I have no idea what is going on with the site at the moment, so at the moment I'm simultaneously posting with archive of our own.
Further A/N at the end.
The brake on the hospital bed is stiff and Rebecca frowns as she increases the pressure through the top her foot before the catch finally flips up with a loud clacking noise, the bed juddering with it. She steadies her hands at the base of Elizabeth's bed and pulls it out from the ventilator, watching carefully to make sure that she hasn't caught any of the equipment as she moves. She's already removed the headboard, so it least she can't catch anything on that, and it's now propped against the opposite wall. Another flick of her foot – this time downwards – accompanied by a click and the bed is secured in its new position, just as a low thrum of voices approach the room.
Dr Mitchell gives her a smile as she enters the room, asking her, "Are we ready to go?"
"Equipment is all out and I've laid out another trolley just in case we need to re-intubate," Rebecca replies, inclining her head in the direction of the gleaming steel trolley that she has placed to the right side of the bed.
"Good." Dr Mitchell deftly ties her polythene apron at her back and pulls on a pair of gloves. "And no change to her observations?"
"None, and she's still managing the t-piece on 28%."
Nodding, Dr Mitchell wiggles herself into the newly created gap between the bed and wall. Her movements are slow and awkward as she makes sure not to knock any of the multitude of wires and tubing, wincing when she bangs her hip off the corner of the ventilator. "Only on the dex now?"
Rebecca untucks the yankeur suction catheter from where she has placed it just under Elizabeth's pillow in preparation, plucking the cellophane wrapping from it as she replies, "All other sedation was discontinued prior to t-piecing." Really, they both know the others questions and answers, after all this is a frequent event for them, but they carry out the routine regardless.
"Is she responding at all?""
"She did a few minutes ago, she opened her eyes to her name."
Dr Mitchell's lips thin thoughtfully, she would be lying if she said she wasn't feeling nervous in this particular case. There is no reason for her to delay, it is as positive a picture as it can be at this point, but then she has never had to care for the Secretary of State before, has never had the eyes of the country watching. Taking in a deep, calming breath, she flexes her gloved hands, and they give the smallest of squeaks at the movement, before she nods decisively, she knows in her bones that this is the right decision. "Ok then," she breathes out. "No time like the present." She leans forward, steadying herself on the edge of the mattress as she rises up on her toes to peer over her patient. Placing a hand gently on Elizabeth's shoulder, she calls softly, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, can you open your eyes for me?"
A small but discernible grimace settles across Elizabeth's features, her lips fluttering against the breathing tube.
Dr Mitchell curls her hand into a fist and applies a light pressure as she rubs her knuckles against Elizabeth's sternum, making sure to avoid the incision. Elizabeth's eyelids flicker at the sensation, her blue eyes looking dazedly up towards the ceiling. She lifts her voice slightly as she repeats, "Can you blink twice if you can hear me Elizabeth?"
There's a brief pause and Elizabeth's gaze darts along the room before alighting on the doctor's face. Another second passes and she gives two slow blinks and then her gaze meanders away for a moment or two before her eyes close again.
Dr Mitchell gives a small, satisfied smile, somewhat relieved that her patient is now following commands. "Right then, can you get the oxygen mask ready, let's keep her on the 28% and can you pass me the suction please, Rebecca?" She disconnects the T-piece tubing and holds her hand out. On being handed it she quickly slips it into the corner of Elizabeth's mouth, as Rebecca's fingers deftly unties the knot securing the tube. "Ok Elizabeth, we're going to take this tube out your mouth, but this is probably going to make you cough a bit," she tells her softly. Rebecca passes over the syringe, and Dr Mitchell deflates the cuff holding the tube inside Elizabeth's throat, and passing the suction tube back to Rebecca who holds it steady at Elizabeth's lips, she pulls the tube out deftly and steps back as much as she can, allowing Rebecca to rapidly place the oxygen mask over her face.
Elizabeth's eyes shoot open and she coughs violently, her hands shift on the bed, her fingers curling fruitlessly against the sheets that crinkle underneath her touch. Rebecca brushes her hand against her shoulder, her voice smooth and calm as she tries to reassure her, "It's all done, try and take deep breaths for me."
She gulps under the mask for a moment, letting out more spluttering coughs as she blinks up at the ceiling light, her expression twisting into a grimace of pain. After a second the irritation subsides, and she scowls slightly at the two faces watching her before her eyes close again.
"Saturations are holding at 98%," Rebecca announces.
Dr Mitchell wriggles back out from behind the bed, as she tilts her head upwards to look at the monitor. "It's looking good." She steps over a wire that trails in mid-air, straightening with a quiet groan. "Can we arrange blood gases in half an hour please and if those are stable then we can start to decrease the dex. I'll leave you instructions."
"What do you want to do if she's still showing sign of delirium?"
Peeling off her gloves and apron, Dr Mitchell scrunches them up and throws them into the large yellow pedal bin. She turns the tap on with her elbow, scrubbing her hands as she replies, "I'll write her up for some haloperidol, but it's only to be used if she's putting herself at risk of injury, I don't want to keep plying more medication onto her if we don't need to, so otherwise let's try and re-orientate her.
Rebecca nods, watching as the anaesthetist scribbles onto the drug Kardex and ventilator chart. Reaching out she brushes a thick strand of hair off Elizabeth's cheek, tucking it gently behind her ear. "Another couple of minutes and we'll let your husband back," she tells her quietly.
Stevie pulls the bedsheet as straight as it will go, pulling out the small wrinkles and smoothing any left away with her hand. She knows that her aunt had told her not to bother, but she needed something, anything to distract her. When she had hung up and found Jareth gone, she had thought about chasing after him, about trying to make it less awkward between them and trying to find some steady footing in their interactions, but she was so tired of constantly trying to make things better that she had left it. Later, she had told herself, she would deal with it later.
Her gaze had skittered across the kitchen and she had let out a groan at the sight of the empty takeout containers, scattered amongst the plates that had last night's dinner congealed onto them in a thick gloop. Maureen would have an absolute fit if she saw the mess of the place and so she had scrapped the remains on the plates into the bin, stacked the dishwasher and wiped down the counters. She thought about clearing away the mass of bedding and pillows that lay on the sitting room floor, but she couldn't bring herself to, she was bone tired again.
She'd dragged herself up to her room, the door to her bedroom had been ajar and Jareth was curled up in her bed, his jeans were on the floor, but he'd left his t-shirt on. He faced away from her, his back like a solid wall blocking her from him, as he let out quiet, snuffling snores. She thought about crawling into the bed next to him, but she couldn't bring herself to try and curl into that hard, block of unwelcoming muscle, to feel even more alone and isolated than she did already. So instead she had once again turned back to chores to distract herself, heading off to the linen cupboard.
Stevie pulls herself back to the moment, she wasn't going to dwell on Jareth or on her continuing avoidance of him, now wasn't the time. She suddenly hears the catch of the front door and she straightens, turning to shuffle down the hall and down the front stairs to come face to face with her Aunt Maureen, who is unwinding her scarf from around her neck, her navy canvas holdall placed against the console table in the entranceway. Stevie pauses on the bottom step, her hand gripping the stair rail, her eyes wide.
Maureen turns and looks Stevie up and down, her niece's pyjamas are crumpled, a dressing gown hanging haphazardly off her shoulders and her hair is mused. Her blue eyes are rimmed by dark shadows, tiredness leeching her skin of any colour, leaving her a pale, pasty colour. Maureen's grip tightens on her scarf at the sight of her. She has seen the pictures in the press of her nieces and nephew filing out of the house in the middle of the night, but the photos had been fuzzy, their expressions unclear, but at this distance the grief and shock on Stevie's face is palpable. Without saying a word, Maureen holds out her arms, beckoning with her hand, making her meaning clear.
Without a second's hesitation, Stevie rushes forward and into her Aunt's arms. Maureen's pulls her close, her hug tight as she gives her a squeeze. Stevie tucks her face into the crook of Maureen's neck. This is the first proper hug she's had since this happened that hasn't been slackened with shell shock, this is the first hug that's been given to comfort her, to make her feel safe and loved. Maureen plants a kiss against her bent head as she states, "I expected you to be back in bed."
Stevie steps back slightly and manages a weak smile, "I thought I'd get things ready for you, your bed is made."
Maureen gives a soft tut and a disapproving look. "I told you to leave that."
Wrapping her arms around herself, Stevie shrugs, looking down at her feet, "I just wanted to make sure that everything was sorted."
"Well, that's not your job anymore, that's why I'm here," Maureen tells her firmly. She glances up at the stairs. "I take it that Alison and Jason are asleep."
"Uh huh." Stevie chews on her bottom lip and fiddles with a strand of her blonde hair. "Jareth is asleep as well."
"Hmmm," Maureen mumbles under breath, her lips pulling tight as she chooses not to comment on why her niece's fiancé is asleep upstairs, whilst she wanders around doing housework. "I can see to myself, if you want to go up and get a few hours sleep then off you go."
"Um, I might leave it for a little while."
Maureen starts to walk towards the kitchen, her scarf still wrapped around her arm as she unbuttons her coat. "Will I make you a hot toddy?" she asks. "It might help you sleep, because believe me, that's what you need right now."
"I probably shouldn't, it's a bit early for alcohol."
"You're not going to be driving, and if you can't have drink now, when can you?" Maureen retorts with a soft snort.
Stevie gives a genuine smile. "It actually does sound nice, which is a bit worrying considering that I hate whiskey."
"Bit of honey in it and just sip it," her aunt instructs her. She folds her coat over the back of one of the dining chairs in the kitchen, draping her scarf on top. She approaches Stevie, her hands resting briefly against her upper arms as she directs her towards a seat. "Now you sit down, and I'll get this ready. I'm fairly sure that I remember where your parents keep everything."
For once, Stevie follows the instructions without complaint, sinking into her seat and watching her aunt potter around the room, occasionally opening a cupboard and shaking her head when she doesn't find what she's looking for. The smell of last night's takeout lingers in the kitchen air, and Stevie thinks about how she should really have taken the bin out, but for once Maureen doesn't comment on the evil that is fast food. As the whiskey heats over the hob, Stevie asks, "Was your journey ok?"
"Fine," Maureen replies as she stirs the amber liquid, adding in a dollop of honey. "It's always very uneventful. Your Uncle said I could take the car, but parking in DC…" she shakes her head, "the bus is just simpler and quicker."
As Maureen turns to put the kettle on, Stevie, who is now resting her chin on her upturned palms, asks, "Are you not having one?"
"Oh no," she shakes her head. "I'm going to head across to the hospital soon and I don't want any alcohol on my breath." She eyes the box of sandwiches on the countertop and remarks, "I'm glad to see someone has thought of something sensible to bring you all."
"That was Blake, Mom's assistant, sensible and well prepared could be his middle name."
Maureen rakes through a cupboard and pulls out a plate, piling three sandwiches onto it and pushing it towards Stevie, "You should have some, keep your strength up."
Stevie nods, deciding that it easier just to do as she's told where Maureen is concerned, that and her stomach is starting to feel like it's gnawing on itself in hunger. "You can help yourself," she tells her through a mouthful of bread.
For a moment Maureen narrows her eyes, debating whether to tell her niece off for talking with her mouth full, but she decides to leave it, instead replying, "I might have one, I didn't get the chance to make sandwiches for the bus ride, it was a fairly last minute decision." She pours their drinks into mugs and briskly places them out on the table, before taking a seat across from Stevie. "So, how is your Mom?"
Stevie blows on her drink in a fruitless attempt to cool it down before she answers, "She was doing a bit better when we left this morning."
"And before that?" Maureen's eyes have narrowed as she watches her niece, seeing her already wan face whiten and noticing how her grip on her mug tightens.
"It wasn't a good night," Stevie tells her, her voice shaking. She lifts her face to meet her Aunt's gaze, "Her lung collapsed, and it caused her heart to stop. She's still on a ventilator, still sedated." She feels a tear run from her eye, tracking a damp trail down her cheek. She wipes it away with the back of her hand and gives a sniff. "You said that you read something in the news, what was it?"
Maureen's lips thin. "There's been a lot of speculation about how ill she really is, they knew you went back to the hospital last night. When I couldn't reach your Dad, I felt it was best just to head across."
"He's been really worried, isn't quite himself," Stevie offers, quietly. She's been concerned about his refusal to come home, his reluctance to eat and the fact that he simply sits at her Mom's bedside and waits. She doesn't know how to fix that either, can't seem to fix anything.
"That's understandable," Maureen sips at her tea. "Is there anything he needs taken in?"
"Probably some food, he won't have eaten," Stevie tells her. She isn't sure how her Dad will take the arrival of his older sister, she's tried to call him and sent him a warning text, but he's clearly ignoring his phone, which also isn't like him. "He said he'd phone if anything changed for the worse, he hasn't so I assume…" she trails off, she probably shouldn't assume anything right now.
Watching as Stevie digs the heel of her palm into her tired eyes and rubs at them, Maureen reaches out and pats her hand. "You need to eat that and then get some sleep." She takes another sip of her tea as she remarks meaningfully, "I'm surprised that Jareth has slept through you getting up."
Stevie's forefinger rubs at the design on her mug as she stares down at it. "He…uh…didn't sleep through. He flew back from London overnight; he went to bed just after I got up."
"Hmmm," Maureen chooses not to comment on it other than to make the disapproving noise that escapes from the back of her throat, but Stevie can see the sharp edge to her gaze. "Well, if you need to, you can always sleep in the guest bed. I'll not need it until tonight."
Gulping down a large mouthful of her warm drink, Stevie tells her, "I'm sure that's not going to be necessary."
"Well if it is, you know it's there." Maureen watches as Stevie finishes her drink and tells her, "Now go and get some sleep."
Too tired to argue, Stevie can feel her eyes start to droop. "I probably should."
"Absolutely, you're Mom wouldn't want to see you looking like a sleep deprived zombie." She slides the now empty mug away from her.
"Will you be ok?" Stevie looks at her with wide, anxious eyes.
Stevie nods, too tired to be polite and argue that her aunt is a guest, and she should entertain her. Her slippers scuff on the stairs and she trudges along the hallway to her room. This time when she peers in, she can see Jareth star-fished across the bed, at any other time it would make her smile, but she's so exhausted and she'll need to wake him and who knows what mood he'll be in, so she simply turns and despite her earlier protestations, heads for the guest bedroom after all.
Mike Barnow leans forward; his elbows rest on his knees and he watches the front of the court intently as he listens to the swirl of conversation around him. The press benches are packed, speculation is rife and he listens and absorbs as much of it as he can as he waits for the hearing to start. Journalists debate in not so hushed tones the fact that none of the McCords are present and what that could possibly mean. Others discuss the rumours that have been swirling about Ray Merchant being her student, their innuendo clear, palpable. Mike pulls in his lips and fights the urge to bite someone's head off.
The door at the side opens with a click and the crowd falls silent, the scratching of their pens the only sound now, as Ray Merchant is led in. He is singularly unimpressive, Mike thinks, his hair is overlong and brushes the collar of his shirt, his goatee is ill-trimmed. He glances around the room a gleam of ill-concealed delight in his gaze at the crowd. He ducks his head and says something to his lawyer and Mike frowns when he see that it's Antony Thacker who's defending him, unsure just how Merchant has managed to obtain the shark-like attorney in twenty-four hours and how he's managed to pay the retainer. His foot jiggles as he files away this fact for later consideration, after all that's what he's here for, it's why Henry has asked him to attend where he can't. His gaze flickers to the prosecutor who's been provided by the US attorney's office and lets out a small sigh of relief, at least Claudia Moss is likely to be prepared for whatever is thrown at her by Thacker.
Another door clicks, and the court clerk calls out, "All rise for Judge Lynall."
Mike gets to his feet, the press give a collective groan as they lumber to theirs, it had been hard enough to fit along the benches the first time. He watches as Judge Ethan Lynall enters, placing his files to the side of him as he drops into his chair. He eyes the court through the glasses that are perched on the end of his nose and waves a hand, telling them, "Be seated."
There's murmuring and shuffling as everyone jostles for space, before falling silent again. The silence is heavy, almost oppressive, everyone here has been waiting for this moment, the reading of the charges and more importantly the plea.
Judge Lynall looks across at the defendant. "Mr Raymond Merchant, can I confirm that you were read your rights prior to entering this court room?"
Merchant's voice is stronger, more confident than Mike expected, after such a cowardly act, he expected a weak, shaky voice, he'd expected to be able to sense the fear from him, but there was none of that, his back is straight and his voice steady as he replies, "I was, your Honour."
He adjusts his glasses. "And are you happy with your current legal representation?"
Mike could swear that he sees Merchant's lips twitch with the ghost of a smile as he replies, "I am, your Honour."
"Very well. Let's begin. Raymond Merchant it is alleged that on the 25th of February 2017 at approximately 1235 you did fire a concealed, unlicenced and unregistered handgun at the Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord. I will now read the you the list of charges against you and you can enter your plea for each charge, do you understand?"
Judge Lynall gives a curt nod and he shuffles a slip of paper to the top of his pile. "Mr Merchant, you are charged with the First-degree attempted murder of Secretary Elizabeth McCord, how do you plead?"
Merchant's words cause a ripple effect across the courtroom, everyone other than Mike had expected him to plead, had expected that a deal of some sort would have been reached.
Lynall simply nods. "You are also charged with the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon of Secretary Elizabeth McCord, how do you plead?"
"You are charged with the possession of an unregistered firearm, how do you plead?"
"You are charged with the unlawful possession of ammunition, how do you plead?"
"You are charged with carrying a pistol without a licence, how do you plead?"
"You are charged with the possession of a class IV substance, how so you plead?"
"And finally, you are charged with threatening a government official, how do you plead?"
The silence that has enveloped the press after the first plea finally breaks and there is an outbreak of chatter and gasps. Judge Lynall holds up his hand again, his voice firm, censuring, as he announces, "Quiet please."
A new silence falls across the crowd and Thackery clears his throat, announcing, "You're honour, we'd like to discuss bail."
Mike's eyebrows rise up into his hairline, he didn't think they would be so bold to even attempt this request, he leans further forward, intrigued by the proceedings taking place now.
Judge Lynall's mouth gives a small twitch. "Your client is aware that he is accused of a very serious and violent federal crime?"
"He is, but he is also a first-time offender who is happy to hand over his passport and report daily to his local police station. He isn't a flight risk."
"Hmph." Judge Lynall looks across at Claudia Moss, "I assume you have objections."
"Absolutely your honour." Claudia's spine is straight, her auburn hair hangs in a thick, smooth sheet to her shoulders in a neat bob and her voice rings out clearly over the court. "This is a violent offence that was perpetrated against a senior member of the American Government. The prosecution alleges that Mr Merchant stalked Secretary McCord before approaching her with the intention of ending her life and that he remains a current threat to her safety. Not only was this a horrifically violent offence but this case has already stirred a very emotive response from the public and although I believe that Mr Merchant isn't a flight risk, I do believe that he would be at risk of a vigilante response should he bailed, which would prevent full legal recourse being explored."
"Objection," Thackery cuts in, his hand running down the front lapel of his designer suit. "Mr Merchant cannot be denied bail just because he may be at risk of a revenge attack, not if he is willing to take that risk."
"He might not be able to be denied bail on that, but it should be considered, and more importantly, Mr Merchant doesn't have a fixed abode to be bailed too, as his room-mate who owns the property has declined to allow him to return."
Thacker's confident smile remains fixed in place as he admits, "That is problematic, however, as previously stated this is a first offence of a man who isn't a flight risk."
"Perhaps not," Judge Lynall remarks, his thumb rubbing at his cheekbone. "But this is far too serious offence to allow Mr Merchant to be bailed at large, so on this occasion I will be denying bail."
Merchant doesn't look perturbed, rather he looks bored, his gaze flickering around the courtroom, the reason for which becomes clear as Thackery states, "In that case your honour, we would like to invoke Mr Merchant's right to a speedy trial." Merchant's lips quirk into a brief smile at this pronouncement, and Mike swears he sees him glance down at his nails, as he unfurls his fingers.
Judge Lynall glances across at Claudia, but there's no argument that she can make, it's his right after all. He rubs his cheekbone again. "Your client is aware that this will only give him a maximum of seventy days to prepare his case?"
"He is your honour."
"Then his request is granted." He picks up his gavel, it is twitching in his grasp as he asks, "Are there any further considerations or requests that require to be heard at this time." At the silence, he gives a nod. "Very well, Mr Merchant you are to be remanded in custody and your next court date for your preliminary hearing will take place in no more than fourteen days' time. Court dismissed." The gavel hits the wood with a loud clunk and the court breaks into chatter again.
Mike blocks out the buzz of the journalists around him and watches an unfazed Merchant smile at his lawyer and shake his hand before he is lead away by the bailiff.
So it was only when I started researching this chapter that I discovered that federal crimes require a grand jury indictment, as I'd already threading the arraignment through multiple chapters I'm choosing to overlook that this is missing here. If I've made any other mistakes I'm more than happy to be corrected and I will look to adjust it wherever I can.