Thursday, August 10, 2000

In/Exhale - September 12, 2000 - Part I

In case you don't remember Kai's mention of Mexitil previously in the story, check out the penultimate scene in September 4, 2000 - Part 2. -CA

September 12, 2000 - Part I

Hissing. Beeping. Voices around him. Kai felt . . . off. Disconnected from his body, yet it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. He had the bleary impression that he’d been asleep, but not dreaming. Vaguely, he remembered a long stretch of sleepless, nightmare-filled nights, so waking from a dreamless sleep was nice. Maybe that was enough to fill him with the kind of euphoria that made him not really care what was going on right now. Or to bother opening his eyes. And that definitely was an enormous effort. Maybe he could let himself sink back into sleep. Now that he let himself, he felt weary, a full-body ache seeming to emanate from his bones.
More sleep definitely seemed good. He began drifting again when a sharp, sudden pain hit him. It wasn’t enough to make him open his eyes, but it certainly got his attention.
The voices around him suddenly pierced the fog of his mind. “Kai, it’s time to wake up.”
Kai tried to bat away the unfamiliar voice, but his muscles seemed reluctant to respond. And he had a tube in his mouth. Technically, more than one, he realized. Fuck. The dreamless sleep? Euphoria? He’d recognize Propofol anywhere. He struggled to remember what had happened, but he drew a blank. Another side effect of the anesthetic.
He was poked again, and he would have cursed if he’d been able to, but it did the job, and his eyes opened, if only halfway. The room felt painfully bright, even if part of him knew it really wasn’t, and he could make out a few faces. Dr. Gates, his neurologist. Jon. And . . . Nikki.
Kai was vaguely aware of the fact that Gates was speaking to him, but his limited focus was on Nikki, whose face looked sadder and more worried than he’d ever seen it, even though she smiled faintly. She nudged her head toward Gates. Kai let his eyes track toward his doctor, and forced himself to hear what the man was saying.
“You’re probably still pretty weak, but could you try to squeeze my fingers?”
Kai’s eyelids slid shut, then open again in a gesture too slow to be a blink, and he willed his hand to move. It didn’t listen, but his fingers twitched ever so slightly.
“It’s OK. It’ll take your body a while to recover from the drugs, but hopefully we can at least get that out,” he said, pointing to the endotrachaeal tube Kai was becoming increasingly aware of as the lingering effects of the anesthetic wore off, “and get you moved to a step-down unit.”
Kai was understanding Gates on a certain level, yet it still felt vaguely as if his doctor were speaking another language. Gates patted him on the shoulder, spoke in whispers to his brother, then disappeared out of Kai’s view. It sucked, not being able to move, not being able to talk, but Kai was almost too tired to care. Keeping his eyes open was becoming more effort than it seemed worth.
He felt Nikki’s warm hand on his cheek, and forced himself to look at her. Her eyes seemed wrong, somehow, a shimmer to them he'd never seen before. It confused him, but he chalked it up to the drugs. “They kept you out for a couple days to get your body stable,” she said, as if reciting something that had been explained to her more than once. “But you should be OK.”
His lids were heavy, but he could see her smiling, and she stooped to kiss his forehead before stepping back to make way for Jon.
“Kai,” Jon said, his voice a dry whisper.
Kai forced his eyes to Jon’s briefly. His brother looked even more haggard than normal, his eyes bloodshot, dark-gold stubble coating his face. His gray eyes bore a mixture of worry and relief.
“It’s good to have you back.” Kai’s eyes had slid shut again, but he heard Jon take in a harsh breath over all the other sounds of the ICU. “I’ve taken off the next few days, OK?” He squeezed Kai’s hand. “You don’t have to go through this alone.”


A few hours later, Kai passed his spontaneous breathing test and was extubated, deemed stable enough, and moved to a step-down unit on another floor. Most of the Pavulon’s effects had worn off--the reason he could breathe on his own--but he was still weak, a combination of the drugs and the lingering remnants of the severe attack that had put him here in the first place. Pain also hummed through his body, particularly his right leg, his thigh throbbing, vying for his attention.
True to his promise, Jon had stayed with him. Nikki had left not long after he woke, saying she’d return later, but Kai was grateful for his brother. He still didn’t understand entirely what was going on, but he knew enough that his MLS had gone rogue, causing Gates to pull out the heavy guns.
“How’s your throat?” Jon asked, holding up a cup of ice chips.
“I’ll live,” Kai responded, his voice hoarse. He tentatively licked his lips, which were dry and slightly chapped, then accepted a few pieces of ice from his brother.
Jon nodded stiffly, and Kai could tell there was something his brother wanted to say, but was holding back.
Jon sighed. “Gates said this attack was the worst he’d ever seen. He wants you on the Mexitil, if only for a few days, until we’re sure the attack has passed.”
Kai carefully swallowed a bit of ice. “Hence leaving the tube,” Kai said slowly, referring to the small feeding tube that snaked out of his mouth, carefully taped to the corner.
Jon hesitated, then offered a brief nod. “Plus, it’s possible he may have to dose you with Pavulon again, if things don’t continue to get better.”
Wonderful, Kai thought, but he said nothing.
“Kai, Gates didn’t keep you on such a powerful muscle relaxant as long as he did for fun. Go on the Mexitil for a few days, get over this, and then you can come home.”
“How long?” Kai finally managed to ask.
Jon pulled his hand through his hair. “You were in ICU almost three days, Kai. We nearly lost you more than once.”
Shit. “I was that bad?”
Jon offered Kai some more ice, nodding. “When Nikki brought you in. . . . You were spasming badly. Your blood pressure was dangerously low. Every time Gates tried to take you off the drugs, you’d crash. We don’t know why, but it must be connected to your MLS somehow. It’s one reason he’s pushing for the Mexitil. In fact, he wants to put you on a cocktail. Strong enough to keep your MLS in check, but weak enough you don’t need ventilatory support.”
“Strong enough to make me sick and keep me weak.”
“Keep you alive,” Jon said, his voice tinged with anger.
“You don't know how sick that drug makes me,” Kai said. He was losing what little of his voice he had. “But tell Gates fine.” Kai closed his eyes, signaling he was done with the discussion.
Kai heard Jon stand, hesitate a moment, then slowly walk away.


A few hours later, Jon realized Kai’s complaints about Mexitil hadn’t been exaggerated as he held his brother while he threw up what little fluid remained in his stomach. It had only take about thirty minutes after the beginning of the Mexitil infusion to hit Kai--hard. Even though Kai had nothing in his stomach--the feeding tube emptying directly into his duodenum--the nausea was so bad Kai had begun to gag anyway. Jon had signaled for a nurse, who had quickly added a powerful antiemetic to Kai’s drug cocktail, but it hadn’t yet kicked in.
Kai’s strength had returned slightly, if muted. He was still weak, but he’d regained some movement in his hands and arms, and he gripped Jon as tightly as he could as he heaved. Jon whispered encouragingly until Kai grew still, the vomiting stalled for now. He took a damp rag he'd kept nearby and carefully cleaned Kai's mouth, spending extra time around where the feeding tube lay against his lips.
"So sick," Kai said with a groan, closing his eyes.
"I know," Jon replied, smoothing his brother's hair.
Jon frowned. "The antiemetic should start working soon."
"Not soon enough," Kai said through a grimace.
Jon held his brother, knowing there wasn’t much else he could do. “It’ll be ‘K, K,” Jon whispered.Kai made a sound that could have been a laugh that quickly devolved into a groan.
“How’s your pain?”
Kai breathed for a little while, measured, careful breaths, before answering. “Six, overall. But my right thigh really hurts. Eight. No. Nine.”
Jon frowned. “Gates said you hurt your quadriceps. He’s not sure how bad yet.”
“Shit,” Kai said in a whisper.
“He suspects you have tendon and ligament damage in your left leg, too, but he wants to wait until you’re a little more stable before he does an MRI.”
“Why Gates was so adamant about the Mexitil,” Kai said.
“Partially. Feeling sleepy yet?”
“Mm. Little bit.”
“Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up. Promise.”


Jon could tell instantly when his brother fell asleep; the grimace that had seemed etched into his face faded, and he almost looked peaceful. Jon took the opportunity to rinse out the emesis basin in the sink, and when he’d returned, Kai’s nurse, Mary, had entered with some supplies.
“Phenergan finally kicked in?”
Jon sighed. “Finally.” He watched as Mary grabbed gloves from the holder on the wall and slipped them on.
“Did he vomit much?”
“Didn’t have much in his stomach to throw up.”
Mary nodded. “I’ll have to check his feeding tube, make sure it didn’t get displaced.” Before getting to work, she eyed Jon. “You should probably think of getting some rest. Eat something.”
Jon frowned. “I promised him I’d be here when he woke up.”
Mary offered a faint smile as she found the external end of Kai’s feeding tube, clipped to a machine off to the side of the room, and uncapped it. “He’ll be asleep long enough for you to go downstairs and grab a sandwich, Dr. Taylor.”


Vicky was hunched at her desk, sorting through the latest billing disaster, when she heard a knock on her door. If it was that new fellow, Sebastian--Dr. Kainer--she was going to scream. He had to be smart to have gotten so far in his career, but honestly, the guy was incapable of filling out paperwork properly.
"Come in," she said in a gruff voice.
She heard the door open, and the din of the clinic filtered in.
"I don't want to interrupt," a familiar voice said.
She smiled reflexively, then forced her face to neutral before spinning around in her chair. "Dr. Taylor."
The past couple days hadn’t been particularly kind; exhaustion and worry clung to him, his gray eyes dim, deep purple circles under them.
“You’re not in clinic today?” She said it as a question, even though she knew he wasn’t; he had barely left Kai’s bedside since Sunday evening except when she or someone else would remind him to eat and take care of his blood sugar.
“No,” he said, his voice barely audible.
Vicky’s heart beat a little faster, fluttering in her throat. Either Jon was here because Kai was worse, or he’d come to see her. Both options made her stomach do little flips. She rose from her chair, but didn’t close their distance, noticing how he leaned back against the door. What if she judged wrong? After all, nothing had ever come of things last year, when Kai had been so sick. Why should things change now? Just because she’d suckered him into going to that costume party, it didn’t mean anything. She inwardly chastised herself for even thinking of the party; depending on how things went with Kai, Jon wouldn’t be going anyway.
“Jon.” She eyed him, almost as one would a stray animal you weren’t sure what to expect of. Finally, she took a breath. “How’s Kai?”
Jon let out a long, weary breath of his own, and pulled his fingers through his hair. “I kinda need to eat something.”
Vicky nodded, understanding, his response not assuaging the strange ball of anxiety in her chest. She crossed to him, hesitated a moment, then gently wrapped her fingers around his wrist. The gesture didn’t quite have the intimacy of held hands, but still gave him the reassurance she wanted--needed to give him. “How low’s your sugar?”
“Not . . . not too bad. I just . . .” Jon’s eyes met Vicky’s for a moment, held, and she could see he wanted to tell her more without having to say anything. He swallowed. “I need to eat and get back to him.”
She studied his eyes for a moment, then led him by the wrist to the small couch nudged into one corner of her office, pushing him into it. He didn’t resist, sinking down and leaning his head against the wall, watching as she went to her desk phone.
“Betty? Looks like I’ll be working through lunch again. Could you? Yeah. Make it two. I skipped breakfast this morning.” She winked at Jon, absently twirling the cord around one finger. “Uh huh. Thanks. I owe ya.”
She hung up and took her seat beside Jon.
“Betty brings you your lunch?” he finally asked. Betty was the receptionist for the pulmonology outpatient clinic.
“As a favor, some days. When I’m extra busy. It saves me thirty minutes, sometimes more.” She lifted her shoulder in a slight shrug. “I figure you’d prefer to eat here in peace and quiet. Plus, it’ll be quicker.”
Jon nodded.
Vicky let the silence hang for several minutes before finally risking the question again. “So, how’s Kai?”
Jon let out a long breath. “Out of imminent danger. Finally,” Jon said, his eyes sliding shut. “He’s awake, out of ICU. But he’s on a cocktail of drugs that make him really sick. And it’s likely he injured the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of his legs. Possibly badly. It’s too early to know, and the drugs are only keeping the spasms at bay.”
Vicky laid her hand on top of Jon’s, not saying anything.
“I feel like this is all my fault somehow. If I’d been more there for him, maybe--”
“Jon,” Vicky said, her voice soft. She squeezed his hand and saw moisture on his cheeks he fought to blink away. “I know you want to protect Kai from everything, but you can’t.”
He nodded and hung his head. They sat in silence a moment, and he seemed about to speak again when there was a knock on her door.
“That’ll be Betty,” she whispered, rising. “One sec!” Vicky grabbed her purse out of a drawer on her way to answer the door, slipping out some cash and quickly trading it for the food, making sure to block the view of her office with her body. Vicky liked Betty well enough, but she could be an incorrigible gossip.
“Sure you don’t want help carrying it in?” Betty asked, a little too obviously trying to see around Vicky into the office. Luckily for Jon, Betty was short and chubby, and didn’t have a chance to see around Vicky’s taller frame.
“That’s all right. Thanks again. Gotta get back to work.” Vicky smiled and managed to shut the door in a way that conveyed urgency, rather than rudeness.
“I left my insulin in my office,” Jon said, his voice weary. “She’ll see me when I leave to get it.”
“Doesn’t mean she needs to be sticking her nose in now,” Vicky said, matter of factly, offering one of the boxes of food to Jon.
Jon accepted it, along with a package of utensils, but waited for Vicky to join him before opening it. “I never . . . thanked you.” He stared down at the food, teasing it with the fork. “For taking care of me.”
He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have needed someone. Last year or these past few days. . . . But I did. I fell apart, and you were there to make sure I didn’t die from hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis.”
She laughed softly, warmly, and then, without thinking, she leaned forward and pressed a light kiss on his lips.
He jerked back, surprised, and her heart fell into her stomach.
“Oh, Jon. I’m--I don’t know what--I’m sorry.”
He didn’t speak. His face was unreadable as he blinked a few times, his gray eyes studying her. Then he hesitantly lifted a hand to cup her cheek and kissed her again. It was a tentative, chaste kiss, but she could feel his body practically vibrating--of course, it could be low-blood sugar shakes, but Vicky didn’t think so. Jon wasn’t a good liar in the traditional sense. His best lies were those of omission, of careful word choice, perhaps honed from his training as a physician. If he had lied to her about his blood sugar, she’d know.
They pulled apart, a bit dazed.
“Oh,” he said hoarsely.
“I’m sorry,” Vicky said, but her eyes didn’t move from Jon’s. For the first time, she noticed small flecks of green and blue nestled among the gray of his irises. “This is a totally inappropriate time.”
“It is,” Jon said, so seriously that Vicky’s stomach knotted. “But Kai would say time is limited and you should live life.” Jon frowned. “I’m talking like he’s dead.”
Vicky squeezed Jon’s arm. “You’re right. Eat, take care of your blood sugar, go back to him. We’ll talk later. To be continued?”
Jon actually smiled. It was such a rare sight, and it reminded her of how truly handsome he was. “To be continued,” he said, and he leaned forward, dusting his lips against her cheek, before digging into his food.


Continue to September 12, 2000 - Part II ------->


  1. superb superb, thanks

  2. Wonderful, incredible writing.

  3. A great new chapter! I think I would not survive it, if you updated the story every other week only...
    Cheers and good luck with your classes and editing/writing job! :)

  4. THanks so much for updating!! I really like your attention to details, but I have to admit that I am getting impatient about "the talk" between Reene and Kai - drama is good and essential for a story, but there is a fine line to too much drama..
    Anyway, I love your characters and I very much hope to see some more Kai/Reene interaction very soon!

    1. LOL.... Well, like I said in my intro, I/E can tend toward melodrama at times...

      I promise that we will get that scene (in fact, I've been working on it today), but everything that's happening until then is crucial to leading Re & Kai to that point.