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Head Shy, Chapter 7 (PG)
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Bandersnatch
Posted: 29 March 2010 - 08:00 AM                                    
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Here's another couple of scenes. Hope you like 'em.

-------------------


“That’ll be $1.15, please.”

“What?”

“$1.15?”

“Oh. Right.” Pete dug into his pocket and fished around for his wallet. “Sorry. I’m just a little…” He made a vague gesture with his hand before passing several crumpled bills to the waiting cashier.

“I understand, sir,” she replied flatly, her expression polite but uninterested. Placing the money in the cash drawer, she handed him his change and returned to her magazine without another word.

Gathering his donut and coffee, Pete wandered over to a small table by a row of windows and sat down, staring out blankly at the rainy weather. Running on autopilot, he picked up his coffee and took a drink, cringing at its acrid, burnt taste.

I wish I knew what was going on… He’d been separated from MacGyver at the Emergency Room doors not long after exiting the ambulance. Ferris had promised to keep him updated, but he hadn’t heard anything in over three hours. After spending most of that time in the chaos that was the waiting room, he had gone in search of some solitude and found it in the corner of hospital’s cafe.

Pete sighed and broke off a piece of his glazed donut. He wasn’t hungry, but stress typically drove him to eat. The events of the last twenty-four hours had affected him profoundly, and it would take time to sort through his jumbled emotions. Worst of all were the vivid images of his friend seizing that kept playing across his mind, dredging up intense feelings of helplessness and guilt.

Could I have done something to prevent this? He thought, picking absently at the sticky glaze coating his donut. Did I miss something? Was I so preoccupied with work that I failed to notice he was going down hill *that* fast? Did he ever say something that should have alerted me to something being wrong? Did I really believe he was just tired, or was it a convenient answer for a hectic time?

Puffing out a long sigh, Pete rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. The endless flow of questions bombarding his mind was starting to give him a headache. While the majority of his concern was for MacGyver, part of him wondered how his boss had taken the news of his sudden departure. He didn’t have a chance to speak with the executive directly, but he’d left his notes and a message with the floor’s secretary explaining the situation. The Foundation’s president was exceptionally laid-back and approachable, but he still had a complex business to run. One of his top directors ducking out of an important meeting was unlikely to go over well, whatever the reason.

And I won’t know until I get back to the office. Unless he calls during a break in the…oh!

The director nearly dropped his coffee as a thought came to mind. He reached into his coat and pulled a folded piece of paper from the inner pocket. Helen had run out to him just as he was leaving the building, saying it had come “directly from the boss.” Focused on more urgent matters at the time, he had merely stuffed it in his pocket. Now he was afraid to open it.

Almost.

He slowly unfolded the yellow paper and braced himself for the worst. He found only two words written and underlined in his boss’s blocky script. Good Luck. Pete blinked and reread the message several times before he was sure he wasn’t seeing things.

Good luck… he thought, feeling a small piece of the burdening weight lift from his shoulders. And here I thought I was about to have my head handed to me…

“I was hoping you’d still be here.”

He looked up to discover Ferris standing at the other end of the table, her familiar white lab coat replaced with scrubs. “Hi.”

“Get tired of the three ring circus they call the waiting room, did you?”

“You have no idea,” he replied, returning the note to his pocket. “How’s Mac doing?”

“He’s doing all right,” she said, looking around the small café and the people occupying several of the tables. “Let’s take a walk.”

Pete discarded the scraps of his snack and followed her into the hall.

“I’m sorry I kept you waiting for so long. Things took longer than expected in radiology,” she explained, navigating the winding, people filled corridors with ease. “Mac’s being settled into a room on the Oncology floor as we speak.”

“Oncology?” Pete uttered, the word making his blood run cold. “But that’s…you mean Mac…?”

They stopped in front of a row elevator doors. “We often work out of Oncology because it’s quieter and less traveled than the general ward.” Ferris pushed the call button that corresponded with the pale blue lift. “We’ve found it to be the most appropriate place for our patients to rest and recover, especially those coming out of surgery.”

“So you found out what’s wrong with him?”

“We did.”

A hollow ding signaled the arrival of the lift. The doors slid open and several people stepped out.

“And…?” he pushed, following her into empty car.

“MacGyver’s MRI revealed an abnormality just above his right temple,” the doctor said once the doors closed and their ascent began.

The news hit the older man like a blow to the gut. “Oh, god…”

“It’s small, but it’s still causing enough pressure to build up around his brain to be a concern.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“From the MRI alone, it’s hard to say. However, based on Mac’s medical records from the Foundation, Franklin and I are fairly confident that it’s a pocket of scar tissue from a prior head injury.”

“MacGyver has a friend who had complications from scar tissue. The man practically went crazy with paranoia.”

The elevator came to a stop on the sixth floor.

“Every case is different,” Ferris explained, exiting the lift. “Some people develop personality changes, while others simply have headaches.”

“So how do you determine if it’s scar tissue or…or something else?” Pete asked, the less crowded halls of the ward permitting him to fall into stride beside her.

“That’s why I’m taking you to meet Franklin – to discuss the next step.” She stopped in front of door with a heavily frosted window and the names F. Harper and F. Cobb printed in black. She opened it and motioned him forward. “After you.”

Pete stepped hesitantly into the large room and looked around. An overstuffed leather couch occupied the wall to his left, flanked on either side by lofty bookshelves. Framed documents and abstract artwork decorated the walls, while several grinning skulls perched atop the cabinetry. Two solid wooden desks filled much of the remaining space, their tops littered with the paraphernalia of a busy office. Seated at one of the desks with his feet propped up and chair tipped back was a man Pete recognized from the news.

“Pete, I’d like you to meet my good friend and colleague Franklin Cobb,” Ferris introduced as the middle aged man behind the desk set aside the file he was reading and stood. “This is Peter Thornton of the Phoenix Foundation. He’s MacGyver’s boss.”

“And friend,” Pete added quickly, grasping the hand the doctor had extended and giving it a firm shake. Franklin was a tall man with tousled brown hair and a kind, almost childlike expression. Not exactly the picture that came to mind when one considered his long list of credentials.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Thornton. You folks at the Foundation do some incredible work.”

“Oh, well, you know. We…we do our best to help those who…well…need help…” Pete stopped when he realized he was stammering and cleared his throat.

Franklin smiled, sensing the other man’s nervousness. “Why don’t you have a seat, Mr. Thornton and we’ll get started.”

“Thanks.” Pete chose a padded chair across from the doctor’s desk and sat down stiffly. “And it’s just Pete, by the way. Mr. Thornton makes me feel old.”

“Well, then it’s definitely Franklin,” he said, returning to his seat and tilting it back against the wall. He picked up a small paperweight skull and rolled it between his palms thoughtfully. “Now, I trust Ferris has filled you in on some of the details so far concerning MacGyver?”

“She said you found a small abnormality that’s putting pressure on his brain,” Pete replied, glancing at the petite woman seated beside him. “And that it might be scar tissue.”

“That’s correct. Would you like to see the scan images?”

“Sure.”

Franklin flipped a switch to dim the room’s lights and activated a small x-ray viewer on the wall. He removed a sheet of dark film from an envelope and placed it against the glowing panel to reveal several small monotone images.

“This is it,” he said, tapping one of the MRI cross sections. “We estimate it to be slightly larger than a quarter.”

Pete leaned in for a closer look; definitely able to tell something was different when he compared it to the other side of the scan. “So that’s what’s been causing his headaches?”

“The pressure caused by the mass, yes,” Ferris clarified. “It’s also responsible for the fainting spells and seizures he’s been having.”

The director sighed and sat back in his chair. “And you can’t tell for sure if it is scar tissue?”

Franklin shook his head. “Not from these pictures alone. That requires a more comprehensive analysis.”

“Pete, Mac’s been scheduled for surgery at 8:00 tomorrow morning,” Ferris said quietly.

For a moment, Pete was at a loss for words. The news of an abnormality in his best friend’s brain had been hard to swallow, but now on top of this… “We’re talking brain surgery here.”

“With symptoms as severe as MacGyver’s, it becomes necessary to remove the scar tissue before it can cause permanent damage,” Franklin explained. “It’s also the only way to be one hundred percent certain that we’re dealing with scar tissue and not something malignant.”

“How long?” he asked, his voice wavering.

“The procedure itself should only take a few hours, followed by some time in recovery. And, barring any complications, you should be able to take him home within a week or so.”

“The risks?”

“All surgeries carry a risk. In a case such as this, the chance for infection, irreversible damage, coma, and death are always present.”

Ferris reached out and took one of Pete’s visibly shaking hands. “Even if we did forego the surgery, the risks will still be there. It’s likely the inter-cranial pressure would continue to build, and if it reached a certain point, there would be very little we could do. By intervening now, we’re giving Mac the best possible chance at beating this.”

The older man felt numb. “Have you told him yet?”

“We explained what was going on and what we need to do. He was a little apprehensive, be took it well,” Franklin said, removing the film sheet from the viewer and turning up the lights. “Frankly, he was more concerned how you’d take the news.”

Pete chuckled nervously. “What can I say? The kid knows me.” He sighed and shook his head. “Surgery. And here I thought he just needed a vacation.”

“You had no way of knowing,” Ferris reassured. “And neither did he.”

The small doctor’s words were true, but they did little ease the guilt he still felt. “Can I see him?”

“Certainly. Ferris will show you to his room.”

“Thank you,” Pete said, extending his hand to the surgeon as he stood. “For everything.”

Franklin gripped the other man’s hand. “No problem. We like to help people who need help here too.”

The director tried to return the friendly smile, but the circumstances made it difficult. He joined Ferris at the door.

“It’s just down the hall. You ready?”

“Yeah,” he uttered, and followed her somberly from the room.

*

“This part of the facility is state of the art and is constantly being improved as new technologies become available,” Ferris explained as she led the way through the quiet corridors. “The resident staff and students are dedicated to their work and caring for the patients on the ward.” She looked back to find the older man a trailing a few paces behind, his face nearly blank. “Pete?”

“Huh? Oh, that’s great,” he replied, lost in his own thoughts.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that MacGyver’s in good hands,” she said as they stopped outside door labeled 604.

Pete sighed. “I know. I just didn’t wake up this morning expecting to hear my best friend and top field agent needed surgery.”

“Nobody does – and it’s hard, I know. But we’ll get through it. We just have to take things one-step at a time. Okay?”

He nodded stiffly, although doubt still weighed heavily on his features.

“Well, this is it,” Ferris said. “Room 604. It’s actually one of the better rooms on the floor. The window points east and on a clear morning, the sunrise is amazing.” She knocked quietly on the door before pushing it open and entering.

Stepping in behind her, Pete paused for a moment to allow his eyes time to adjust to the dim lighting. The mid-sized room was simply furnished with a bed, lounger, nightstand, and a small TV hanging in the far corner. The air was cool and quiet; much like the conditions in Ferris’s lab back at the Foundation.

He approached the bed, resting his hands on the raised guardrail. Mac was asleep, curled up on his side and buried beneath several layers of blankets. An I/V was set in the back of his left hand, a bag of saline dripping a steady stream of clear fluid from above. His right arm was encased in a cast from wrist to elbow, a green camouflage pattern covering the hard outer shell.

“So he did break his arm.”

“It’s a hairline fracture along his radius,” Ferris replied, keeping her voice low. “Normally we wouldn’t need to cast such a break, but we thought it would be best to protect it in case he seized again.”

Pete nodded, his eyes never leaving his friend. Even in the low light he seemed overly pale, his summer tan having faded along with his health. I should have noticed that… “I’m sorry, Mac.”

Hearing the older man’s voice, the troubleshooter woke from his doze. “Pete.”

“Hey, kid. How’re you feeling?”

“Drugged,” he replied, shifting onto his back with effort. “But at this point, I’ll take it.”

“Now that we know what’s going on, we can better control his pain. He’s also on an anticonvulsant,” the doctor explained, removing several folded sheets of paper from her pocket. “I have a few things I need to check up on, so I’ll leave you two to visit. Just try to keep it short. Mac needs his rest.”

“Of course.” Alone with his friend, Pete settled into the lounger beside the bed. “How are you doing, Mac? Really.”

His question was met with silence at first, and than a heavy sigh. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid,” MacGyver replied quietly, staring up at the featureless ceiling. “But the alternative isn’t much better.”

“It’s probably no consolation, but I’m scared too. I have been since the incident last night at the school.”

“Is that why you left the meeting?”

So much for a closed subject… “I didn’t want you to be alone. And I had to see for myself that you were going to be okay.”

Mac rolled his head on the pillow, shifting his gaze to study his friend’s face in low light. “You feel guilty.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah,” Pete admitted. “A little.” A lot.

“Why?”

“Because if I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the budget, then maybe, somehow, I could have prevented this. Or at least kept it from getting to this point.”

“Pete…”

“No! I should have seen something, Mac. We’re practically around each other everyday. How could I have totally missed seeing this coming?”

“You’ve been under lots of pressure.”

The director shook his head. “That’s no excuse. I should have listened to my gut when you first left that meeting a month ago. We should have gone straight to Ferris. She would have found the problem and…”

“I wouldn’t have gone,” Mac interrupted quietly. He disliked seeing his friend so upset, especially when it concerned something out of his control.

“Why not?”

“Pride. Denial. Ignorance. I was stressed and overtired. Besides, at the time, it was just a headache.” The troubleshooter sighed and shut his eyes. Whatever Dr. Cobb had given him was starting to play tug-of-war with his consciousness. “Even after what I went through with Steve Morrison, I never considered the same thing could happen to me.”

“You had no reason to,” Pete replied, standing and going to his side. He could tell he was starting to lose him to the drugs he’d been given. “Your symptoms were totally different. He was paranoid and tried to hurt a lot of people. You stuck it out until your body had had enough. Like Ferris said: every case is different.”

MacGyver nodded, but didn’t open his eyes.

“We’re going to get through this. Get some rest, and I’ll give you a call later, all right?”

He got no response; the younger man already asleep. Giving Mac’s arm a parting pat, Pete slipped out of the room and quietly shut the door behind him.

“Everything all right?” Ferris asked, coming around the partition of the nurses’ station.

“Yeah. He’s asleep.”

“That’s good. The more rest can get, the better.”

The director nodded absently, his mind appearing to be elsewhere.

“Are you okay?” she asked, unable to read his expression.

“Me? I’ll be fine. I’m just trying to sort through the jumbled mass of thoughts in my head. Everything has happened so quickly – it still doesn’t seem real.”

“It’s not an easy situation for anyone to deal with. Just try to keep your thoughts positive, and it’ll be over with before you know it,” she encouraged. “Listen, about tomorrow, the ward doesn’t open for visitors until 10:30, but we can make an exception if you’d like to see Mac before he goes into surgery.”

“Yes – please.”

“They’ll probably take him down to prep around 7:15, so anytime before that would be fine. I’ll let the duty nurse know you’re coming in.”

“Thank you, Ferris,” Pete said sincerely. “This – everything – it means a lot.”

The small doctor smiled. “You’re more than welcome.”

Pete looked reluctantly at the closed door to MacGyver’s room and sighed. “I suppose I should stop by the office and see how the meeting turned out.”

“Do you need a cab?”

“No – I’ll find someone at the Foundation who can pick me up.”

“All right. I’ll see you bright and early then.”

“I’ll be here.”

“Good– and I know this is easier said than done, but try not to worry too much. Mac’s in good hands.” She turned and headed back toward her shared office, her heels clicking quietly against the linoleum floor.

‘Try not to worry’ she says… he thought, making his way towards the elevators. Right…

 
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Geekgirl
Posted: 29 March 2010 - 11:36 AM                                    
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Yeah another chapter! My suspicions have been kinda confirmed...just waiting to see the surgery results. unsure.gif

Great chapter for building suspence...poor Mac, not entirely sure what you have planned for the poor boy.


 
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Bandersnatch
Posted: 30 March 2010 - 07:42 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Geekgirl @ 29 March 2010 - 11:36 AM)
Great chapter for building suspence...poor Mac, not entirely sure what you have planned for the poor boy.

Don't worry. I'll be sure to have him back in working order by the end smile.gif

 
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Sairalinde
Posted: 31 March 2010 - 09:58 AM                                    
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Bandersnatch,
Another great chapter (s). Sorry I didn't give you feedback on Ch. 6. I just read both Ch. 6 & 7 just now. Keep up the great work:)

 
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jaebird
Posted: 4 June 2010 - 05:17 AM                                    
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Great chapter!

 
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