Spoilers: None specific.
Warnings: Briefly described severe injury, severe panic attack/flashback, hospital drudgery.
Summary: Nurse Dawn Majewski is on the tail end of a twelve-hour shift when she gets her John Doe.
Neurotic author's notes: Happy birthday, Lily/rightfootred! This is a prompt you left on the wishlish waaaay back in December; I hope you like it! Please note I have very limited knowledge of medical procedure and my grasp of ambulance/ER practice is derived 100% from the patient side. The cut text is from St. Elsewhere, because I'm a cheeky little shit, and please do excuse excessive Dawn Majewksi. I just love her, see.
Eleven hours into a twelve-hour shift, Dawn Majewski is running on four hours of sleep, three coffees, two cigarettes, and one cinnamon role, and her patience is hovering somewhere between “none” and “no, really, I will hurt you” when they bring in her John Doe. He’s probably in his late twenties, unmoving and sporting one of the widest and messiest abdominal wounds she’s ever seen in her entire life—and that’s twenty-six years as a nurse on South Side, thank you very much. Luke beats her to the kid by a couple seconds and she can tell from his jerky hand movements and the split second of hesitation before he actually touches the kid that it’s bad.
“Give it a—” C.J., an immensely determined and incredibly stubborn EMT Dawn has known for six years, is bent over the kid as she approaches, flanked by Luke, and Darryl, and another EMT Dawn doesn’t recognize.
“Fuck it, C.J., kid’s septic,” growls Luke, quietly authoritative, and C.J. gives in, backs away enough that Dawn can see the kid is pale and almost still enough to look dead, looking strangely small in his cheap suit slick with blood, and then Luke is obscuring her vision, bending low over the kid, intent on getting him breathing again. C.J. is backing away from the kid’s head, hands in the air and face twisted in mild annoyance, while Darryl and the mystery EMT move closer to Dawn.
“What do we know?” asks Dawn quietly, grateful, for once, that Luke is such a bossy little prick, because she’s not sure she has quite the energy to take on a kid that sliced up right now.
Darryl shrugs, and mystery EMT—a cute, round-faced girl with huge brown eyes and low, pin-straight black bangs who looks, on the whole, entirely too much like a rabbit—pipes in, “Mid-to-late twenties, excellent shape overall, severe abdominal trauma with some deep ligature marks on the neck consistent with strangulation—and for my money that wrist is broken but we had bigger things on our mind. No phone, no emergency contact, not even a driver’s license, just this.” Bunny EMT holds up a slightly bent, bloodied laminated card, bearing the kid’s picture—and Dawn’s got to admit, happily married for two decades or not, kid’s a cutie when he’s not all bloodied up. “Says he works for the US Wildlife Services,” continues Bunny. “Dean Walsh.”
Dawn is reaching forward to take the ID from Bunny when she hears a horrible, animal keening sound, pure terror, and she turns to see Dean Walsh writhing and and trying, it seems, to scream, while Luke seems to be battling twin instincts to back away and to hold the kid down. C.J. surges forward, presses down on the kid’s shoulders, which only produces a more desperate cry, and then the kid is thrashing in earnest, shouting—shouting—hoarsely, undoing all of Luke and C.J. and Bunny’s work on his stomach, making a terrible sobbing-crying noise in the back of his throat that Dawn, in twenty-six years in a hospital and twenty-three years as a parent, has never once heard.
Luke is making helpless gestures in Dean’s direction as C.J. tries to hold him down again, and then Dean Walsh draws a deep breath and lets loose an astonishingly strong “NO!” and then he’s fighting tooth and nail again, monitors wailing, IV tugged out and spurting a feeble splash of blood onto the linoleum, and Darryl and Bunny are staring in blank uncertainty before Dawn realizes nobody is doing anything and surges forward.
C.J. has been thrown off again and is taking a moment to stare at the kid in abject shock, cursing a blue streak under his breath, and Luke is staring at Dean like he’s got four heads, and Dawn steps in front of him and says “Dean!” in a clear, commanding voice—the kind of voice that gets arrogant interns to duck their heads and apologize, that gets panicky patients and families and even doctors to snap to a focus, that got her children to quit doing the mess-around and still strikes fear into their hearts.
Dean freezes for an instant, looks at her with eyes that betray fear beyond anything she’s ever seen before, and then he’s bucking and hollering again, and Dawn can discern actual words now, and they spell Trouble with a capital T—
“No, no, I won’t, don’t you fucking dare, no, no, you bastards, I will kill every single fucking—don’t—I’m—no, no, don’t, fucking—don’t, I won’t, no, no, not—NO!”
His voice is weak but there, and he’s writhing violently away from any contact, and even the combined efforts of C.J. and Darryl to hold him down are proving essentially useless—the kid is strong, and more importantly, very, very scared.
“Do we know anything about how he got this injury?!” Dawn yells, casting around to look at Bunny, but it’s C.J. who answers.
“No, some—fucking hell—kids found him—looked like somebody else—Jesus Christ, kid, I am trying to help you!—had been there, maybe injured, and crawled—for fuck’s sake—crawled off to get help or something but fuck—ow!—fuck if I know—”
“Who was hurting him?” tries Darryl, but it’s a useless question.
“Somebody,” mutters Luke darkly behind Dawn, and she can hear the vague distaste in his voice. Oh, fuck you, Luke, she thinks, before turning her full attention to Dean, whose white face is slick with tears and sweat. He looks very young, wide eyes roving desperately from face to face, still keeping up his weakening litany of fear—and, Dawn has to admit, fury. He reminds her of her babies when they got sick, particularly her oldest, and she tries to soften her face a little, keeping her voice soft and non-threatening. Lulling.
“Dean, honey, listen to me. Listen. Look here. Listen.”
“I won’t—don’t you to try—I won’t—!” He’s still fighting with all he’s got, but the adrenaline is wearing off quickly, and his movements are growing sluggish and jerky.
“You don’t have to, baby,” she coos.
“—don’t you try to—I won’t, I won’t, I—I can’t, I—no, no—please—”
“Dean, honey, please try to listen to me,” she says, reaching for his unbroken wrist. When she touches him, even lightly, he jerks violently and lets out a strangled cry of “Sam!” but she keeps her hand where it is, rubs small, soothing circles on the delicate skin on the inside of his wrist. “You’re safe,” she tries, and he twists away, crying now.
“Don’t, please don’t, that’s not—you can’t—I won’t—”
“You don’t have to,” says Dawn again, voice as soft as she can make it, nodding slightly to Darryl, who moves a little closer, readies a sedative. “You don’t have to, Dean, honey, just relax.”
“Not real, not fair, it’s not—you can’t—why’re you—I’m not gonna fall for that, I’m not, I’m not, I won’t.”
“That’s me,” whispers Dean wonderingly, looking right at her.
“You bet it is,” says Dawn, and Dean twists away, panic returning to his face.
“Why—what’s—but I didn’t! Fucking—I—goddamn it, I didn’t, I won’t, I said I wouldn’t—”
“Okay, you didn’t,” says Dawn, with a little shrug in C.J.’s direction. He shrugs back, clearly impressed they’ve made it this far.
“That was later,” mutters Dean weakly, his face screwed up in confusion.
“Dean, honey,” tries Dawn again, as Darryl moves forward with the sedative. Dean, whose energy is all but gone, catches sight of him and lets out a panicked moan.
“Don’t, don’t, please don’t, not again, please, it’s not—you—Sammy, Sammy please, I—” He whines in his throat and twists towards Dawn as Darryl closes in, keeping his movements gentle and unthreatening. “Please, please, it’s too—don’t—Sammy was—please—”
Dawn makes a gentle shushing noises and rubs Dean’s wrist a little more firmly as Darryl calmly injects the sedative. Dean makes a horrible, desperate noise, but the fight’s gone out of him, which is almost worse. Dawn can feel C.J., Luke, and Bunny relaxing collectively as Darryl backs away, successful, and Dean begins to fade from consciousness.
“Please,” he gasps, then turns his head back towards Dawn. “Sammy?” he calls, voice plaintive and weak.
“Who’s Sammy, baby?” Dawn asks, trying to conceal her urgency, hoping to squeeze a lucid answer out of this twilight between panic and unconsciousness.
“Sammy,” repeats Dean tearfully.
“Where’s Sammy, honey?” Dawn tries, giving his wrist a little squeeze, knowing it’s a lost cause nonetheless.
“I don’t know,” Dean breathes, eyes sliding closed, lips barely moving. “I don’t know, I’m sorry, I don’t—Mom—”
Dawn’s heart gives a little jolt and she runs her hand up the length of Dean’s forearm, then back to hold his wrist again. “That’s alright, Dean, sweetheart,” she says, and he makes another sorry little sound, and then he’s unconscious.
“That was the most crazy fucking thing I have ever fucking seen,” announces C.J.
Dawn calls home, tells David she’s going to wait up with a patient. Twenty-four years of marriage and David is used to such things, and Dawn knows she makes it sound like her mystery patient is a kid, but she can’t help it. He looks so young, intubated at last, installed in his hospital bed. The US Wildlife Service has never heard of any twenty-something Caucasian named Dean Walsh in Illinois, and nobody else has either, apparently. Sammy, whoever he is, has yet to make an appearance.
And so, four hours after her twelve-hour shift finally drew to a close, Dawn is sitting next to Dean Somebody’s bed, re-reading The Kite Runner and fielding a series of texts from her husband, regarding his inability to work the printer, and her daughter, regarding her husband’s inability to work the printer and his insistence that she help him, and one from her eldest son, asking if she, too, has received a series of angry printer-related texts.
Around midnight, she stands to go to the bathroom, trying to shrug the unsettling feeling she’s being watched, and takes a moment to run a hand over Dean’s arm once more before setting off.
When she gets back, she stops several paces short of the door—someone is standing over Dean’s bed, and it’s nobody she recognizes. It’s a very tall man, long hair obscuring his face, and he’s holding his arm close to his chest like it hurts. Dawn, inexplicably inclined to stay hidden, edges forward just as the mystery visitor brushes some hair out of his face and she sees it’s badly bruised and he’s looking sadly down at Dean.
Sammy? she wonders, and almost scoffs at the idea of such a large, imposing man going by such a childish nickname.
But as she watches, the battered mystery visitor runs a cautious hand through Dean’s short hair, and when it garners no reaction he speaks so softly Dawn can only pick out a few words.
“Dean, man…sorry…had to…but I…care of it…and when I…were gone. I’m sorry, man. I’m glad…Garth…here…hope…and everything.” Maybe-Sammy swallowed, and ran his clumsy, oversized hand through Dean’s hair twice more, with earnest gentleness that somehow made up for the awkwardness of the gesture, and then he pulled Dawn’s chair closer to the bed and settled down. If he spotted her book on the floor by the chair, he ignored it.
Dawn smiled as she saw Maybe-Sammy lean forward, prop his arms up on the bed, wince a little, adjust, and then pillow his head in his uninjured arm, right at Dean’s elbow, a closeness that was as familiar as skin.
Satisfied that Dean was in good, if fumbling, hands—almost certainly Sammy’s—Dawn headed home. When she returned to work the following evening, Dean Not-Walsh was gone, having apparently signed out AMA within thirty minutes of the giant shift change that happened around six am, and nobody seemed to have seen Sammy at all.
Author’s note: for what it’s worth, Dawn Majewski is actually a character from a story I wrote for school way back when I was sixteen, and she has quite a bit of backstory—she was born in Chicago, where she still lives, in 1965, to two second-generation Polish immigrants. She became a nurse at age 23, and married David Kaminsky two years later. The children she references are Chris (born 1990), Harry (born 1992), and Isabel (born 1996). C.J., Luke, and Darryl are from the same story. Bunny EMT is all new. :)