had been there before, feeling all this right along with his colleagues, both
before his injury when he’d had a direct hand in treating the wounded, and
after when he’d started working behind the scenes to ensure the hospital
functioned smoothly. Today, he was taking on a new role. Most people would see
it as a demotion and wonder why he’d even want to do this, but he wasn’t most
people. Calden was the most gifted surgeon the city could count on. Even the
people who couldn’t stand Calden because of his abrasive personality recognized
that much. If all Eli did was make it possible for Calden to return to the job
he loved so much and was so good at, he’d still help save more lives than he
had as an administrator. That job had been offered to him like a consolation
prize for his injury; this task, he’d chosen himself.
They received a few odd looks on their way to the changing
room, but it didn’t seem to faze Calden. Once they were changed into scrubs,
they went to take a look at the assignation board. Langton was there, as well
as Petters and Selwin, both of which threw perfunctory nods of greetings toward
Eli and Calden before looking once more at the board and what Langton was
“Seriously?” Calden exclaimed as Langton started to
write his name next to cardiac surgery. “You asked me to come for
It doesn’t even have anything to do with the attacks, does it?”
Langton glanced back, tilting his head down to look at
Calden over the rim of the glasses perched on his nose.
“Doctor Hayes. We’ve had this conversation before. I
do not assign surgical acts according to whether I think my doctors will enjoy performing
them or not.”
To the side, Petters buried a snort in his cup of
coffee while Selwin walked away, shaking his head.
“If you’d rather go home,” Langton continued, “feel
free. I’m sure those of your colleagues who expressed doubts about you
returning to us won’t mind picking up the slack.”
He was careful not to look at Petters as he said so,
but Calden did, throwing the man a glare before demanding icily from Langton, “The
The nurse who was standing next to Langton browsed
through the few files she held before handing one to Langton, who held it out
to Calden. Calden stepped forward to take it, but Langton didn’t let go at first.
“Welcome back,” he said with a faint smile before
finally letting Calden have the slim file.
That smile took an entirely different meaning a few
moments later as Calden and Eli read through the patient information and looked
at the X-rays and other images included in the folder. Eli couldn’t help chuckling
“Right,” he said, shaking his head. “So when Langton
said he doesn’t assign surgical acts according to the enjoyment factor, he was
lying through his teeth.”
“No, he wasn’t,” Calden said absently, still entranced
as he looked at the X-rays. “The shunt itself is still boring. He didn’t say
anything about assigning surgery according to the rarity of arrangement of
internal organs. Have you ever seen something like this?”
“Have I ever seen a case of s
itus inversus? Sure. In my textbook in medical school.
I always thought they’d just mirrored the picture. But I’ve never seen one on
an actual operating table. Have you?”
Judging from Calden’s lack of reply as he continued to
stare, neither had he.
The surgery itself went smoothly. Eli had scrubbed
alongside Calden and, for the first time in two years, he stood in an operating
room while surgery was being performed. He didn’t help, however, his role only
that of an observer, his attention divided between Calden and the odd
arrangement of organs in the patient’s open chest, with the heart on the right
and everything else inverted as well.
Afterward, when they stepped out of the OR, Calden appeared
to be in a rather grim mood.
“Still thinking this was beneath your considerable
talents?” Eli asked, teasing.
“No,” Calden muttered. “Thinking it’s a shame I’m
going to forget this.”
A pang of pure cold rang through Eli. He’d forgotten.
For the time the surgery had lasted, he’d all but forgotten Calden’s condition,
too caught up in the precise way his hands wielded the instruments. The irony
of it wasn’t lost on him.
“You could write about it in your diary,” he suggested
Calden shrugged. “I suppose. It’s not the same,
Eli didn’t reply, but he decided he’d try to get a
copy of the video. The hospital routinely recorded uncommon procedures for
teaching purposes, but Eli suspected this one had been taped for Calden’s
dexterity to be scrutinized, too. Surely Langton wouldn’t object to a copy
being made, especially if, as Eli suspected, he’d assigned this patient to
Calden as some sort of ‘welcome back’ present.
the next few hours, Eli could almost have forgotten what a strange world he now
lived in. Ca
in a way he hadn’t been in weeks. He performed two
more surgeries, and each went without a hitch so that when the patients were
transferred to their aftercare team, there were hardly any complications
all came to a crashing halt when Doctor Petters, in charge now that Langton had
gone home for the evening, refused to assign anything more to Calden until all
three surgeries he’d performed so far could be reviewed and graded against the
hospital standards of care to make sure that his illness and its consequences
were not still affecting him.
illness is over,” Ca
den replied, his eyes darkening along with his voice.
“It has no more relevance today than the bout of flu you endured last winter. I
hardly need to know what I had for lunch yesterday to perform surgeries half
the doctors in this hospital wouldn’t dare touch unless they were the patient’s
very last resort. Including you.”
each word, Petters’ complexion was turning a deeper shade of crimson.
den,” Eli hissed.
den’s icy stare
turned to Eli. “Why should I? Doctor Petters’ record is just as relevant as
mine. If we’re going to compare odds of survival—”
Hayes! Doctor Wright! How nice to see you both!”
Calden, and Eli all turned toward Samford as she approached, a wide smile on
her lips and her hand extended. She shook Eli’s hand first, then Calden’s, and
Eli noticed that, rather than letting go, she tugged gently on Calden’s hand,
leading him away from Petters as she said, “I’d be glad to have your opinion
about a patient of mine. Do you mind?”
Calden followed her lead, he still threw a glare back toward Petters. Having
anticipated this, Eli had placed himself between the two men, so that he
blocked Calden’s line of sight. Soon, they were in Samford’s tiny office, and
when she pushed Calden down into a chair and shone a pen light in his eyes, it
became clear which patient she wanted to talk about.
are your sleeping patterns?” she asked, holding Calden’s head in place when he
tried to look away. “Do you get enough sleep?”
stop that!” Calden demanded, this time managing to pull away from her. “What do
you think you’re doing?”
called a follow-up,” she said dryly, leaning back against her desk. “Seeing as
how you never came for one, I’m making do. So. Sleeping patterns?”
Calden did nothing more than glower at her, she turned the question to Eli who,
standing against the door, had a hard time hiding his amusement. For all of
Calden’s annoyance, he had yet to stand and storm out, proof that he could
behave when he actually liked someone.
back to normal,” Eli said. “Which for him means completely abnormal. He’s
complaining when he gets exhausted after twenty hours awake.”
talked about Calden’s sleeping habits during his stay in the hospital. She and
Bonneville had repeatedly told Eli to make sure Calden got enough sleep, and
while so far it hadn’t been too difficult, Eli didn’t look forward to Calden
being completely recovered and unwilling to go to bed for days at a time.
her tongue, she turned a frown to Calden. “You need to get enough sleep. You
just got out of a severe case of encephalitis. I don’t need to tell you—”
you don’t,” Calden interrupted. “Unless you’re like that idiot Petters and you
don’t understand what anterograde amnesia is. I know the importance of sleep. I
also know how much sleep I need to function. And even if I have hallucinations,
seeing someone who I know can’t actually be there isn’t going to stop me from
the moment Calden said the word ‘hallucinations,’ Eli knew. Sleep deprivation
could induce hallucinations, yes, but that was hardly the only symptom, or even
the first in most patients. It seemed too specific for Calden to have mentioned
it randomly. And as of an hour earlier, this was the longest Ca
den had been
awake since coming out of the hospital.
Eli started, but before he could decide how to word the question, Samford asked
bluntly, “Are you having hallucinations now?”
apparently realizing he’d said too much. He tried to backpedal. “Of course I’m
not having hallucinations. Don’t be silly.”
looked unconvinced. She turned a questioning look to Eli, who had a quick
internal debate with himself. Should he mention that, during the last surgery,
he’d noticed Calden glancing several times to a corner of the room where there
was nothing or no one of interest to be seen? He hadn’t thought much of it at
the time, but now he had to wonder if Calden had been seeing something.
tell us if he did,” Eli finally said, glad that his doubts weren’t ringing
through his words.
turned an inscrutable glance to him.
course I would,” he said coolly. “I’m not irresponsible.”
was still frowning, though she nodded. “All right. As long as you understand we
just want what’s best for you.”
actually snickered at that. “Tell that to Petters. He’s in charge of the board
and won’t let me do a damn thing.”
was your first day back,” Eli pointed out. “There’s no reason to overextend
yourself. Besides, I’m dead on my feet. Ready to go home?”
didn’t argue, but he sulked all the way back to his house. Eli was quiet, too,
wondering whether he should bring up the hallucinations or not. He hadn’t in
front of Samford because she was one of the best allies Calden had at the
hospital, but now that they were alone…
you still seeing someone who isn’t there?” he asked when they entered the house
stilled, his jacket hanging off one shoulder as he stared at Eli.
not an idiot,” Eli said gruffly. “Neither is Samford. You didn’t bring up
hallucinations for no reason. So you might as well tell me. Are you having
hallucinations now? Visual? Auditory?”
several seconds, Calden did nothing more than consider Eli. In the end, he
didn’t reply before hanging his jacket up and walking over to the kitchen. His
silence was answer enough.
stomach twisting painfully, and not from hunger, Eli watched him go, yet again
trying to make up his mind. Should he push the issue? If Calden didn’t want to
talk about something, he could be as unmovable as a mountain.
a sigh, Eli went to retrieve the notebook in the living room and brought it to
Calden, along with a pen.
said darkly, swallowing a bite of the sandwich he’d made for himself. “I should
write down that the word ‘hallucinations’ is now banned from my vocabulary.”
across from him, Eli observed him for a little while. It’d been such a good
day… Was it why Eli hadn’t noticed something was off? Or had Ca
den been hiding
it too well?
den?” he said
softly, and waited until his friend had raised his head to look at him before
he continued. “I need to know when you see things that aren’t there.”
den glared at
him. “So you can demand I return home even when I’m in the middle of surgery?
No thanks, I’ll pass.”
I can take care of you,” Eli corrected. “That’s what I’m here for. If you don’t
let me, how am I supposed to help? For that matter, how can you even think you
can perform surgery while having hallucinations? Seriously, Calden. Think about
it for two seconds and tell me I’m wrong. I’m not Petters. I know you can work.
But you have to see that there are limits to what you can do.”
the notebook, Ca
den considered Eli for a few seconds, no longer angry,
but clearly troubled.
don’t understand why you even do this in the first place,” he complained. “You
had a job. An important job. And you were good at it. How satisfying can it be
to play nurse to the biggest asshole in the hospital?”