Descent Into Panic

Chapter 14

In fact it was only mid-afternoon on Sunday when Sam next fully awoke.

The top part of his hospital bed was angled at about 45 degrees and padded with several pillows to help relieve the tightness in his chest. He had an oxygen mask over his face, but at least he was breathing on his own and hadn't needed intubation. A pillow had been placed under his right leg, below the knee, to raise the injured section of his upper leg up off the bed and prevent pressure on the wound. Despite Sam's assurances to Drew, it was not quite the trivial cut he'd suggested. There was a nasty gash just over nine centimeters long, which had needed several stitches to repair. The doctor had removed several slivers of metal from the cable, and tiny threads of material from his trousers which had embedded in the wound. They were watching now to make sure that infection didn't set in, as was the case with his hands, which had similarly been compromised with splinters of foreign matter. His palms were now swathed in bandages. A tube was feeding him essential fluids.

Al stood at the foot of the bed, watching him. Though Sam was pale and grey, there were dark circles under his eyes. He looked frail and vulnerable.

"Welcome back, Sam," Al offered, with a slight smile of relief.

Sam pulled down the oxygen mask.

"Aren't you gonna ask me how I'm feeling?" Sam countered, grunting softly as he shifted position to ease his aching back. It was normally the first thing his friend would ask. The effort of talking made Sam cough as before. Coughing pulled on his bruised ribs and made him wince in pain. He inhaled a few ragged breaths from the mask.

"Take it easy, Sam. I can see exactly how you're feeling, buddy." Al observed, "And in more ways than the physical traumas. I know you're feeling guilty, Sam, but you shouldn't…"

"No? How'd you figure that one, Al? Allegra Mancini's dead isn't she?" Sam inquired bitterly, "Isn't she?" Sam asked again more insistently when Al, instead of answering, just lowered his head.

"Yeah, Sam, she's dead," Al confirmed sadly.

Normally Sam's first question in these situations was "Why haven't I leaped yet?" The fact that he hadn't now done so suggested he was resigning himself to not leaping because he had – in his eyes – failed. Al didn't believe that for a minute, but for now he was not going to push Ziggy for a new mission. Sam needed to regain both his strength and his spirit.

"I told her I'd get her out, Al. I said I'd save her and she believed me. She trusted me. I let her down. I let her die." Sam collapsed into another coughing fit.

"No way, Sam. If you'd done what Wayneforth did, put yourself first and not tried to help, that would have been letting her die. You did all you could to save her. You nearly died yourself trying to save her. Nobody can blame you…"

"I can." Sam stated simply in a rasping whisper. "I'm not Tobias Quincey. I'm Sam Beckett. I should've been in control. I was there to get everyone out. Everyone, Al. All of them." More coughing interrupted his self-prosecution.

"It's not your fault you synergized, Sam. Quincey's claustrophobia was really strong. I don't know how you managed to get on top of it at all."

Sam ignored the offered defense.

"She annoyed me so much at first. She and the others with their pomposity and the way they treated Drew. I wanted to slap them. I even thought how they weren't worth saving - that they'd be no loss to the world. How wicked is that? She didn't deserve to die, Al. I saw that in the end. Nobody deserves to die like that. I should've tried harder. I killed her." Sam fell into coughing even more violently, his whole body racked with spasms, his pallid flesh now beetroot. He was obviously having trouble breathing. He held the mask tight to his face with his bandaged hand and gulped for air.

"Now cut that out, Sam!" Al chided him. "They were all nozzles; they'd have tested the patience of a saint. You showed her nothing but respect and kindness. You tried to save them – worthy or not. You did your best, Sam."

"Sir!" Drew came into the room in time to see Sam in the midst of paroxysms of coughing, looking as if he were about to gasp his last. He hurried over, pushed the button for medical attention, and tried to calm the old man down. He stroked his back soothingly and encouraged him to try and breathe naturally.

By the time a doctor and nurse hurriedly entered in response to the summons, Sam was wheezing, but the worst was over.

"Thank you, young man, we'll take it from 'ere," the doctor dismissed Drew with a wave of his hand, practically pushing him out of the way. He then took Sam's pulse and checked the flow of oxygen from the tank by the bed, and tutted, shaking his head.

"We 'ave been getting ourselves into a right old two-an'-eight, haven't we?" He commented condescendingly. Then he turned on Drew, "Have you been upsetting your father? I think you should leave and let him rest."

"I just came in on my way home to see how he was. I was in overnight for obs but I've just been discharged. He's not my father, he's…" Drew hesitated, but he wanted Mr. Quincey to know how he felt, "he's a good friend."

Obedient as ever, and wanting what was best for the old man, Drew turned to leave, "I hope you feel better soon, Mr. Quincey."

"Stay," Sam croaked, fighting not to cough again. Coughing exhausted him. His head felt like it was about to explode along with his lungs.

"You're in no condition…" the doctor began sternly.

"Please," Sam begged, reaching out a bandaged hand towards a matching one of Drew's.

"Five minutes," the doctor grudgingly allowed, "and don't go rabbiting all the time. You've strained yourself far too much already."

Checking the nurse had correctly entered the latest readings on the patient's chart, the doctor signed them and they both left.

"What did he mean about hunting rabbits?" A perplexed Sam asked when the door closed.

Drew laughed. "No, sir, rabbiting – talking a lot. I suppose in America you'd say 'yakking' or something."

"Ah," Sam nodded, "Two nations separated by a common language eh?"

"Something like that."

At Sam's invitation Drew sat down, a bit stiffly.

"Backache?" Sam asked.

"A little, sir," Drew allowed, "but it's nothing really. My doc says I'll be fine in a couple of days, just to avoid lifting heavy objects for a while."

"I'm sorry helping me made it worse," Sam apologized.

"Not at all, sir. You know I was happy to do it. I owe you so much. And now you saved my life. Thank you. I could never have done any of that without your help."

"You did fine, Drew. I should be thanking you for saving me." Sam told him.

"You already did sir, and you're welcome."

Drew looked down at his wrapped hands in his lap. It didn't take more than a few cells of Sam's genius brain to work out where the kid's thoughts were dwelling.

"I wish..." the kid couldn't bring himself to say what they were both thinking. He wished they could have saved Allegra Mancini.

"Don't go blaming yourself, Drew," Sam was reserving that right for himself.

"I did, sir, but I don't, and nor should you. Like my mum said after dad died, the Good Lord has his reasons, which may not be ours to know, and when it's your time - it's your time."

"Not always," Sam muttered under his breath.

"Sorry, sir?"

"Me too." Sam sighed. He shuffled position again, but instead of making him more comfortable it just set him to coughing.

"The doc's right, I should let you rest." Drew decided, standing up. "May I come and visit again tomorrow?"

"I'd like that," Sam returned with a genuine smile.

"I'm gonna duck out too, Sam. You need to sleep," Al announced. "Sweet dreams, pal."

Sam seriously doubted the likelihood of that.

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