shrugs. “When Eli does what he swears he won’t and leaves, or when you two have
. It’s not so much a contingency plan as preparing for
the future. Because you do have a future, Ca
course I have a future,” Calden scoffs. “And the best part of it is that I
don’t have to remember all the
ing conversations you and I share. Not that I ever
kept a record of them before.”
smiles and says nothing. It’s only moments before the car stops. Calden opens
the door and steps out. He hasn’t been paying attention to the road, and he’s
expecting to find himself in
front of his
. Instead, he’s across the street
Lola’s, his favorite café
. The customer sitting at the table by the window is
all too easily recognizable. There’s a
in front of him, and two glasses
his phone out, Calden sends a one word text.
Eli pulls out his phone. He’s smiling when he types a reply.
in here already. I ordered for both of us
only takes Calden four strides to cross the street.
of you to come by,
Chief of Surgery’s
to see him,
and welcomed him into the living room.
had been a while since Langton had dropped by, and Eli couldn’t wait for him to
see how much Calden had improved.
get you anything? Coffee? Tea?”
stopped himself before mentioning alcohol. They didn’t have any in the
self-imposed penance for acting like an idiot the last time he’d had a glass
and drowned himself in self-pity.
but I can’t stay long,”
answered with an apologetic smile.
Eli said, understanding. “
Then this is
smile sharpened a little. “Yes, well, he made it
clear last time that he’s not interested in sympathy. And you… I’m still
waiting for you to reply to my last message about
meeting me for a chat.”
was Eli’s turn to smile ruefully. He rubbed the back of his head and went to
take a seat, inviting
to do the same with a gesture.
still learning to adjust,” he said with a small shrug. “His sleeping patterns
were too messed up for me to leave for long. But that’s getting better. And
we’re finding ways to cope.”
gave him a questioning look, and Eli had no doubt
that he wanted details.
Eli was loath to
say too much, however. They were all doctors, but that didn’t negate Calden’s
right to privacy. Besides, Calden’s relationship with the Chief of Surgery was
complicated to say the least, mostly because Langton was a close friend of Lana’s,
which, to Calden, was the worst of recommendations. And while Eli had seen for
himself how much Langton cared about Calden as a person, Calden acted for the
most part as though Langton only cared about what Calden could do in the
much better is he?”
asked, more quietly now. “Well enough to
come back to work?”
gaze flicked to the hallway where Ca
den had just appeared. His dark hair was still a
little damp from his shower, and he was buttoning the cuffs on his shirt. The
white fabric was so thin that Eli could just see the black ink under the left
sleeve. Or maybe he only thought he could see it because he knew it was there.
don’t you ask him?” Eli said, directing
attention to Calden.
head jerked up, and he smiled. “
Good to see you. You look—”
can dispense with the platitudes,” Ca
den cut in coolly, now slipping on his suit jacket.
“Yes, I’m perfectly able to
you need me
.” He arched an eyebrow toward
. “But then, if
you didn’t need
, you wouldn’t be here. You haven’t
come by at all since my illness, have you? It just goes to show how
much you care
pointedly, “Doctor Langton
has been around to check on you. And you, giant
are, told him not to bother showing up again unless he
to go back to the OR
den froze in
the middle of brushing imaginary lint off his lapel. Eli could almost have
believed Calden was embarrassed—if ‘embarrassed’ was a word that could ever
. Soon, though, his expression turned haughty.
wasn’t in the notebook,” he sniffed. “I can’t be held responsible for what’s
not in the notebook.”
of our coping mechanisms,” Eli told him, before answering Ca
den. “It’s not
in the notebook because his last visit was pre-notebook. You might want to put
in a page about him.”
again. “A page? More like three lines.”
have this vague feeling I should feel insulted,”
said wryly. “But that’s
hardly anything new when I’m around you.”
took a seat and unbuttoned his jacket, which he’d just done up. His fingers
were soon drumming on the armrest of his chair as he demanded details about the
current situation at the hospital
. Eli listened absently; something bothered him about Ca
The drumming wasn’t anything new, but it usually meant Ca
den was bored.
He’d been up for twelve hours or so… Was that enough to be bored already?
just come out of three major attacks,” Langton
said grimly. “One
a second wave two days later
three days ago. This one lasted over forty hours
“A lot of wounded?”
Eli hated how cold Calden could sound when he talked about
human lives, seeing them as little more than potentially interesting cases in
the operating room. Only afterwards, when they were saved, could he talk to
them as people.
“Too many,” Langton said. “The walls were breached in
the last attack, so we had some civilians on top of our lot of soldiers. The
hospital’s full, and everyone’s exhausted. If you could—”
“I’m perfectly rested,” Calden interrupted. “And
perfectly able to perform surgery.”
Langton glanced at Eli as though hoping for
confirmation. Eli shrugged.
“I don’t see why not. It’s only his day to day memory
that is affected. His medical knowledge and fine motor control are fine.”
“And he likes being talked about as though he’s not
even in the room just as much as he always did,” Calden added dryly.
Eli rolled his eyes at him, unapologetic. Were they
supposed to talk about him behind his back instead?
much as Langton needed Calden, he still looked unsure. “Maybe you could start
with small things,” he suggested. “Get you back into the rhythm of the
looked affronted. “I’m the best damn surgeon you’ve got and you want me to do
what? Look at sprained ankles?”
sighed. “As modest as ever, I see. Fine. I’m sure we’ll find you something
interesting to do. But…” He glanced at Eli before meeting Calden’s gaze again.
“Now, understand that I’m not doubting what you can do, but you just came out
of a very serious situation and you still have a life-altering condition. I
can’t let you unsupervised into the OR. You’ll be in charge but—”
will come along,” Calden interrupted again. “He can keep an eye on me for you.”
little belatedly, he looked at Eli and asked, “You don’t mind, right?”
thinly, Eli shook his head. As long as he wasn’t asked to pick up a scalpel, he
didn’t mind being in the OR.
said as he stood. “
How soon can we expect you?
Calden looked at Eli, one eyebrow raised. Eli answered
“We’ll be right behind you.”
a curt nod at Eli, Langton left the house.
the door had closed on him,
jumped to his feet
attacks practically one after the other
he muttered, and Eli couldn’t tell if he was talking to him or to himself.
I missed all the
the flicker of a glance toward Eli on the last word, Eli realized two things: Ca
den was waiting
for him to say that being excited
was not appropriate—and he
was nervous. That was what his fidgeting was about. Nervousness, not boredom.
might want to tone it down a little,”
said, vaguely reproachful, since that was what was
expected of him. “
I doubt anyone at the
hospital would be too happy to hear you say those last few days they went
through were ‘fun.’”
den huffed. He
was already at the door, waiting for Eli with undisguised impatience. “They
already think little of me. If I didn’t act like myself, they’d think something
den to the street and wondered if that was the reason
for his nervousness. Should he address the matter? God knew he didn’t want to,
not when Ca
den was having what was, all things considered, a
pretty good day so far. But Calden would realize soon enough…
they’d climbed into
and were on their way to
decided he might as well tell Ca
what happened to you,” he said
after clearing his throat. “
the hospital, I mean. They know
den looked at him
would they know that?
My medical status
should have been. Petters was furious when it got out, but he never figured out
who gossiped and spread the news.”
could see a muscle twitching in Ca
den’s cheek as he clenched his jaw.
“Or he claims to be furious,” he said coldly. “He
never liked me.”
Unfortunately, that much was true. Calden rubbed a lot
of people the wrong way, Petters included.
“When I first started at the hospital,” Calden
continued quietly, “he always went out of his way to imply I was only there
because my father was Chief of Surgery. He changed his refrain when I came back
after my overdose, and said it was Lana’s influence that had bought my way back
in. I’m surprised he’s not claiming I’m brain damaged and unable to do my job.”
did say that
,” Eli admitted.
“Called a meeting of all senior staff. Opinions were
pretty divided, but Doctor Samford spoke for you, and Doctor Langton supported
you as well. In the end, everyone had to admit the hospital is grossly
understaffed as it is, and we simply can’t afford to lose someone like you. Now’s
your chance to prove Petters wrong. Show him and everyone else you’re fine.”
Calden scoffed. “Of course I’m fine. And why would I
care about what he thinks? I never did before; I’m not going to start now.”
,” Eli said,
focusing on the road. “What was I thinking.”
were both silent for a little while, but as they were approaching their
den asked, “What’s the longest I’ve gone without
, Eli could see Ca
considering that when you were released from the hospital you couldn’t go
twelve hours without a nap, twenty isn’t all that bad.”
“No need to patronize me.”
not patronizing you,” Eli said calmly. This, too, was beginning to feel like a much-too-familiar
conversation. “You asked a question, I answered. You woke up
…” He glanced at his watch. “Twelve
and a half hours ago, now. Which means you’ve got
roughly seven and a half hours, maybe a little more, maybe a bit less, to show Langton,
Petters, and everyone at the hospital that you’re as brilliant as ever. It’s
not like you’ve never worked on a deadline before. Now stop being nervous
because you’re making me nervous.”
not nervous,” Ca
den claimed indignantly, but his foot, Eli noticed,
stopped its tapping.
soon as they stepped into the hospital, Eli could recognize the mood that had
settled over everyone like a scratchy blanket, warm yet uncomfortable. Physical
and mental exhaustion from repeated demon attacks and the influx of wounded
soldiers—and deaths—that came with it. Relief that things were finally slowing
down. Determination to save those patients that were still between life and
death so as not to add to the toll. Wariness that this slow down was only