and, as Esther frantically raced them away from Angelo's mansion, he wished for the hundredth time in the last few months that his old team were around to help. This wish was completely selfish, though. It wasn't for the team's ability to work together to save the city or some helpless individual, no, he knew Esther, Rex and Gwen could do that, too. This wish was simple, as most of his wishes for his old team had been: he was hurting and he wanted the pain to go away. Owen was always close by with a syringe and sardonic remark, and Jack would take that, along with Ianto's hand in his, over the hard backseat of an SUV and Esther's apparent ensuing panic attack. He didn't blame her though. She had not signed on to be a field agent, and even if she had, this would be a panic-worthy situation. Jack just wished Owen and painkillers were an option right now, and that the stakes were not so high.
[Esther Drummond knew that the only way out of her small, crumbling neighborhood was college, and she also knew that she could ace any class and any test, as long as there were patterns to be found. Math, which was easy due to the patterns, was boring. English, she loved English with its patterns of behavior in the stories and characters, and her ability to figure out the subtext and meanings the patterns showed. Science, the patterns of nature were divulged to her through every experiment and every definition and theory. And history, oh, the patterns of history were the best, and her ability to see the far-reaching consequences of the historical patterns blinded her and dazzled her teachers.]
Esther knew the stakes were high as well, and she knew she needed to calm herself down. Jack was unresponsive and he was hurt. He was the one person on this god-forsaken planet who could die, and now it was up to her to save him. How the hell had that happened?
[Her high school graduation, where she had been so proud of herself, largely because there was no one else there to be proud of her, made her feel brave. She was leaving this crap neighborhood behind now that she had her scholarship to Georgetown, and she could go study patterns of history or patterns of literature (she hadn't decided) and not be bothered with these soul-sucking deadbeats anymore. She was brave and going it alone; who would she go it with anyway? Her parents would have wanted her to be brave if they'd been around. Brave was good.]
Now, though, barreling down the freeway with her boss and mentor laying hurt across the back seat of a stolen car, going-off-to-college brave wouldn't cut it.
[Another time she'd been brave was when the CIA came knocking with an entry-level analyst position - the coolest job she could imagine herself doing, and a huge step for her. Looking for patterns would become her life - she had dazzled her professors through college with her ability to spot them and their consequences, hence the glowing recommendations from all of them in this brave step of hers.]
Bravely entering an intimidating career wouldn't cut it this time, either. She took a few deep breaths as she realized that Jack would be no help at all here. She had tried to be smart for Jack from the beginning, trying to compensate for her floundering inexperience, and had tried to be brave for all of them. It was hard to be this new kind of brave. She still found the patterns, though, and she had earned all of the sparkling grins and shoulder squeezes Jack had given her, all of the praising smiles from Gwen, and even the occasional, 'nice job, Esther,' from the ever stoic Rex. She had earned all of that with her smarts, and she now needed to slow down for a minute and find that again instead of panicking behind the wheel. There were no sirens behind her and so she knew she had to take a minute to catch her breath and figure something out.
So Esther pulled the SUV off to the side of the road and put it in park. She took a deep breath and got out of the car, opening the back door to where Jack was lying, eyes glazed over in pain and blood seeping through his wilting blue shirt and over his belt. Her heart raced as she tried to move him so that he was laying flat on the back seat, grunting as she struggled with his lead-weight body and wincing herself when he cried out in pain with the movement. She did it, though, and then managed to unbutton his shirt and peel the white undershirt away from his skin. Blood was oozing out of the wound, and she looked around the SUV for something to use to try and staunch the bleeding. The back of the SUV yielded nothing of use for pressing on the wound, but there was a Bunge cord set and a blanket. That might help. She peeled off her own jacket, paused, and then stepped back out to the road for a moment. She unbuttoned her own blouse, pulled it off, and pulled the jacket back around her shoulders and zipped it up. Turning back to Jack, she folded her blouse up carefully into the thickest strip she could, and pressed it around his wound. He bucked against her hands, but she pressed harder, and then wound the Bunge cord carefully and as gently as she could around his body, holding the blouse in place. She pulled, disregarding his cry of agony, and tightened the cord as much as she could, hitching it in place with its plastic hooks. She covered him tightly with his own greatcoat and the blanket from the back of the SUV, and then climbed back behind the wheel of the car. Her hands were shaking.
[Brave had been when she finally realized at the age of twenty that her older sister, now twenty-six with two of her own children, was mentally unstable. Esther used her resourcefulness to find a support system for the kids, as much daycare in a stable place that her sister could afford, with Esther filling out all of the forms, keeping track of the kids and arranging their transportation, medical forms and everything necessary to make it so that her sister was not responsible for them for several hours of every day, and arranging her own schedule to be able to get to her sister's house and help with dinner and bedtime as many nights as possible. That had been brave and smart, and the kids had benefited from seeing Esther, stable and always coherent, as a good role model.]
Now she sat behind the wheel, took some more deep breaths, and looked at the GPS system on the dashboard. Where should she go? Jack needed a doctor, dammit, but where? She looked and realized they were only a few miles outside of Carson City, Nevada, a mid-sized city where there might be help. She couldn't take him to a hospital, though, since that ran several risks - the category system and the attention of the police and CIA. So where? She found herself wishing for Vera. She needed Vera to help Jack with her calm confidence and clear medical skills. But Vera had been sacrificed to the gods of fear and chaos and could not help Esther now. But then a thought snuck past Esther's panic and fear, rearing up in her mind like the flame of hope that it was. There had been a rallying around Vera. Esther had watched the videos on the Internet herself, tracking how many people were sharing the horrors of Vera's death, how people were responding to her death and what it represented. Esther remembered, suddenly, a rumor. There was a whisper on the message boards, hidden in comments under videos and hidden in cryptic articles about the ovens, sliding into her consciousness and emerging here, just when she needed it. The Vera Juarez Network. Codes and slang, built around the VJN of the name, telling the average joe that if they needed real help but couldn't go to the hospital proper for fear of the categories, they could ask for Vera. Maybe now, even in death, Vera could save Jack. Esther had to try.
[Patterns. Smarts. Small Time Bravery. She had to do her best with what worked in the past.]
Very aware that she was shirtless under her jacket, Esther Drummond walked with confidence into the ER of the hospital and right up to the front desk. Sitting behind the desk was a bored-looking thirty-something man, who was doodling on a piece of paper and had to be asked twice for help. He did have the good grace to be apologetic when she did catch his attention, and he said, "Sorry. Can I help you?"
Esther tried to project confidence, but she kept her voice very low and said, "I need to see a Dr. Vera Juarez. I have a friend who needs help."
At these words the man behind the desk, blonde and green-eyed and suddenly sitting up very straight at his desk, said, "Really? I mean, wait." He wrote something down on a piece of paper and handed it to Esther. "Take this down the hall to the third office on the left. They'll tell you what to do." He paused and added, "Good luck." She nodded.
She walked down the hall to the third office, knocked on the door, and saw it open to an older-looking man with graying hair, distinguished-looking and wary. She handed him the piece of paper and his eyes widened. He ushered her in wordlessly and she found herself in what looked like a testing center, where they did blood draws and processed the paperwork to have the draws tested. The man with her closed the door behind them and peered intently into her eyes. "What do you need? And you'd better not leave anything out. We will be very careful here, all around."
Esther held her head up and said, "I have a friend who has been shot. It happened about thirty minutes ago and he's losing a lot of blood." She pointed on herself where Jack had been shot and continued, "I have to get help, and he has to be able to travel soon. We can't stay in one place." The man she was talking to looked incredulous.
"You know we can't make him better. We can make him comfortable, but he's not going to heal." He sounded defeated and tired, this doctor, and Esther had to let him stay that way for the moment.
She said, "I know, but you've got to help me get him stitched up and functional. It's important."
He sighed and went to a table and got another piece of paper. While he wrote, he spoke, "Here's an address, less than five minutes from here. It's a warehouse with a security gate. They'll know you're coming, but hold up anything looking like an ID in case the gate is being watched. Tell them that Jamie sent you. Pull the car around back to the warehouse and they'll be waiting to help your friend."
She nodded and took the paper, giving him a quick hug as well. "Thank you," She said, and she practically ran down the hall and back out to the side street where she had parked the car, telling Jack she'd be back in a quick minute. Not that he'd heard her. His eyes were closed tightly and his face had gotten several shades paler on the drive to the hospital.
Jack kept remembering when Ianto had been shot in the field for the first time. [They had been out chasing a Zeludrian who was stranded on Earth unexpectedly and wasn't happy about it. They were an intelligent species who also had a knack for recognizing weaponry, and when the one they were chasing got hold of Ianto's gun through a mistake on Jack's part, it shot Ianto in the gut and ran. Of course Jack brought down the Zeludrian with his own Webley before it got away, but he remembered the pain Ianto had gone through until they'd gotten him back to the Hub with Owen. Shouting in agony, 'Just make it stop, Jack, please! Make the pain stop; I'm going to die from it if you don't make it stop!' 'No, you're not going to die, Ianto. Owen's going to patch you up and then I'm going to take care of you until you're back chasing Weevils. I'll take care of you.' And Jack stroked Ianto's hand as he drove like wildfire back to the Hub and the stretcher Owen already had pulled out.] Now Jack shuddered with the pain in his abdomen and saw the black edges around his vision closing in with every second.
Now Esther was just glad to be moving again. She plugged the address the man had given her into the GPS, hit 'go' and followed the purple line on the map. A few minutes later she arrived at the gate and flashed her credit card as a fake ID, telling the kid watching the gate that Jamie sent her. He nodded, pointed around back, and she followed his instructions around to the back, pulling slowly into a well-lit warehouse with Jack in tow. When she climbed out of the car she was surprised to be surrounded by three big men. One of them, she conceded, was probably younger than she was, but they were all definitely not anyone to tangle with. The tallest one stepped forward with distrust in his eyes, told her to raise her arms, and patted her down, looking for weapons. Finding none, he gave a shout and a young woman ran out from a hallway and didn't even acknowledge Esther, opening the back door of the SUV to assess Jack's situation.
"Jake and Tom - here, help me get him back to the room if she's clean." The woman had a confident voice tinged with sadness. The men nodded and stepped up to pull Jack out of the seat. It was obvious that they were trying to be careful with him, but he had finally slipped out of consciousness and they had to pull him like a rag doll out of the car. The woman took one look at him and said, "Shit." As the men carried Jack back to the room at the end of the hallway, the woman grabbed Esther's arm and said, "Come on. The boys will secure the premises - they have to do a couple of sweeps any time someone comes in. Making sure you weren't followed or anything." Esther nodded and followed the doctor to the room.
Esther decided this would be a good time to tell the people who were putting their own lives on the line to help her part of the truth. "Look," she said to all of them, "Check carefully to see if anyone's followed me. I've tried to avoid it, but we could be expecting company." She gestured to Jack, "He's someone people want to catch."
As the men had laid Jack on the surgical table and the doctor undid the makeshift bandage Esther had made with her blouse and the cord, the oldest of them, who looked to Esther like he was probably someone's father, said, "What people? Local police?"
"No," said Esther, "CIA." She paused and added, "And others."
At those words, the men looked at each other for a moment and the older one said, "Let's go get the guns." And they all left in a hurry.
The doctor raised an eyebrow at Esther as she deposited Esther's makeshift bandages in a corner, "You need an extra shirt?" Esther grinned and said, "Yes, if you've got one later. I had to make do."
The doctor continued looking at Jack's wound and grabbed a stack of gauze pads from the nearby counter, gesturing Esther over. "Look, after I clean the wound, you need to put serious pressure on it for me while I check him over. He should have been here fifteen minutes ago as it is." She proceeded to swab the wound with iodine and laid the gauze on it for Esther to press. She proceeded to check Jack's vitals muttering under her breath as she did so. After a minute, she stood straight and looked at Esther.
"I'm Karen, by the way." She introduced herself with a small smile and a soft-spoken voice. She was a pretty woman, mid-forties from the looks of her, dressed in a sweatshirt, jeans, and braided brown hair draping down to the middle of her back. She looked tough, but also considerate, strong, and kind. Her eyes looked sad, but they still had a glitter to them that Esther admired right away. "Your friend, what's his name?"
"Jack. And I'm Esther." She trusted Karen right as soon as she asked about Jack's name.
"Look, Esther. Jack has lost consciousness; he's suffering from low blood pressure and shock. The way the world is now, I don't see him improving enough to be functional. We can work to make him comfortable and pain-free, but people don't really improve any more. They just go into a holding pattern. No one heals right now, you know that. So whoever wants him isn't going to get much even if they catch him." She sounded sad, leaking her compassion through her tired eyes.
Esther looked at Karen and around the room. She decided she had to take a chance. She had to convince this woman to do her damndest to get Jack better.
She looked Karen in the eye and said with every ounce of conviction she could muster, "You have to save him, and that means treating him like you would have before the Miracle. He knew Vera Juarez, and so did I, and if Jack could have saved her, he would have. He's the only mortal man on this planet and he's probably the only man with the key to fixing this goddamned mess of a Miracle. The CIA wants him in custody because they know he's the answer. But they're asking the wrong questions and won't give him the freedom to actually fix anything. So please, don't treat him as if he can't get better. He will. He has to. And if you don't take his wounds seriously then he will die right here on this table, and all of us will die one way or another at the hands of this Miracle."
[Esther remembered speaking to her sister in a similar tone of voice recently, the tone of voice that begged someone to look at the face of unreason and see reason instead.]
Karen looked wide-eyed at Esther, as if searching for a lie or a joke hidden in her desperate sounding words. She found none, nodded her head, and went to a phone on her nearby desk. She picked up the receiver, pushed just two buttons and said, "Sean, I need you down here. Now. I have a patient who can actually die and I need assistance. Never mind that. Come now." As they waited for her colleague to come help, Karen looked at Esther again as if seeing her for the first time. "You knew Dr. Juarez?" Esther nodded as tears jumped to her eyes suddenly. Karen gazed down at Jack and asked, "You really think he can save us?"
Esther responded, "I think that's what he does."
A minute later a young man called Sean rushed into the room and Karen said, "Esther, why don't you wait outside for a bit. Sit down. Get one of the guys to find a soda or some water or something. I'll let you know when you can come in. Sean, get me the suture kit and then type his blood for me." She busied herself with Jack as Esther eased out of the room, knowing that at least she'd managed to get Jack into capable hands. Sometimes her brand of smart and brave was enough.