Tag for JSA#40, 'Do No Harm', which is a very old storyline by now, but I miss the JSA and Pieter Cross is still one of my favourite fictional characters.
Terrific doesn't get nervous. Not any more. Not since he won his first court case and proposed to Paula the same afternoon. Nerves aren't his thing. There's no situation that can't be rationalised, and few in which nerves will change the outcome for the better.
He holds his hands under the tap and watches them shake.
This is different. This is surgery, and a hostage situation. The stakes are as high as they've ever been, and Terrific has learned a lot of things over the years but pancreatic coduodenectomies aren't among them. Especially not when the patient really isn't fit enough for one.
It's just as well that Mid-Nite's hands are rock steady.
Terrific draws in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Mid-Nite is one of the best surgeons in the world. His record with this procedure is impeccable. All he needs is a capable scrub assistant, and Michael is quite capable of that at least. They can do this.
He feels eyes on him, and turns to see Mid-Nite watching him. His eyes are impossible to read behind the green lenses.
"Are you all right?"
His voice is as steady as if he were scrubbing for an abscess, and it gives Michael confidence enough to nod. "Yes."
Mid-Nite continues to study him, and Michael shivers. Strange how a blind man can seem to be staring straight through him. "Just stay calm," he says finally. He starts to shrug on his surgical gown but keeps addressing Michael. "You're familiar with all the instruments we'll be using, and we'll be taking it slow and steady. Just follow my lead."
Michael nods. He hates feeling inadequate, but if he has to do this there's no one else he'd pick. They can do it.
The consequences of failure don't bear thinking about.
It's all over.
Michael can't say he's surprised by the outcome. Mid-Nite is good, but Vartan was in no way fit for a procedure like that. They did everything they could, and the children, at least, are all safe. It's a result Michael can live with.
It's all over and Pieter's hands are shaking.
They wash up again, and this time Michael's the one doing the watching. After seeing him operate without a flicker of uncertainty the tremor makes him uneasy. Pieter doesn't speak; he hasn't since he announced the time of death. Michael sighs.
"You did everything you could."
Pieter's gaze doesn't move from his hands. "It wasn't enough."
"His chances were never good, Pieter. You said so yourself."
"I still should have done more." He dries his hands and begins to turn away but Michael plants himself in his path.
"There was nothing else you could do. There was nothing anyone could have done. You know that, and you cannot blame yourself."
"I nearly got a school full of children killed," Pieter snaps. Michael stares at the unexpected show of temper, but Pieter doesn't give him a chance to interrupt. "I should have done more."
"How?" Michael asks. "You heard his terms. We were lucky he even let you have an assistant. What else could you have done?"
Pieter's jaw clenches, but he says nothing. Michael rests a hand on his shoulder. "They're safe, Pieter. No one died."
Pieter meets his gaze then. "Someone did."
Michael blinks, then curses his own stupidity. Of course Pieter would take Vartan's death to heart. His teammate shoots him a bitter smile. "He was a monster, but he was still my patient. My responsibility. And I know there was nothing else I could do, but that doesn't stop it being my responsibility."
Michael doesn't let him go. "But that's exactly what Vartan planned. He was trying to torture McNider, and he knew either outcome would have accomplished that. You can't let him get to you."
"I know," says Pieter quietly. He finishes drying his hands and tosses the towels wearily in the bin. "I need to write up the surgical notes. The coroner will need the body."
"I'll handle that," says Michael quietly. Talking clearly isn't going to help, but he can manage this at least.
Pieter nods. "Thank you. And thank you for your help."
Michael watches him leave and sighs again. This is one teammate he's going to have to keep an eye on.
I really miss the JSA. Any feedback would be very much appreciated.