Chase Nygaard’s POV
Oxbow Lake Clinic
Doc had relieved me at midnight, so I could get some sleep. It was a great plan, except it didn’t work.
It was just after one when I got the call about the shootout in Duluth. I spent about twenty minutes on the phone with Rori, making sure things were all right, then talking to Coral about defense plans. I went to bed about two when it was clear the three vehicles were no longer around, and Coral had defenses well in hand.
At two-thirty, Sawyer came into my room and woke me up. “Doc needs you. Frank’s spiked a fever,” he said.
“One hundred and four, and still climbing.” Shit. That was high, dangerously high if it kept going. I quickly pulled on clothes and followed him to the Clinic. “I’ve asked some of the Omegas to bring ice. We need to get him in a tub.”
With all the machines and his condition, that wasn’t going to be easy. “It’s in the basement, right?”
“Yes.” He walked back to the room, and I got up and put scrubs on. I went downstairs to the storage room, bringing up the fiberglass tub shell. It looked like a washtub, long enough to hold a person, with a ramp at one end for their upper body to stay out of the water. It was about eighteen inches deep, enough to cover a person with ice. When I got to the room, Colletta was up, standing on the other side of his bed with Doc. I set the tub down and moved her bed out of the room. As I set up, two Omegas showed up with bags full of ice and set it down.
They started to leave, but I stopped them. “We’ll need your help to move the patient,” I said.
Doc pulled the sheet off of Frank and gathered all the hoses and wires leading to him. “Luna, if you could keep these from getting tangled,” he asked.
One of us went to each corner of the bedsheet. “We lift on the count of three; hold the corner of the sheet and his chest or leg underneath. When he’s high enough, Jacobs, you slide the tub onto his bed, then we lower him in slowly,” Doc said. It went smoothly, and we had the Omegas dump their ice into the tub. “Go get more, bring it in coolers,” he told them as they left.
Now that we had him cooling, I took some time to examine him. His color looked better, and his pulse was stronger than it had been yesterday. Doc was securing his arm outside the tub so the IV site would remain dry. I looked up at the display; his temperature was down to 102.8 now.
“What antibiotics do you have him on,” I asked. He went through the list; they were good ones. I checked Frank’s eyes, noting the drugs were starting to wear off by his pupillary response. “When is his next sedative due?”
“Six,” he said. “We should check his wound for signs of infection. If it is filling up, we might have to drain it.” It was not uncommon for large wounds to be left unsutured and packed for this reason; due to the damage, we’d stitched everything we could before stitching the long wound closed. If the infection is internal, I’d have to cut all those stitches so we could go back in. Working together, we cut the bandages and exposed the wound. “That’s not right,” he said.
The wound was not swollen, angry, and leaking pus as I might have expected from his temperature. It had scabbed over, and the inflammatory stage was over. I could see signs of healing on the wound edges, which you usually don’t notice until the fourth or fifth day of human healing.
It was right on track for a werewolf.
“Doc, are you seeing what I am here?”
He checked the wound with a magnifying light, then nodded. “The healing rate is well beyond human norms. The werewolf blood we transfused must be accelerating his body’s response to the wound.”
“What does that mean, Doc? Is he a werewolf now?” My Mom was holding his hand to her breast as she looked at Doc. “I thought it was impossible to change a human!”
He stood up straight and looked at her. “Ordinarily I’d agree, but this is far from an ordinary situation,” he said. “I checked with all of the other Pack Doctors; none have ever transfused werewolf blood into a human. I don’t know what to expect.”
“He’s healing faster than a human would, Mom,” I said. “Even if that is all that happens, it’s a good thing. Frank is already stronger than would be expected, and the antibodies in the Werewolf blood look to have any infections under control. I don’t see anything but healing on his neck.”
“Will he turn?” She looked hopeful.
“I have no idea, Luna. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.” We took some time to clean the wound again, then wrapped it with a bandage. At the current rate, the skin would scar closed in another day.
“Do we need to keep him in a coma?”
Doc hesitated for a moment. “If the blood is doing this to his neck, it’s helping his brain as well. If we can get the fever under control, we can think about letting him wake.”
“The fever isn’t from infection, is it.”
“Let me run some blood work.” He drew the sample and went to his lab while I stayed with Mom watching. We got his fever down to 101.2 with the ice before it melted; I drained the tub and covered him with a sheet. We would leave him where he was in case it rose again, and we had to use more ice. Doc came back in a few minutes later. “Look at this,” he said.
He handed me the report. “Is that white count right?” It was just under 30,000, three times the normal human range, but well below what I would expect if he was fighting a severe infection.
“I checked it on the microscope myself,” he said. “The fever isn’t from an infection. I think it’s a reaction to the transfusion.”
“He’s getting ready to shift?” An elevated fever was one of the changes that occurred to a werewolf of age, starting a day or two before they would shift for the first time. It was the body preparing itself for the transformation that was coming and was rarely fatal. We treated it just like we were treating Frank; we used ice or cold water to keep the fever from getting too high.
“I guess we’ll find out,” he said. “Go back to sleep; his temperature is under control, and I’ll stay with him.”
“Are you sure?”
“He’s in the tub, we’ve got the ice, and someone has to keep this pretty lady company.” Doc waved me towards the door.
“Mom, you should get some sleep too. You still have to meet the Council in the morning,” I warned.
“As if I care about them, they couldn’t even decide on time,” she said. I gave her a look, and she shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll get the bed back in here and sleep,” she promised.
I looked at my phone as I crawled back in bed, it was 3:42 in the morning. I was asleep shortly after my head hit the pillow.
The alarm went off what seemed like a minute later; it was 5:45 and time to relieve Doc. I took a quick shower, pulled on scrubs, then my coat as I walked across the frozen ground to the Clinic. I greeted Sawyer, who was on his phone in the waiting room, then went back to Frank’s room. Mom was sleeping on one side, while Doc was watching Frank in the tub with the ice again. “Fever come back?”
“Typical pre-shift behavior, it goes in cycles,” he said. He was at 101.8, not too bad. “How much sleep did Mom get?”
“An hour so far?” He looked over at Colletta, she was facing the wall under the covers. “Her wolf is forward, more so than I would expect for a human friend.”
I looked at the chart, Frank was getting stronger and would wake up soon. “How human, we have yet to determine. We can’t say anything to anyone else about this, Doc, not until we know more.”
“Because if it gets out that we have found a way to change humans into shifters, someone will abuse it. Not every case will be like this one, where the human is innocent, and Mom is with him.”
“I don’t follow.”
I looked towards the door. “Why is it such a big deal that Rori and I mated?”
“She’s the Blessed One; she can have babies at a rate no other werewolf can. She can singlehandedly double the population of a Pack in a generation,” he said.
“Right. What if it were to get out that giving a human a transfusion of werewolf blood could turn a human into a werewolf? What would a small Pack with an ambitious Alpha do if that was the case?”
“Make as many as he could,” he said. “But… that’s monstrous. We don’t even know if it will work, much less how many would survive.”
I just nodded. “To such a man, even if one in five survives, that’s still worth it for the one. After all, the failures are only humans. You could double or triple your Pack in a year, going from worst to first as it might be.” His jaw fell as he started to understand what I was saying. “That is why whatever happens here has to be kept quiet.”
“I understand, Alpha,” he said. We did a quick turnover, and he went to eat breakfast and grab a quick nap. He’d be back just before nine, so I could go to the Alpha meeting.
When he left, Sawyer came into the room and sat next to Mom’s bed. “I heard what you said, and you’re right,” he said. “Someone will use this knowledge to raise an army.”
“Then we can’t let the knowledge out,” I replied. “Hell, I don’t even know if Frank is going to live. The changes are encouraging, but it’s possible that the blood alone isn’t enough to make the change.”
“It’s a blood curse,” Sawyer said. “I’m shocked someone didn’t try this.”
“Look at him; it’s not something I’d try. We don’t even know if his brain survived the trauma yet.” We continued to talk as we waited for Frank to show signs of waking up.
It was seven-thirty when Coral walked in the Clinic. Now that she was Alpha, her wolf was even more apparent when she entered the room. “Hey Sis,” I said. “Packed and ready?”
“Packed for a week,” she said. “We’ll get the rest of it shipped out after we are ready for it.”
“Any contact with the Pack yet,” Sawyer asked.
“I’ve Skyped with the remaining leadership. They aren’t eager to declare allegiance to me with their Beta’s challenge coming soon, but I expected that. I did get the feeling they are happy that Millner is gone.”
“You’ll be great,” I said as I got up and gave her a hug. “I’m going to miss you.”
“Me too,” she said. “How’s Frank?”
“Getting better, he should wake up this morning.” She told Sawyer to go eat breakfast, and sat with me for a while as I filled her in on what was going on. She agreed with keeping any change a secret, and we discussed strategy for the morning meeting.
The increase in pulse rate was the first sign something was changing. I got up and checked on Frank; his finger twitched, and his eyes started to move below his eyelids. “Coral, have one of the guards go wake up Doc. Tell him Frank is waking up.”
She nodded and went out the door. I moved over to Mom’s bed and gave her a shake. “Mom? Frank is waking up. I need you over there to keep him calm as he wakes. We can’t have him panicking and tearing any of his stitches.”
“He’s waking?” Her eyes opened and she sat up, stretching and yawning as I went back to my patient. It was thirty minutes later before he reacted to her talking in his ear; he squeezed her hand, causing Mom to break down in tears. I turned the lights down as Frank fought to open his eyes. “Frank? Baby, open your eyes for me.”
He finally did, a smile appearing on his face as he saw her, before the expression changed to pain. “Frank, it’s Chase. Your throat was badly injured, and you are on a machine to help you breathe while your larynx heals. Squeeze Colletta’s hand if you understand.” I looked down and smiled as he squeezed it. “Good. Don’t try and talk. I need to do some tests.” Doc and I checked his motor functions first, asking him to wiggle his toes, squeeze his hands, move his legs and arms. Everything was equal, which meant that he didn’t suffer permanent damage to those areas of the brain.
Keith came into the room and pulled Coral into his arms, kissing her as she watched. “You and Chase need to get going so he can eat before the meeting,” he said. “Hope is fine with the nannies back at Arrowhead, and I just talked to them. I’ll watch over Frank until the Alphas leave.”
“Thanks, honey. Mom, you need to shower and change before the meeting. Chase, you need to eat. Doc can finish this.”
Mom pulled me into a hug before we left. “Thank you, Chase.”
“I love you, Mom. See you in fifteen minutes.”