In the Web of the Spider - Season 5, Episode 4

Chapter One

''So where do we stand?'' Steve asked, seated at the desk at National Medical Center that had been Rudy's...then Oscar's...then his. ''How soon before I can get out of pencil-pushing duty?''

''You've done a whole lot more than push pencils, my friend,'' Mark Conrad told him.

''And I'd prefer not to do it for any longer than necessary...but I'll keep it up until they're ready. So...when will they be ready?''

''You're sounding more like Oscar every day.''

''Watch it, Doc; world's not ready for another Oscar Goldman.''

''Oscar should be able to return to at least some of his own...ahem...pencil pushing within the next few days. His biggest struggle will be having to face you and Jaime again.''

Steve shook his head. ''We know it wasn't his fault. Those weren't really Oscar's hands that tried to kidnap Becca.''

''I know that; he knows it too. Still, it could be rough sailing until the old 'sailing buddies' find their sea legs again.''

''Hey! Talkin' to an Air Force man here, Doc!'' Steve chuckled...then grew serious. ''What about the others?''

''Hansen's a hard one to read,'' Mark explained. ''That's how he got to where he is in the NSB, I suppose - but it makes him a tough nut to crack. He steadfastly denies that mind control is even possible and in order for him to become functional again, he has to accept that it is possible -''

''Because it happened to him.''

''Exactly. On the farthest end of the spectrum,'' Mark continued, ''is Russ. He can't even begin to wrap his mind around what happened - that Anna's device nearly turned him into Jaime's killer.''

''Does he remember it?'' Steve asked.

''None of them have true memories of what happened - except possibly Michael - and in Russ' case especially, it's best that he never does truly remember.''

''I agree. And what about Michael?''

''That depends on you...and on Jaime,'' Mark said softly. ''Have you told her yet, that Michael may have been a victim too?''

''No,'' Steve admitted. ''I just...don't even know how to begin that conversation. And I'm not sure we should. At least...not yet. Jaime's doing so well; even better than we'd hoped. I don't want her to feel for one second that I don't believe she was attacked - because of course, she was. She was brutalized. Talk about a tough concept for someone to wrap their head around...''

''Doctor Corinth and Michael have both requested that he be allowed to resume treating and assessing Jaime, with an eye toward whether she'll need a second regeneration soon or if they might wait until further down the road - if ever.''

Steve nodded. ''Yeah; even Jaime knows he'll be coming back to see her again soon. I think...well, I'm pretty sure...she's okay with that. She doesn't know the whole situation; she has no idea that he bartered saving her life for his freedom...but she does know he's the one responsible for restoring her to normal life again.'' Steve paused for a moment, and Mark waited, knowing his patient and friend had something even more important to say once he'd found the right words. ''Can I ask you a question, Doc?''

''Of course.''

''Is Michael - could he really be - innocent? I mean, I understand about Russ' hands or Oscar's hands...or Rudy's...being used to do someone else's evil. But...what Michael did...especially what he did to Jaime...'' Steve swallowed hard as his throat threatened to close with emotion. ''I guess what I'm asking is, how could a woman - even one from a family like the Kingsleys - order that done? Or did that come from Michael's mind?''

''Steve, it's quite possible that Michael was given a broad-spectrum order to destroy you and Jaime, to cause you as much pain as possible in any way that might inflict the most damage. So if you're asking whether I think it's safe to allow Michael to assess Jaime alone -'' Mark eyed him squarely and Steve nodded. That was exactly what he was asking. ''In terms of Jaime's physical safety, yes. In terms of her emotional well-being, I can't recommend it.''

''Thanks, Doc.''

Mark smiled encouragingly at him. ''Let's go and see how Jaime's faring with Doctor Corinth.'' They made their way down the hall to the ICU where Jaime was so engrossed in the book on her lap that she didn't notice her husband and Mark in the doorway.

It was a small child's book, with bright, colorful photos of nature from around the world. Doctor Corinth was testing to see how verbal she might be, and if she'd have trouble (aphasia) in getting the words in her mind to come out of her mouth. (He'd previously explained it to Steve as if Jaime might be looking at a 'dog' and either be unable to say the word - even if she knew exactly what the picture showed - or she might say 'paperclip' or 'boat' instead.)

''That's a Cypress Tree,'' Jaime said, beaming. ''I love those!''

Corinth had been hoping to hear her say the word 'tree' but Jaime's full sentences were music to his - and everyone's - ears. He'd been as reluctant as anyone to see Michael out of prison and back at National Medical, but it seemed the man could truly work medical miracles.

''Hey!'' his impatient patient chided. ''You...gonna turn the page?'' Steve couldn't suppress his chuckle - and Jaime finally looked up and beamed at him. ''Guess what?'' she crowed excitedly. ''They're you tell him?'' she asked Corinth.

''Today's the day we trade the big, bulky -''

''Yucky!'' Jaime interjected.

''And yucky...bandages for a lighter version. And - Jaime has requested a look in the mirror.''

It was Mark's turn to work with Jaime (in as much as she was able to do so), talking lightly about whatever came into her mind. Steve stepped over into the nursery cubicle next door and spent some quality time rocking their daughter...and thinking. When he'd arrested Anja/Anna, he'd sent her to be locked in The Hole - minus the shackles, as she could be cuffed when the need presented itself. Steve had ordered her held there for 72 hours without interrogation or even questioning from anyone. The guards were not even to speak when bringing her meal trays. That would leave her totally off-balance when he made his first appearance in her cell the next morning...

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