AUTHOR: Cathy Roberts
SPOILERS: Season Six. Last episode seen was "Be Still My Heart".
ARCHIVE: This story was written for the enjoyment of "E.R." fans everywhere, and may be downloaded for your own pleasure. However, this story may not be used, archived, or distributed in any way without the permission of the author.
DISCLAIMER: "E.R." and all of its characters are the sole property of Warner Brothers and no infringement of their copyright is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: As always, I wish to say a big "Thank you" to Melissa, who edits what I write and makes sure that it all makes sense. And a special thanks to Carolyn for her medical advice and suggestions.
AUTHOR'S SITE: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Salon/6144/
SUMMARY: Carter, Dave, and Luka are stranded in a motel during a blizzard. John is ill and the other two have to take care of him without coming to blows.
Luka Kovac closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. If he were lucky, then Dave would think he was asleep and would shut up. John had fallen asleep over twenty minutes ago, not that Luka thought Dave had noticed. The man just kept talking about anything and everything. Asking personal questions, giving stupid opinions, bragging about what a great doctor he was. Luka had heard all of that practically non-stop over the conference and he was tired of it. Whatever had possessed Kerry Weaver to send Dave Malucci to a medical conference? Had she been doing it out of self-preservation? Getting him out of the E.R. before he drove her and everyone else mad with his arrogance?
Although, to be honest, the idea of attending the conference with Dave and John had appealed to him. He knew that except for the trip there and back, he wouldn't have to see much of Dave. That had been when he thought they would fly. Kerry destroyed that fantasy when she informed them that due to budget constraints, they would have to drive. From Chicago to Buffalo. Still, he had thought it wouldn't be too bad. That had been before John had informed him that his sense of distance was slightly off. And so he had been forced to spend endless hours in a car with Dave. John was brave though, and rode in the front seat while Dave drove. Then, when John took over the driving, Luka had moved up front, letting Dave sleep in the back seat. That part of the drive was pleasant. Luka liked John a lot more than he liked Dave. John was a very good doctor, but he didn't flaunt it. There were times when Luka suspected that John didn't even know he was a good doctor. John just stepped in and did his job. But, Luka had watched him with patients, saw how attentive he was to everyone. The way he genuinely listened to everything they had to say. Not like Dave.
Once they reached Buffalo, they discovered that the organizers of the conference had decided that they would put the attendees into teams. In order to help promote camaraderie, they would not get separate rooms, instead they would room with a member of their team. Luka had ended up with one Jamie Goutreaux, from Louisiana. At least that was the name on the nametag. Luka had spent three days partnered with Jamie and he still had no idea what the man had said. He supposed that the man's Cajun accent wasn't a hindrance back in New Orleans, and he did take some pleasure in the fact that for every time he looked blankly at Jamie, Jamie had looked blankly back at him. John ended up having to share a room with some pediatric doctor from Philadelphia, some guy he said he had met a few years back, Max Rosher. Neither one of them seemed happy to be staying together, and John had been in a foul mood during the conference. By the end of the long weekend, it was apparent that Doc Philly, as Dave called him, had caught a strain of flu which had not been included in the annual flu shot. It wasn't discovered early enough to do John any good though, which was why he was sound asleep in the back seat of the car. So far, the drive home was being hindered by the many stops they had to make so John could be sick, then stopping to get fluids into him followed by more stops so he could be sick again. Luka was certain that the nausea would pass; it didn't last long with the flu. Then John could get some healing rest. Luka took a deep breath and told himself that he should just go on and get some sleep while he could. He was going to have to take a turn driving now that John was out of commission. He wasn't looking forward to it, but he didn't have any other choice. The last thing he remembered was the soft music coming from the radio. And Dave's loud voice as he sang along.
Dave carefully pulled the car off the road and came to a stop. Peering through the windshield, he struggled to make out the sign that had to be no more than twenty feet in front of him. The snow had been a novelty when it first began forty minutes ago, but now it was approaching nightmare status. He glanced over at Luka, who was still asleep, then into the back seat where John was still out of it. He nervously cleared his throat, then reached out and shook Luka's arm. The man's head snapped up and his eyes flew open.
At least that's what Dave thought he said. It was hard to tell, because he didn't think Luka had said it in English.
"We're in trouble."
Luka blinked at him, then looked outside. The snow was heavy and he could tell that it had been that way for quite some time now.
"Where are we?"
"Where in Ohio?"
"Somewhere between Cleveland and Toledo. I think. Since John was sick I wanted to find a shortcut, and you were out of it, so I had to read the map myself while I was driving. I'm not really sure where we are. I think there's a name of a town on the sign over there, but I'm not sure."
"You got us lost?" Luka couldn't believe that Dave had been stupid enough to get off of the interstate. Didn't the man realize that it was the fastest way to get John home?
"You were asleep and I did the best I could, okay?"
"No, it's not okay," Luka snapped. He undid his seatbelt and reached for the door handle.
"What are you doing?"
"Someone has to check out the sign."
Luka rushed out and was soon back in. He reached for the map, then frowned as he saw where they were.
"We're in Fair Oaks, Ohio. Here." Luka pointed out their location on the map and Dave groaned. They were about fifty miles away from Interstate 90.
"Okay, so I'll just turn around and we'll be back on course." Dave started the car. Now that he had a plan, everything would be fine.
"Can we stop?" John asked from the back seat. "I'm going to be sick again."
"We are stopped," Luka said, turning in his seat to take a look at John. "It's cold out there."
John barely nodded as he sat up then opened the door and stumbled out of the car. Luka got back out to help him and Dave cut the engine off. A few minutes later, Luka helped John get back into the car, where he promptly laid back down.
Luka got back in the car. "He's burning up. He needs to get some decent rest in a bed. There should be a motel or something here."
"I don't think that Doctor Weaver will be too thrilled about that. She said we were to watch our expenses."
"I'll pay for the room. Just find us a motel. You are capable of that, are you not?"
"Yeah, I can do that. Just shut up and watch me," Dave snapped.
A few minutes later, Dave pulled into the parking lot of the Shady Rest Motor Lodge. There weren't a lot of cars around, so it was a good bet they could get rooms.
"Wait here," Luka ordered as he got out of the car. Dave was tempted to go inside anyway, just to annoy him, but someone needed to stay in the car with John. Reaching over the backseat, he gently felt John's cheek and forehead. Luka was right, John was burning up. He wished they had a thermometer, but his mental inventory of his doctor's bag told him that he didn't have one. Maybe Luka or John had one in their bags.
Luka returned to the car. "Room 12, to the right over there and toward the back."
"One room? There doesn't seem to be a lot of guests here, Luka."
"We need to stay with John, so one room with two beds and a roll away bed will be sufficient for our needs. The desk clerk said that the storm is going to get worse and it's a good thing we decided to stop. There's a store down the road and we can get medicine for John there, and something to eat."
"I suppose you want me to go shopping then."
Luka thought about it, then shook his head. "I'll go once we get John put to bed. I think I've had more experience driving in snow."
"Whatever." Inwardly, Dave was glad that he didn't have to drive back out in the mess. He parked and they got John and their luggage into the room. It was a corner room and very spacious, with a large bathroom. Besides the two double beds, there was a table with four chairs, a dresser with a television perched on the top and a chest of drawers. The extra bed was in the closet, but Dave could see that there was plenty of space in the room for it. He didn't want to be the one stuck with the cot. It would be lumpy. He could wait until later to fight Luka over the other bed. Then again, Luka would most likely tell him he could have the real bed. He was like that. So amiable and indifferent to things that would bother normal people. Too good to be true, that's what Luka Kovac was. Dave chuckled as he recalled how Luka had treated him on this rip -- the people back at the hospital would be aghast to hear the tone of Luka's voice when he was tearing into him.
"Is there something humorous about all of this?" Luka asked, his tone telling Dave that he wasn't finding anything funny right now.
"No. I was just thinking how lucky we were to get such a great room. And you won't have to pay for it all by yourself. I'll chip in half."
"If you wish. Any special requests from the store?"
"Something hot to eat and something cold to drink. Like a beer."
Luka nodded. "Got it. I'll be back as soon as I can. Why don't you call Kerry while I'm gone and let her know that we'll be delayed getting back," Luka picked the car keys up off of the table, then shook his head. "On second thought, I'll call her when I get back."
"You don't trust me to call her?"
"I'd prefer to explain things to her. Do you know if John is allergic to any medications?"
"How would I know something like that?"
Luka shrugged. "You like everyone to think that you know everything, so why wouldn't you know?"
"Well, I don't know that." Dave gently shook John's shoulder.
"Luka's going to the store to get food and some medicine for you. Are you allergic to anything?"
John shook his head. "Not that I know about. Just get me some juice. I'll be fine once I get some rest. I don't need anything else."
"You might want to take something to make you feel better. It won't be easy to get rest if you're feeling achy," Luka said.
Once more, John shook his head. "I'll be fine, Luka. I can live with the aches and pains. Honest. I don't want any medicine, okay?"
Luka frowned, but he nodded. "Okay. Juice for you then. I'll be back as soon as I can." He bundled up once more and headed outside, leaving John and Dave alone.
"What time is it?" John asked.
"Almost three. It's still snowing pretty heavily, so it's a good thing we decided to stop overnight. Why don't you try to go back to sleep and we'll wake you when Luka gets back with the groceries. Maybe you'll feel like eating something by then."
John grimaced. "I doubt it." He suddenly shivered and pulled the covers closer around his body. "I could handle some water though. Would you mind getting some for me?"
Dave grabbed a glass and filled it, then waited until John had sat up before handing it to him. John managed a few sips before he gave the glass back.
"Can you try to drink a little bit more? You don't want to get dehydrated."
John shook his head. "Maybe later." He snuggled back down under the covers and closed his eyes, wishing for any part of his body to quit aching and silently cursing Max Rosher for giving him the flu in the first place. His head was pounding, he ached all over and his stomach was sore from all the vomiting he had been doing. Oh yeah, Max, life is great, thank you very much. He found it ironic that he, a person who was so vigilant in making sure he received a flu shot every year, should get hit with a strain of flu that the shot just did not cover. The only consolation he had was that Max Rosher was also feeling like shit right now.
"Do you happen to have a thermometer in your bag?"
"Yeah, I think I do. Did you bring everything in here or is it still in the trunk of the car?"
Dave looked around, finally spotting the three doctors bags on the floor on the other side of the bed. "They're here." He looked through John's bag, finding the thermometer and then popping it into John's mouth. A few minutes later he had the result, and he wasn't pleased with it.
"Well?" John asked.
"You definitely have a fever. 103.8."
"Well, that's not really unexpected, is it? I'm sorry that you won't get home on time now."
"It's not your fault that you got sick. I just hope that I don't catch this strain, too."
"Forget about it. Go on and sleep. You need it more than I need the company."
It was about an hour later when Luka returned. "How is John doing?"
"He's been asleep since right after you left. His temperature then was 103.8, but I want to take it again before we give him anything. What did you get?"
"I bought some microwaveable food that doesn't have to be kept frozen. Here's your beer. I bought lots of juice since I think we should drink that as well. And broth and some sports drinks for John. I also bought some plastic bowls and utensils for us." Luka had also bought a cold and flu medicine and a bottle of alcohol, just in case they ended up needing to give John an alcohol rub. Luka hoped it wouldn't come to that, but he believed in being prepared, and it hadn't cost that much.
"Good idea. I'll fix the food if you'll look after John."
Luka nodded as he hung up his coat in the closet. "It's snowing harder out there and on the radio they said it was looking as if this would be a bad storm. The power might even go out in some areas of the county."
"I hope it doesn't happen here." Dave scanned the instructions for heating the broth, then poured it into a bowl and popped it into the microwave.
Luka measured out a dose of Motrin, then woke John so he could take his temperature.
"Back so soon?" John asked as he sat up.
"I didn't want to buy too much at one time. Open up." He stuck the thermometer in John's mouth, then took his pulse, finding it to be slightly fast. The thermometer beeped and Luka noted that John's temperature had not risen since Dave had taken it earlier.
"Well? What's the verdict?"
"Your temperature is the same as it was when Dave took it, and your pulse rate is a little fast."
John fluffed up the pillows behind his back and leaned back against the headboard. "Is it still snowing?"
"Yes. Quite heavily. It's a good thing we stopped. I'm going to call Kerry to let her know that we won't be getting back on schedule."
"I think we're going to have to pull some extra shifts to make up for getting back late. Guys, I'm really sorry that my getting sick has resulted in this. I could literally strangle Rosher for this."
"Did you know him before the conference?" Dave asked as he stepped over to the bed with the bowl of broth and a spoon.
John took the bowl from him and stirred it. "Yeah, I knew him. He came out to County to set up the emergency pediatric unit. That's his specialty. He didn't stay long though, but when he left, he...never mind." John stared at the broth, remembering the day that Anna told him that she was returning to Philadelphia with Max Rosher. That had hurt and it had taken him a long time to get over that pain. As much as it had been a shock to see Max Rosher at the conference, it had been just as startling to see Anna. And to find out that she was now Anna Rosher. It hadn't hurt though, and he was glad of that. Although to be honest with himself, he wasn't sure if that was due to him actually getting over her or to the fact that Doctor Daraad had him on an anti-depressant. Whatever the reason, John couldn't deny that she was happy with Rosher and in the end he supposed that her happiness was what mattered the most. There had been one good thing about the housing arrangements at the conference. While he had been put in a room with Rosher, Anna had been put in a room with someone else. Rosher had assumed that he and Anna would be put in a room together because they were married, but the housing director had quickly informed him otherwise. They did end up with connecting rooms though, so John ended up seeing a lot of Anna. And a lot of Anna and Rosher hugging and kissing. A year ago that would have torn him apart. Roxanne and Elaine had helped him get past that.
"You should drink some of this, too. And take this." Dave placed a glass of the sports drink on the nightstand beside a measured cup of medicine.
John looked at the drink, medicine and broth with disinterest. He knew he needed to get fluids into his system, but he had no appetite. What he wanted to do was crawl back under the covers, get warm and pray for God to either make him feel better soon or just kill him outright. But, he knew that neither one was going to happen. He also wasn't surprised to see that Luka had not listened to him about not wanting to take any medicine. Hell, why should he have? John knew he couldn't have sounded very convincing. He did want it, he just knew he couldn't take it. He wasn't so out of it that he didn't remember that mixing a cold medication with his Nardil prescription. Very nasty things could happen as a result of that. But, he wasn't up to baring his soul to Luka and Dave right now, so he wasn't going to tell them about his meds. He would just avoid taking the cold medicine. That couldn't be a difficult thing to accomplish.
John put the bowl on the nightstand. "It's too hot to eat right now."
"John, you haven't even tried it yet. You know how important it is for you to eat right now." Dave sat down on the other bed, trying not to listen to the conversation that Luka was now having with Kerry Weaver.
"Why? All I'm going to do is throw it back up. Why waste it?" John slid back under the covers, not even caring that he was being unreasonable. He was achy and sore, dammitt, and he wanted to sleep.
"Then at least take the medicine. You'll feel better if you do."
"No. Go away." he said. So what if he was behaving like a spoiled child? He just wanted Dave to leave him alone.
"Only if you eat something."
John sat back up, glaring angrily as he took the broth from Dave. He got down two spoonfuls, then handed it back to him. Then he burrowed back under the covers, shutting out the two men in the room with him.
Dave wasn't sure what to do with the broth, so he just left it on the table beside the medicine. Going back to the microwave, he opened a small container of ravioli and popped it into the microwave, then opened his beer. By the time his food was ready, Luka was done with the call.
"John didn't eat?"
Dave shook his head. "Said that since he was going to just throw it back up, then there was no sense in wasting it. He did finally get a few spoonfuls down. And a few sips of the drink. He wouldn't take the medicine."
"You should have made him."
Dave shook his head. "He's a grown man, Luka. How am I supposed to make him do anything? I can't sit there and feed it to him."
"You can if you need to. He needs the fluids. This flu strain is new, which is why it wasn't included in the shot this year. There's no telling how it will progress."
"Well, when he wakes up again, you can feed him. I have no intention of playing "Mommy" to a grown man. Especially him."
"I thought you liked John."
"I do like him. That's why I have no desire to sit there and feed him. The microwave is all yours if you're hungry." Dave sat down at the table and began to eat. "What did Weaver have to say?"
"She seemed understanding and told me to use my best judgement as far as trying to get back to Chicago. She also doesn't want us coming back sick."
"Well, let's see. John spent a few days as Rosher's roommate and he ended up catching it. They didn't even spend all day and night in the same room. We've been in the same car as John for hours and now are in the same room with him. I'd say the odds are not in your favor. Since I've already had the flu this season, I should be all right."
"Don't you ever listen? It's a new flu strain, Malucci. You're just as vulnerable to it as I am. That's why I bought the juice for us. And some vitamins. We should do all we can to try to stay healthy."
Luka brought his food and juice to the table, then began to eat. Since neither one of them really wanted to have a conversation with the other, the meal passed silently. The only noise in the room was the sound of the heat coming through the vents and John's muffled coughing.
One of the things that Luka had not told Dave was that Kerry was going to try to call to see how Max Rosher was doing. If she found out, she would call him back so he would know what to expect for John. Kerry was quite fond of John and Luka had inadvertently been let in on one of her big secrets. Even though she had originally told John to move out of her house when she had been appointed as Chief of Emergency Services, John had not moved out. He had looked For weeks, but had been unable to find anything. So, Kerry had let him stay on the condition that he get a post office box for his mail and not tell anyone that he was still living there. Luka knew because after he had obtained the rental car, he had gone to pick John up and Kerry happened to be home at the time. She had not intended to be there. As a matter of fact, she had already left for work. But, she had forgotten something and returned home for it, thinking she would be able to grab what she needed and be gone before Luka arrived. Luck had not been on her side. She had carefully explained the situation to Luka, then asked him to keep the news to himself. He had readily agreed. What business was it of anyone where John lived or to whom Kerry rented a room? He was glad that he had not yet picked up Dave, that man would have been elated to know that information.
Luka carried his bowl and spoon into the bathroom and quickly washed them out, then dried them. He was aware of Dave's eyes on him the entire time, and he wondered just how much time would pass before Dave said anything. Dave had not seen the necessity of cleaning his bowl and spoon - he had simply tossed them into the trashcan. Perhaps Dave had the right idea about what was and was not disposable, but Luka couldn't bring himself to waste them. He was still too conscious of what had been in short supply back in Croatia to do that.
As Luka walked back through the room, Dave watched him, but he kept quiet. Good, Luka thought. I really don't feel up to arguing with him. He retrieved John's broth and reheated it, then set it back on the nightstand before attempting to awaken John. It took a few minutes, but he finally got John awake and into a sitting position.
"It's time to take your temperature again. Open up." Luka put the thermometer into John's mouth, hoping that the reading would show that John's fever had abated somewhat. Not that one could tell by looking at him. John's face was flushed and his eyes were bright from the fever. His lips were dry and looking chapped and there was a slight sheen of perspiration on his forehead. Luka checked his pulse again, noting that his skin was clammy. The pulse was still fast, but not enough to warrant concern. The thermometer beeped and Luka checked it. As John's body was wracked by coughs, Luka shook his head. "I wish you would reconsider taking the medicine."
"I thought you believed that fevers were one of the many ways our bodies fight infections? That they're good for us? Let mine work then, all right?"
"I'll let it go for now. But, you do need to eat."
"I'm not hungry." John closed his eyes and leaned back against the pillows. Just the thought of eating made his stomach feel queasy.
"I will give you a choice, John. You can feed yourself or I can feed you. Which will it be?"
"Don't be so childish. You are a doctor and you know how important it is for you to eat. You don't want to make yourself any more ill than you already are, do you?"
"If I try to eat, then I will throw up. I don't want to throw up, so therefore, I refuse to eat. Sounds simple enough to me, Luka."
"If you do not eat then you will become dehydrated. There is a bad snowstorm raging outside and according to the news, it might become a blizzard. We cannot get you to a hospital in a blizzard, even if we knew where the nearest one was located. Therefore, you will eat. If you throw up, then you will eat again so that you can keep fluids in your body. Sounds simple enough to me, John."
Over at the table, Dave began to laugh, but Luka sent a stern glare in his direction and he tried his best to stop.
"Fine," John snapped. "Give me the damn bowl."
Luka handed him the bowl. "Go slowly. Give your stomach time to get used to having something in it."
"I know what to do, Luka. As you pointed out, I am a doctor." John slowly raised the spoon to his lips, hoping that his stomach wouldn't betray him. He knew that Luka was right about the need for fluids, but he didn't see how he could manage to force the broth down his throat and not end up losing all of it. He managed to get about six spoonfuls down before he knew he had to get into the bathroom. He shoved the bowl at Luka and got out of bed, feeling unsteady on his feet as he tried to hurry into the other room. He barely made it, and he sank down onto his knees as his body rebelled against his will.
John nodded and took the damp wash cloth from Dave. "Maybe I should just stay in here. I won't have to walk so far next time."
"Nah, that isn't such a good idea. The floor's too cold." Dave helped him to his feet, then reached out to steady John when he saw that he was swaying on his feet. "Dizzy?"
"A little." John coughed deeply, then pulled away from Dave and walked back toward his bed. He hated being sick and he hated having people take care of him. He was beginning to hate everything about this trip.
"You should drink some of this," Luka held out a glass of juice to him.
"No." John sat down on the bed, thinking that he wanted to take off his clothes and change into a T-shirt and sweat pants. But, his suitcase was over by the door and he didn't feel much like getting up to haul it to the bed. He began to unbutton his shirt, deciding that stripping down to his boxers would be good enough for now. He could get his sweatpants and T-shirt when he felt a little less light-headed.
Luka set the glass down. "Here, let me help you get out of that."
"I can undress myself, Luka. Why don't you two watch t.v. or something? I don't need you or Dave hovering over me."
Dave, who had been on the other side of the bed and behind John, looked over at Luka, hoping that Luka had seen how unsteady John had been just then.
"Okay, we'll be over at the table if you need anything." Luka and Dave went to sit down.
"He said he was dizzy," Dave said, making sure to keep his voice low enough so that John wouldn't overhear. Not that it mattered, he was coughing again and probably wouldn't overhear anything they said.
"I thought he seemed disoriented when he walked back in here. I hope that Kerry calls back soon with some news about Rosher and this strain of flu."
"You didn't mention that she was calling back."
"Well, she is. She's going to try to track down Rosher and find out how he's doing."
Dave nodded, seeing the sense in that. "I think I'll go to the manager's office. It wouldn't hurt to know just how far away we are from a hospital."
"Good idea, but I think maybe I should go."
"Why? Don't you think I can handle asking a simple question?" Dave had just about had enough of Luka and his irritating way of thinking that he was the only one who could do anything right. Okay, Dave admitted to himself that getting them lost wasn't the brightest thing he had ever done. He should have swallowed his pride and woke Luka up so the guy could navigate for them. But, he let his pride get in the way and now they were stuck out in the boonies of Ohio with a sick friend who, by the looks of things, was going to get worse before he got better. The only consolation that Dave had was hearing on the t.v. that the snow system was widespread over this northern part of Ohio and they would have ended up in it anyway. At least this way they were warm and safe in a motel and not pulled over to the side of the interstate freezing their butts off.
"I think that right now John is very irritated with me. He needs to drink some more and I feel he will be more willing to have you ask him right now." Luka glanced in John's direction, then lowered his voice. "I put the medicine in his juice."
"Oh. Good idea. Yeah, well, I'll make sure he drinks it."
Luka nodded. "Good." He put on his coat and headed outside.
Dave looked over to John's bed, noting that he was finally undressed enough to get under the covers. "Hey, John, why don't you drink something before you go back to sleep? I can put a trashcan by the bed just in case. That way, if you do get sick, you won't have to get up again."
John pulled the covers up around his waist. "I guess that will be all right."
When Dave handed the glass to John he was a little surprised to see that John's hand was shaking. He ended up supporting the glass while John drank nearly half of the juice.
"No problem. The trashcan is right down here and I'll just put the rest of the juice on the nightstand, okay?"
John nodded, then burrowed under the covers, closing his eyes against the bright light of the room. He could hear the telephone ring and Dave answering it, but he easily tuned that out as he fell into a troubled sleep.
"Malucci? It's Kerry Weaver. Is Luka there?"
"He's out of the room right now. He told me that you were going to try to call Rosher to find out how he was doing."
"Yes. I didn't get a chance to speak with him though. He's in the hospital in Buffalo. It seems that he collapsed at the airport as they were returning to Philadelphia. His doctors don't know too much about this strain of flu. They were able to tell me that it does result in a high fever, persistent cough, nausea, irritability, etc. The usual symptoms, but more intense."
"Why is Rosher in the hospital? Dehydration?"
"Partially that. The flu went into pneumonia, so you should watch John for that. But, I also found out that Rosher didn't take a flu shot of any kind this year, so that might account for how badly he was affected. How's John?"
Dave told her how he was doing, including the fact that he was able to get him to drink some juice right before she called.
"That's good. How bad is the storm there? The weather report I heard makes it sound as if you're in for a bad time of it."
"That's what we hear. Luka went to find out where the hospital is located. You know, just in case."
"That's a good idea. Aside from the flu, how is John doing? He's not depressed, is he?"
"Depressed? No. Irritable."
"I see. I heard that he roomed with Max Rosher. They know each other."
"That's pretty much what John said. He told us that Rosher was at County for a short time doing consultation work. I also met an old County person -- Anna Del Amico. She said she had worked in the E.R."
"That's right. I found out that she was at the conference when I called to check about Rosher. She and John were good friends at one time."
"Really? He didn't mention that. Neither did she for that matter. Asked a lot of questions about him though. Then again, she asked a lot of questions about everyone there."
"And I'm sure you were more than willing to fill her in on all the gossip. Have Luka call me when he gets back. I'm at work."
"Yes, ma'am. Bye."
Dave hung up, his ego wounded that Kerry Weaver would think that he had a big mouth. Sure, he liked to talk a lot, but most of what he said wasn't important. Was it? Had he been gossiping about his co-workers? While it was true that he asked a lot of personal questions about them, it wasn't because he was being nosy or malicious. He just wanted to know more about them. Was that such a crime? He heard John mumble something and went over to see what he needed. It turned out that John was still asleep, but having a dream or something of that nature. Please don't let his fever be so high that he's delirious, he prayed.
He was reaching for the thermometer when Luka returned to the room, distracting him from the task at hand. They sat down and Luka told him about the latest reports on the progress of the storm and that the hospital was on the other side of the county -- about sixty miles away. The only good thing is that it was on the same road as the motel. Then Dave told him about Weaver's telephone call.
"I would say that we should try to get John there now, but the road is almost impassable out there. The manager said that he hasn't even seen any snow plows out there yet, and he thinks that the county is waiting until the storm is over before going out to clear the roads. I don't think that our rental car is equipped with four wheel drive. I know that I would not feel comfortable driving out there right now."
"Me, either. It's been a long time since I had to drive in a snowstorm. But, I don't think we need to worry yet about John. He drank about half of the juice, so that's good. And it's stayed down, which is even better. Once the medicine starts to work, he'll be fine."
"I hope so. I suppose I should call Kerry. Weren't you about to take John's temperature when I came back?"
"Yeah, I was."
The two went to their respective tasks, each one hoping that this day would quickly come to an end. But, they knew that wouldn't happen. It was only five in the afternoon and it was a long time to go until they could call it a day.
In his dream, John smiled at Anna and his heart melted as she looked lovingly into his eyes and smiled back.
"I never stopped hoping that you'd come back to Chicago."
"John, I could never leave you behind. You know that."
"Anna, what's going on here?" Max Rosher asked as he grabbed her by the arm and planted a long and sloppy kiss on her. John rushed to her aid, pushing Rosher away. When the man tried to grab Anna once more, John hit him. Rosher fell to the ground, out cold.
"Anna, it's all right. He won't bother you again."
She shook her head. "No, you don't understand. He's my husband. We're married now. I love him, John."
He shook his head. "No. You would never marry him without telling me. I know you too well, Anna."
"I did marry him, John. We've been married for about a year now. We're very happy together. I'm happy." She looked at him intently, her eyes searching his face for a sign that he understood that this was for real. That she really did love Max with all her heart. "Can't you be happy for me, John?"
"Yes. I can do that."
"Thank you." She turned away from him and walked away. He tried to follow her, but he stumbled over Rosher's body and fell to the ground. When he tried to get up, he could feel someone holding him down. Rosher most likely. Trying to keep him away from Anna. Bastard.
"Let me go. Anna, come back. Please come back. Don't leave me here," he called after her. But, she just kept walking away. "No."
The thermometer beeped and Dave quickly plucked it out of John's mouth as Luka released John's shoulders. It had been a struggle to get the thermometer into his mouth since John had wanted to fight them off. It worried them that he had been so combative since he was more asleep than awake.
"Damn." Luka shook his head. It had now been three hours since he had given John the medicine and the fever had only gotten worse. "Let's give him some more medicine. Since it was diluted with the juice and he didn't drink all of it, it might not be as effective. I'm sure a full dose will work."
"It had better. If he's like this now, what will he be like if his fever gets any higher?" Dave asked as he measured out the dose. "Do you want to wake him up or be the one to give it to him?"
"I'll wake him up. You give it to him."
"Considering how hard he fought us just now, I think I'm getting the short end of the straw with this deal. Wake him up."
That turned out to be easier said than done, Luka later thought. John had fallen back into a deep sleep and they were never able to completely rouse him from that sleep. John was coherent enough to take the medicine, or most of it anyway, although he kept telling them he didn't want to take anything. Now all that was left for him and Dave was the waiting. Luka thought that he would give the medicine an hour to take effect. If it didn't work, then he would resort to giving him an alcohol rub. He didn't want to think about what he would do if that didn't work. The motel manager had called back to the room to let them know that the county had effectively banned traffic from the roads, so even if he did think he could drive John to the hospital, it wasn't allowed now.
Luka was sitting at the table reading a medical journal while Dave watched a movie on television. At least the motel had cable, so the reception was clear. Dave checked his watch, wishing for time to fly by. Hell, he was wishing for a lot right now. The number one wish being that John's fever would break and he would quickly recover from this bout of flu. The number two wish was that he didn't catch the flu from John. The telephone rang and he jumped from the suddenness of the sound. Luka answered it before it could ring a second time.
"Luka, it's Kerry Weaver. I just got off of the phone with Memorial Hospital in Buffalo. Max Rosher is dead."
Luka thought he heard more worry than sorrow in her voice. "From the flu?"
"Partially. It seems he was HIV positive, so his immune system was already compromised. According to Anna, he didn't know about his HIV status, so he had not been taken the AIDS cocktail. Still, I think it might be a good idea for you to get John to the local hospital. God knows it couldn't hurt."
"You might be right, but we can't do that now. The county officials have closed the roads to all but emergency vehicles. They aren't even planning to try to remove the snow until the storm stops."
"How's he doing?"
"His fever has gone over 104. We gave him some more medicine about thirty minutes ago and we'll take his temperature again in a bit."
"Have you been able to get more fluids in him?"
"A little bit."
"Well, keep trying. And if the medicine you're using doesn't work, then you should switch to something else. Do you have any aspirin?"
"Yes, I bought some when I went to the store earlier."
"Good. It's important that you..."
But, Luka never heard the rest of what Kerry had to say because the line went dead and the lights in the room flickered, then went out completely, as did the television. As Dave cursed and stumbled around the darkened room, Luka replaced the receiver. He knew that John had a cell phone and wanted to get it to call Kerry back.
"Dave, open the drapes. There might be enough light for us to see what we're doing."
"Sure." Dave bumped into the chair, but he ignored his throbbing knee and made his way to the nearest window. He opened the drapes all the way and it did help some. As he opened the rest of the drapes, he could see that Luka was at the closet looking for something.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for John's cell phone. Ah, here it is. Low batt? That's not a good thing, is it?"
"Nope. You might be able to talk for a minute though, but I wouldn't risk it. When those batteries die, they cut you off abruptly."
"Then it probably won't be any good to us if we need it for an emergency, will it?"
"Damn. That was Kerry on the phone. Rosher is dead. It seems he was HIV positive and his compromised immune system coupled with this flu was too much for his body to handle."
"Should we try to get John to the hospital then?"
"I don't think we'd get very far out there. Besides, as you've pointed out to me once already, John isn't in any danger right now. I think we can hold off on that." At least that was what Luka hoped. He heard John moan and Luka glanced through the dimness at him, thinking that the medicine wasn't doing anything to help.
"Maybe we can get help from 911."
There was a knock on the door and Dave answered it. It was the manager with lanterns for them. He told them that they were battery powered and the batteries had full charges on them. "I have no idea how long the power and phone will be out. Since the heat is also out, I was thinking that the three of you might want to come up to the office. My wife and I live behind the office and our living room is big enough to hold a fair sized crowd. There's only four other guests here tonight, so we could easily accommodate the three of you. I do have a fireplace, so there would be heat."
"Thank you for the offer, but we should stay here. John has the flu and is running a high fever and is probably contagious right now," Luka replied.
"That's okay, the wife and I have had our flu shots and I can check to see if the other guests got theirs."
"It wouldn't matter. John had a flu shot as well, but he still managed to catch it. You see, the flu shot doesn't protect you against every strain of flu that might be out there. Just a select grouping. John's flu strain was not included in this year's shot," Luka patiently explained.
"Oh," the manager said, slowly nodding. "I see. I never really knew how or why they worked. I just know that I get mine every year and never get the flu. In this business, I can't afford tobe laid out with it."
"I guess not. Thank you for the lanterns," Luka said as he opened the door. The manager took the hint and left. Luka closed the door against the storm.
"John would be better off in a warm room," Dave said.
"That's true. It's also true that he's contagious as long as he's running a fever. The two of us might already have contracted this flu. We can't expose the rest of the guests to it."
"I feel fine. Don't you?"
"Yes, but that might change. John felt fine until right before we left Buffalo."
"We don't even know how this thing is spread. John and Rosher were sharing the same room and breathing the same air in a closed in space. This room is much larger than the ones we had in Buffalo."
"The car was a confined space and we were all breathing the same air. If it's that important to you, then why don't you take the manager up on his offer? I can manage things here just fine."
"I'm sure you can. You want to do everything you can to help John. And I know why, too. You want to get back to Chicago and be able to tell Weaver that you saved John's life. Well, I'm here, too, and I'm just as good a doctor as you, so you can just go take the man up on his offer while I stay here to take care of John." There was no way that Dave was going to get back to Chicago and have to listen to Luka tell everyone that he had deserted them. If Luka could stay here, then he could stay here, too.
"I never said you weren't a good doctor and I never thought the things you said. I feel that John will be better off if he has both of us to take care of him. It will be a long night and we can take turns watching him."
"Fine. We can do that. So, you can go on and get some sleep while I watch him."
"I don't have a problem with that," Luka evenly replied.
"Me, either," Dave snapped, thinking that Luka Kovac was a sanctimonious bastard most of the time. No one else could do things the right way as long as Doctor Luke was in the house. No one. Especially him. "You should take the fold away bed. You won't get too much sleep if you're in the bed next to John's."
"I had intended to take that bed anyway." Luka set the bed up, then changed into pajamas and crawled under the covers. Dave had cut off the other lantern but there was still a lot of light in the room and Luka knew that between the light and the sound of John's coughs, it was going to take some time for him to fall asleep.
Dave propped up some pillows and took a seat on the other bed. He wished the power would come back on so he would have something to distract him while he waited for it to be his turn to sleep. Still, with the lantern on the table that was nestled between the beds, he found he did have enough light to read by. So, out came the comic books. He was halfway through his stack when he saw John sit up.
"Are you okay?" Dave put the book down and swung his legs over the side of the bed, ready to help John if he needed it.
"Hot," John softly replied. "So hot." John's eyes were glued to the window where he could see the snow falling outside. He knew it had to be cool out there. And he was so hot. So very hot. He struggled with the covers, then got to his feet,determined to get outside.
"Whoa, I don't think you want to go out there right now. Especially since you aren't dressed for the weather." Dave rushed around the bed and caught up to John as he was halfway to the door.
"Hot," John repeated. He knew that if Dave would just let him go outside then he would feel so much better.
"I know. Let's get you back in bed and I'll get you something cool to drink, okay?" Dave turned him around, or at least he tried to turn him around. John had other ideas. If he had not been weakened by the flu, then he might have been able to put up more of a fight, but Dave won when he finally decided to just pick John up and carry him back to bed.
"What's wrong?" Luka asked as he sat up.
"John's trying to get outside. He's still burning up, Luka." Dave gently laid John on the sheets, then changed his mind as he realized they were damp with sweat. He carried John over to the other bed and was grateful to see that Luka had seen his intention and had pulled back the covers. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. We can get fresh sheets from the manager." Luka grabbed the thermometer, intending to take John's temperature.
"Let me go out there. So hot in here. Too hot," John murmured.
"I'll get that water I promised you, okay?" Dave grabbed a clean glass and went to the bathroom for fresh water. When he came back, it was obvious that Luka was having a great deal of difficulty getting the thermometer into John's mouth. The man kept shaking his head and trying his best to push Luka's hands away.
"You'll need to hold his head still for me."
"Can't he have the water first?"
"This will only take two minutes. I think it's more important that we get his temperature taken first."
"And it will take less than a minute for him to drink some water. He's hot, Luka. He might cooperate once he gets something to drink." Not waiting for Luka's answer, Dave sat on the edge of the bed and lifted John's head from the pillow, placing the rim of the glass at his lips. John drank greedily, begging for more when the water was gone.
"I'll get you more, but first you have to let Luka take your temperature, okay?"
"Doan wanna. So hot." John's eyes were dull and they darted from side to side. "Anna? Where's Anna?"
"Anna?" Dave asked.
"Anna," John yelled. "Don't leave me. Please don't leave me."
"Who is he talking about?" Dave asked.
"I don't know. Kerry mentioned that Rosher's wife was named Anna."
"That's right. She was on my team and she mentioned that she had worked at County General. She never said that she had been John's girlfriend though, so it might not be her that he's asking for." It certainly sounded to Dave as if John had been calling for a lover and not a colleague.
"Anna's not here right now, John, but you'll see her soon," Luka said.
"Anna?" John looked up at Luka.
"Soon. Let's get your temperature taken, okay?"
This time John didn't fight him as he placed the thermometer into his mouth. Luka wasn't really sure why he bothered once he saw the results. John's temperature was close to 105.
"We have to get his temperature down," Luka told Dave as the other man helped John drink more water.
"Well, none of the medication has worked. What else can we do? It's not as if we have a cooling bed at our disposal."
"No, we don't," Luka thoughtfully replied. "But, I did buy some alcohol at the store. If you'll get me a wash cloth, I can give him an alcohol rub. That should bring the fever down."
"Good idea." Dave got a wash cloth while Luka retrieved the bottle of alcohol. It didn't take long to give John the alcohol rub, and they made sure that he was bundled under the covers the second that Luka was finished. While they waited to see if it would work, Luka took the time to change out of his pajamas.
"Luka, doesn't it seem strange to you that John would have been sweating like that? And shouldn't he also be experiencing chills alternating with the hot flashes? It doesn't fit the usual flu symptoms."
"Kerry said that there wasn't a lot known about this strain of flu."
"Still, it seems odd to me. And he's too delirious for his current temperature. Sure, I know that 105 is high, but it shouldn't make him combative and this delirious."
"Let's concentrate on getting his temperature down, then we can worry about what seems odd, okay?"
And the alcohol rub worked. It brought John's temperature back down to 104.1, but after thirty more minutes, it went up again, going above the previous high of 104.7.
"What about a tepid bath?" Dave suggested, "it might help."
"We can try it. It certainly can't hurt him right now, that's for sure."
"And I think we should let the manager know that we need an ambulance as soon as possible. His respiration is way too fast now, but it can slow down and send him into respiratory distress before we know it. Especially with this cough."
"You're thinking that he's going into pneumonia?"
"I agree. I'll go run the bath. Hopefully there will be enough hot water available so the water won't be too cold."
"I'll get some dry clothes for him and a lot of towels." Dave headed for John's suitcase while Luka took the second lantern and went into the bathroom to run the bath. As he rummaged around for something to dress him in, he could hear John mumbling. Now he was talking to or about someone named Bobby. Or was it Bobbi? John was a good-looking guy and Dave was sure he must have had a large number of girlfriends over the years. Probably all looked like Elaine, he bet. How did someone get that lucky?
"The water's almost high enough. Did you find some clothing for him?" Luka asked from the doorway.
"I think these sweatpants and a T-shirt will do." Dave turned to put them on the bed when something fell from between them. He set the clothing down, then looked to see what had fallen. It was a bottle. A prescription bottle to be exact. He picked it up, then walked over to the nightstand so he could more easily read it in the lantern's light. The name Nardil sprang up at him and he re-read the label, noting that Karl Daraad was the prescribing physician. John was taking an anti-depressant.
"Luka, we need that ambulance now." Dave hoped that his voice didn't betray the panic he was feeling.
"Why?" Luka asked from the doorway.
Dave tossed the bottle to Luka. "John's taking an MAOI."
Luka shook his head. He knew he had heard the term before, but he wasn't exactly sure what it meant.
"A Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor. You can't take cold medicines if you're taking this stuff, Luka," Dave yelled.
"I know what a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor is, Dave," Luka yelled back as he fought down a wave of guilt -- and panic. He had been the one who thought of slipping the medicine to John. Putting his life in danger.
"That explains the oddness of his symptoms. Not only is he showing flu symptoms, but symptoms from the drug interaction." Dave was trying to remember all the various symptoms and dangers involved with mixing an MAOInhibitor with a cold medicine. He knew he wasn't remembering all of them, but those that he did remember were bad. And deadly if left untreated.
"I'll see if the manager has a cell phone." Luka tossed the bottle back to Dave, grabbed his coat and ran out the door.
Dave went into the bathroom and cut off the water. It was vital to get John's temperature down now. Having a high fever was one of the symptoms of the drug interaction. He returned to the room and gathered up all the towels he could find, setting them on the floor of the bathroom so it would be easy to dry John once they got him out of the tub.
Returning to the bedroom, he pulled back the covers. "Come along, John. We're going to see if we can't get your temperature down."
"Where's Dennis? Do you know where he is? Oh, God, no, he can't be dead. Not him, too. Please not him," John cried out, his arms flailing about as he relived his own personal Hell.
Dave bent down and scooped John up into his arms, then carried him to the tub. He gently lowered him into the water, resting John's head against his arm. John's body shuddered at first, then he quieted down. Dave grabbed a washcloth, and used his free hand to carefully bathe John's face. "This has to work," he told himself.