SATURDAY, JUNE 21ST - AMERICAN SAMOA (LATE MORNING - EARLY AFTERNOON)
It took well over two hours for the combined teams to get Danny and Ellen back to the medical tent. They had to stop often to negotiate the rough terrain, change hands on the stretchers and ensure that Danny continued to breathe. That condition had become a disturbing outcome of the tragic events from the last many hours. Exposure to immense changes in weather and the general stress of dealing with an already damaged body had created a perfect storm. Feverish had become fevered and low vitals had become terribly erratic.
"Come on Danny," Ramirez found himself repeating the same words he had when he'd first discovered the man the prior day in the medical tent. "Keep breathing for me. Don't stop now." The frantic race uphill was now reversed as they battled the clock again and the big doctor was kept busy monitoring vital signs which seemed to conversely rise and then plunge without warning.
By the time they'd all returned to the main encampment, everyone was overwhelmed with what had just happened and the extreme physicality of the rescue. But where the M.P.'s staggered into the shade to sit and catch their breath, Chin, Steve and Ramirez continued to work for and on their friends. Laroux appeared immediately with another TAMC doctor to wade in and help where they could; but Ponch wasn't sure which way to turn at that point. Ellen was the one that finally took his face between both her hands and insisted that he listen.
Her hands were shaking from her own pain, but she was very determined as she physically aimed his face towards Danny. "Don't waste time arguing with me ... he knows you and they're having trouble stabilizing him. Anyone can set an ankle, Alphonse. I'll be fine."
He stared at her as his TAMC peer hustled over with a portable x-ray machine to prove he could well take care of Ellen's injury. "Call me if you need something ... anything." Ellen managed a weary grin as she pointed to Danny.
"We will. It's okay ... go." Ponch could only nod as he moved quickly to Danny's side where Doctor Laroux was already adding to the triage done on the trip back down.
"How is he?" But Laroux was quietly cursing in a steady stream of French as he tried to find a vein that would cooperate for a second intravenous line before he decided on subcutaneous fluids directly into a spot on Danny's chest. Without a response from the other doctor, Ramirez quickly stripped the rest of Danny's ruined clothing to gain access to his torso. He needed to recheck the broken rib and make sure it hadn't worsened.
"The transport," he muttered to himself because they needed to leave Samoa. Laroux looked up briefly and nodded in agreement. "Yes, we need to know."
"Where's Marco?" Ponch paused for a short moment as he searched the tent for that certain someone. When he found him, he shouted a demand that had the man running out of the medical tent. "Marco, right now. Find out when the next transport leaves for Hickham."
His fingers then deftly felt along Danny's ribcage and he sighed in relief when he encountered nothing new. "Good job. Small favors," Ramirez ground out tiredly before moving to his arms.
"But this ... damn it." He was focused now on Danny's broken wrist which seemed to have been wrenched again. He gently removed the old splint to palpitate the area and then motioned with his head to a nurse who was helping with Ellen's injured ankle.
"Give me the portable x-ray when it's available. Then I need to stabilize this ... get me another splint, bandages and a sling ... one where I can strap this arm to his body." There was a long period of silence as the two doctors and a number of nurses worked around Danny.
Chin and Kono were standing just off to the side but closer to where Pete Channing remained under guard. There was no need to inform the criminal that his own colleague had been killed; it was fairly obvious that he had already guessed that as the end game. Kono's anger had only increased since they'd gotten back and she'd seen Danny's injuries. Chin's quiet explanation about his very sketchy memory made things much worse. All of that fresh anger was now aimed directly at him as her friend was being cared for and Channing knew that he was far from exempt from any wrongdoing. In fact when he accidentally looked across the space and locked eyes with the team's Commander, Channing knew he was about to be held directly and solely responsible.
Laroux had taken to muttering to himself in French and though Ramirez had no idea what the man was saying, the lilting tone of his last few words almost made him smile. He was clearly as exasperated and as caring as everyone else.
"Signs of shock mostly due to exposure and dehydration." Laroux was moving quickly and in harmony with the big TAMC doctor as he checked Danny's lower extremities and socked feet. He gasped when he cut away what remained of the bandages Ellen had wrapped around Danny's right foot. Working his way down, the sock followed and then the first row of bandages that Ponch himself had done.
"Not sure what you'd like to do here?" Laroux said as he gently tugged the left sock off and dismally shook his head about the damage he was finding. "His feet are badly bruised and there's significant swelling."
Ramirez was infuriated by the bloody, bruised and swollen feet which added to Danny's growing checklist of woes. Flushing the cuts and then using clean dressings were their only options and his stunned eyes mirrored his French colleague's. He scrubbed his face with both hands and then threw his arms up in the air. It was almost overwhelming as each inch of Danny's skin yielded another injury to contend with.
"We'll start by a judicious cleaning and antibiotic cream. Wrap them both very well and elevate his legs." Danny wouldn't be walking for many days to come. It was then Ponch looked up to find Steve staring at him with an odd expression. He was motionless and nearly invisible where he stood stock still against the tent wall. He didn't appear to be breathing himself as he stood perfectly straight and dangerously quiet.
Ponch didn't need to say a thing to the man as he dropped his focus back to Danny. Steve knew. It was all much too obvious to everyone present in the area; the fight was still in full swing. But the big doctor was quite unwilling to do anything less than pull Danny through as Doctor Laroux continued mumbling under his breath while taking notes about various readings.
"Temperature is one hundred two. Infection ... most likely .. I'd suggest a strong course of broad spectrum antibiotics now." Oxygen was increased and the frantic pace around Danny's body grew as people fought to stabilize his condition. His blood pressure was too low and his pulse was conversely too rapid as it weakly fluttered under Ponch's fingertips.
"Transport. When!" Ponch looked up in anger now since no one had answered him and Marco was nowhere to be seen. He couldn't find his staff member anywhere in sight and let out with a deep, bellowing shout. "Marco! Where the hell did he go?"
They had a long flight back and Danny was now in dire condition. With the relative open atmosphere of the medical tent, he could feel Steve, Chin and Kono breathing down his neck while their own sense of panic increased in time to the level of activity. Ellen was alternating between laying down to be treated and propping herself up on her elbows to get her own read on Danny's status.
Ducking past a few people, Marco finally returned out of breath but at least with some news for the team. "The first already left, sir. They're fueling up the second that just arrived a short while ago. They estimate another hour before they can taxi out. They'd like to begin loading emergency cases as soon as possible to ensure their safety and be ready to leave"
Running an aggravated hand though his hair Ponch came eye to eye with Laroux. The two doctors were doing the math in their head as that hour was added to the nearly six required for the return flight.
"You'll need more supplies," Laroux stated as he began to pack two boxes. There was no doubt that Doctor Ramirez would be returning earlier than anticipated to TAMC as the wounded man began to moan in pain. They both noticed but ignored Steve when he walked closer to put a hand on Danny's arm. They had done as much as humanly possible with the ample tools they had at their disposal, however the tension remained high.
"We'll help ... I'll personally pack whatever you need."
Steve listened silently as the two conferred about the coming long flight and what additional supplies might be needed. He rubbed Danny's arm again as he softly muttered something Steve couldn't understand or hear very well. Deep in the pocket of his tac-vest sat Danny's badge from when Steve had picked it up in the tent. He could almost feel it through the thick, protective material; he would hang onto it until Danny was ready to have it back.
"You know me, Danno," Steve whispered under his breath. Ramirez had warned him about Danny's injuries and memory. The doctor would be trusted to do his best to care for the injuries, but when it came to the latter, what had happened with Madison proved much more to Steve. If the instincts were intact, then so were the memories. "You know Kono, Chin, Ellen and Doc Ramirez, too. You're going to be okay."
Danny needed to get well for a number of reasons; a very large number of extremely excellent reasons. At the top of the list was the singular most distressing reason that Steve so desperately wanted to fix as soon as he could be sure the danger had passed. "I need to give Gracie some good news, Danno. I really do and you don't have any idea yet what that means."
When her father wasn't there for Father's Day - when he had been abducted practically on that special day - Steve had never seen Grace implode. He never wanted to see it again. That day had begun the downward spiral to the overly quiet and morose child that refused to eat or come out of her room. It only had worsened as each day stretched into an endless week of no word or sign of being able to bring Danny home.
Steve couldn't do more than hang on to Danny's arm. To the one part of him that seemed free of bruises, intravenous lines or bandages. He glanced over to Channing and the young man paled again with no where to go. They'd get this Max or find him dead. Darien would be prosecuted and Peter Channing wouldn't see the light of day. If any others were involved, they'd find them too. There was no doubt of that particular fact.
Darien had almost won but almost didn't count. What was most disturbing was Darien's reach and evident wealth; they needed to be very careful to end this entirely in their favor. The mobster had resources they knew very little about and Steve supposed that in the end, that was the man's point with the abduction and threats. He felt he could do what he wanted at any time but he'd only managed to strengthen Steve's resolve.
"It's not going to be his way. He's not getting off and you're not going anywhere but home," Steve softly vowed as he closed his eyes and listened to the organization taking place around them. Ramirez and Laroux were close to being able to move Danny to the waiting transport. Added supplies were being boxed and readied as well. It felt good to be around others that were so highly efficient and Steve eventually found that he could take comfort in that warm buzz of activity.
"It's time to leave," Giving Danny's arm a reassuring squeeze before he was forced to back up for the doctors, Steve whispered quickly to him one last time. "We're going home. You deal with getting better, everyone will deal with helping Grace, and I'll take care of Darien."
SATURDAY, JUNE 21ST - AMERICAN SAMOA (AFTERNOON - LATE AFTERNOON)
The team sat in a loose cluster around Danny on the Oahu bound military plane as medical personnel attended not only to him, but to the other urgent care patients being transported back to TAMC and other waiting hospitals. They were now halfway through the long flight and everyone only became more anxious the closer they were to their destination.
Pete whom Danny would identify as 'Sneakers One' was also on the transport and continually under a heavy, unrelenting guard. The third man had not been found or flushed out and for that, Kono was especially in a mood.
"He told me about where they kept Danny. Some sort of old shelter up near the National Park and there actually had been a mud slide. But Chin, he's got a nickname for us and nothing else?" She was angry about Channing's dismal lack of information when it came to the missing third criminal. "It makes no sense!"
"Hired guns ... no need to make friends. They get in, get out, get paid and move on. Maybe he's dead. He probably is," Chin offered quietly as he caught his cousin's disagreeable expression. For the many long hours to come they all had one special person to focus on as he lay on a stretcher almost at their feet.
"Or not. No more chances. None. Channing's going to give a detailed description to a sketch artist as soon as we get back. And then - he's going through every mug shot on file from start to finish," she ground out it all out in a huff as she watched Pete avoid her face where he lay cuffed on another stretcher between two soldiers. Kono ran out of words as she watched Ponch sit back on his heels after changing out another bag of fluids. He was drawn and from where she sat, she thought the doctor's eyes looked a bit off and she frowned.
"Chin," she poked her cousin in the shoulder and then nodded towards the big man. Doctor Ramirez was clearly exhausted as he toiled over Danny. The doctor had been working for hours with volunteers and then Danny's unexpected arrival had continued that diligent work. A long night had become a stressfully long physical day and his older body was beginning show signs of its own self-inflicted trauma.
"He's got to stop. He needs a break. Chin, do you see this?" Kono realized what was going on as she looked from the big man's sweaty face to Ellen's worried expression. She'd been trying to get her husband's attention for the last hour and he'd been studiously ignoring her.
"He's going to get sick or keel over, and Ellen is very upset." The older doctor was in his mid-sixties easily and the trek through the humid-filled jungle on top of his non-stop workload was finally taking its toll. A healthy dose of very real emotional worry for his wife and Danny had added a significant strain. As the transport made its way through the skies, Kono got to her feet and pulled her cousin with her.
"Steve. Boss!" Another friend was close to exhaustion, but Steve wasn't nearly as bad as the older Ramirez and she bent down to whisper in his ear. "Doc's just about had it. Have you noticed?"
He actually hadn't and Kono's words were shocking as he got to his feet and really saw the man. Ponch's hands were shaking and sweat was pouring down his face as he bit back deep swallows that seemed to indicate he was also nauseous. Rather than going directly to him, Steve looked for another TAMC specialist he'd been introduced to and waved him over. Their discussion was short and included a much relieved look of thanks from Ellen as she realized what they intended to do.
She mouthed a quick teary-eyed thank you to Chin as she tried to relax on her own stretcher.
"How's he doing?" Steve hunkered down next to Ramirez as he eyed the continued quaking in the big doctor's shoulders. He took a long minute to worriedly get a closer view of his partner, too. Danny's bandaged feet were elevated on two rolled up blankets and he was trembling uncontrollably as a fever began to take a more firm hold. Two IV"s now ran into his arms, the port that Laroux had set for subcutaneous fluids was still in his chest, and his splinted wrist was secured with a tight sling to his body. He hadn't awakened again since killing Frank and his bruised face was nearly hidden between the oxygen mask and clean white bandages over his temple.
"Holding his own. I think he's stabilizing a bit," Ponch groaned tiredly as they slowly stood up quietly together. He stretched to crack a kink in his back and then lost his balance. Steve used a slight turbulent bobble in their flight as an excuse to grab the big man's forearms a second later. His friend was covered in a cold, sheen of sweat and Steve had to fight to hide his new concern.
"We can't do much more until we get him to TAMC."
"Good. And how's Ellen doing?" Ponch sighed heavily as he glanced to his wife who was now resting more easily as the friends surrounded her husband. He had yet to notice what they were doing, but Ellen had a birds-eye seat. Chin grinned at her again and this time, Ellen smiled back. The TAMC specialist Steve had called over, made a point of sitting down in nearly the same spot Ramirez had vacated by Danny's side. His move forced them to back up a bit to give him room to work and Ellen grinned at the ploy.
"She's okay. The break is bad, but she has a digital pulse and good circulation into her foot. She'll need surgery to repair the worst of it."
"I'm sure you'll have the best ortho on her case," Steve smiled gently as he continued to hold the doctor's arms. He shifted his weight slightly and Ramirez was forced to take even a few additional backwards steps.
"So that's good, too. Sit and take a breather, Doc." Ponch's eyes were blinking rapidly and he never realized that Steve had gently moved him aside until the seat connected with the backs of his legs and he lost his balance to sit. Steve blandly folded his arms and sat next to the man on his right while Kono took a station on his left. Chin raised his eyebrows questioningly as he sauntered over to stand directly in front of the exhausted doctor.
"What are you doing?" Ponch lost his ability to sound severe when his hoarse voice cracked. So Kono only offered him a winning smile and a happy shrug while rocking her shoulder gently into his.
"Hanging out with a good friend, brah. What else?"