Chapter Two: Over My Head
Hershel held his fourth towel over the wound as Adrianne hooked the IV bag onto a coat rack that she had brought in from the dining room. Rick, followed by the brown haired stranger and Otis, slowly made their way into the room, the other two men gawking at the boy's motionless body as Rick's eyes glistened with threatening tears.
"Do you know his blood type?" Hershel asked Rick as soon as he walked in, his tone echoing off of the walls of the big room. He carefully lifted the towel a bit and cocked his head to the side to examine the bleeding gunshot.
"A–positive, just like mine." He responded, his voice airy and weak, his eyes not moving away from his son; with an instinctive blink, the tears slid down his cheeks.
"That's fortunate. Don't wander too far, I'm gonna need you." Hershel told him. He then looked to Otis, who's face was etched with guilt and worry. "What happened out there?"
"I. . .shot a buck—bullet went clean through it." He stammered quietly, his eyes wide as they shot between Adrianne, Hershel and Patricia.
"The deer definitely slowed it down. Saved his life. But it did not go in clean. I'm countin' six fragments in there," Hershel explained, wiggling his fingers against the towel, feeling the inside of the wound. Otis turned to Patricia, defending himself, saying that he didn't see the boy until he was on the ground.
"Lori doesn't know. M–my wife doesn't know," Rick sobbed, covering his face with his hand; his friend put his arm around him, whispering in his ear, trying to comfort the poor man.
Adrianne took pity, dropping her gaze to the wooden floor, then gently ushered them out of the room to give them space as they worked. She sat down next to Hershel, facing the bed—taking the tray of surgical tools with her—and handed Hershel latex gloves and a surgical clamp. She and Hershel slid on their gloves when the boy woke up, who was startled and began to cry in pain when Hershel poked into the gunshot with the metal tool.
Maggie, who couldn't look more terrified, sped to the door, whipped it open and called for Rick in an impatient voice.
"He needs blood," Hershel bellowed as the boy cried for his dad to make the pain go away - Adrianne rushed to Rick and rolled up his sleeve.
"You," she heard Patricia say, "hold him down and don't let him move." Assuming she was talking to Rick's friend, Adrianne ignored her and quickly wiped down the anicubital space on Rick's arm with an alcohol swab she had torn open with her teeth. The boy screamed in pain just as Adrianne stabbed the needle into Rick's arm, making her jump and miss the vein.
"Stop, you're killing him!" Rick yelled, his voice rough like sandpaper, ignoring the fact Adrianne just harshly stabbed him in the wrong place and ripping his arm away from her grasp.
"Rick, you want him to live?" Hershel retorted, his voice loud and clear, but not taking his concentration off of the boy for one second.
"Rick, listen to me!" Adrianne urged, grabbing his arm with strong fingers to get his attention. "You have got to trust us! This is the only way and he needs blood!" She explained, hoping that he would snap out of it and listen to her.
"Do it now!" The brown haired man yelled. Rick flickered his eyes to Adrianne and then allowed her to stick the needle in his arm and attach the hose, one end connected to the needle and the other to the collection jar.
The boy suddenly stopped struggling and moving, his eyes fluttering closed, and the brown-haired man holding him down caught his breath, his voice coming out in just questioning, panicked sounds.
"He just passed out," Hershel soothed, continuing to dig around in the bloody wound with the clamp, his glove and tool covered in the boy's blood.
Adrianne worked her way beside Hershel, a hand around Rick's elbow, making sure to not get in Hershel's way as she stabbed the other needle into the boys arm. Then she attached the hose to the collection jar, and watched the blood in the jar draw into the boy.
"One down. Five to go," Hershel stated, holding a tiny piece of jagged metal in front of his eyes, twisting the clamp to examine it. Maggie left the room, concerned for the boy, while Adrianne pulled a chair from the corner of the room and placed it next to the bed for Rick to sit in.
They waited; Adrianne stood at the end of the bed with her hands resting on her hips, watching the blood fill the glass jar and then pump into Rick's son. Hershel strapped the blood pressure cuff around the boy's arm and put the stethoscope in his ears, listening as he pumped air into the cuff.
"Lori needs to be here. I need to go get Lori," Rick mumbled, glancing up at Adrianne with watery eyes.
"You have to stay here," Adrianne explained, shaking her head as she spoke. "Your boy needs you here. You can't leave for a while."
"She's his mother! Her son is laying here shot," Rick argued, his voice harsh yet quiet, completely opposite from the way he was before he gave blood.
"You can't leave the farm. We need you," she soothed, "he needs you," she added with a flick of her head in the boy's direction. Rick got up from the chair, stumbling to his feet, pulling the needle out of his arm. Adrianne protested as she bolted over to him, helping him to his feet, and pinched the place where the needle was to stop the bleeding. She reached behind her with her free hand and groped around for a bandage that Maggie had brought in for the boy. After she wrapped his arm, Rick stumbled out of her grasp and out of the room only to collapse on the chair next to the door.
"Adrianne, stay in here with him," Hershel commanded as he got up from the bed and walked out, announcing that he needed supplies to perform the much needed surgery.
"The high school." She heard Otis say as she sat down in the chair that Rick had been in.
"That's what I was thinkin'," Hershel agreed, his voice muffled behind the closed door.
"Doc, why don't you draw me a map I'll go and get it." The curly-brown haired man's voice said.
"You won't need one. I'll take you there," Otis responded, his tone equaling the guilt he carried because of what happened.
Patricia protested, arguing, and Adrianne's heart dropped into the pit of her stomach, knowing that the school had been overrun a long time ago; she couldn't lose anyone else. She loved Otis like he was her uncle and didn't want him to go out there to be bait, mostly just because he wasn't in shape for running. He wouldn't have a high chance of surviving out there but he completely ignored the risk, making a fair point that the man didn't even know what the stuff looked like. Adrianne was about to volunteer herself, but she knew Hershel would need her there so she cleared that thought from her mind.
"Where is she? Your wife?" Maggie's voice, just outside the door, asked. Rick said she was somewhere out in the woods near the highway, and Maggie volunteered to go after her since Rick couldn't go himself. There was the sound of shuffling and rushing to get going, hearing the truck doors slam, then the sound of the engine starting.
She sat on the edge of the chair with her fingers laced together and her elbows resting on her knees. Again, her mind replaced the boy's face with Will's and she felt her eyes threaten to tear up as the door creaked open – Hershel and the boy's father came back into the room. She quickly blinked back the pointless tears and stood up, offering Rick her spot as she stepped away.
"What's his name?" Adrianne asked passively, a little embarrassed that she wasn't paying attention when he said his name before.
"Carl. His name's Carl," Rick answered, sitting down on the now open chair. Adrianne's eyes drifted back to Carl's pale body and watched his chest slowly move up and down as Hershel listened to his heart beat, saying that he would be fine for now.
Hershel followed Rick out into the living room, sitting down on the couch. Adrianne shut the door behind her as she quietly stepped out, heading upstairs to check on her boys.
"Nick? Will?" She called as she knocked on their slightly ajar door and walked inside. Nick was sitting on the bed, reading a picture book he brought from their house, and Will was on his green beanbag chair, drawing something in his sketchbook.
"Mom, what's goin' on?" Will questioned, peeking up from his drawing.
"A boy got shot. We are trying to save him." She explained as she sank down on the edge of Nick's bed.
"Is he okay?" Nick demanded, worry painting his face as he lowered the book to his side, his finger holding the page.
"He's fine, baby, for now," she answered, unknowingly sounding doubtful about Carl's chance of surviving this. "You can come down now, but don't go into the master bedroom down there." She warned, in a motherly tone and getting to her feet. She waited for them both to nod, making sure that they understood her instructions, and then exited the room, running her hands through her hair.
She made her way back downstairs, knocking on the bedroom door just in case Rick was in there. She heard muffled crying from behind the door, with Maggie sitting on the chair just outside the door. She must have come back when Adrianne was upstairs, since she hadn't seen them come in. When she opened the door, Rick was kneeling next to the bed, squeezing a dark haired woman's hip.
Rick looked over his shoulder at her, so she gave him a tight, toothless smile - surprisingly he returned the gesture before turning back to his crying wife. Adrianne picked up the black blood pressure sleeve from the nightstand and slipped it around Carl's arm, propping the stethoscope in her ears and listening as she pumped air in the cuff. As she pulled the stethoscope out of her ears she glanced at Rick, who was watching her intently.
"He needs another transfusion." She stated as she made a 'come here' gesture with her index finger. Rick shot up and held out his arm while he sped to Adrianne, who held a clean needle that was already connected to the hose. "Rick," she began, holding the needle away from him, "you can't give away too much blood. This'll have to be the last transfusion for—"
"You're wasting time," Rick interrupted, holding his arm out further towards Adrianne. Adrianne sighed and held his arm as she inserted the needle carefully, while Rick jumped when he felt the pinch.
Adrianne closed the door behind her gently and made her way to the kitchen, where Hershel was washing his hands.
"Rick's givin' another unit of blood." She informed him as she leaned against the counter with her hands holding onto the ledge.
"Alright. Y'know he's gonna need more than just two units, right?" Hershel asked her while drying his hands on a white kitchen towel. Adrianne nodded, hanging her head to gaze down at her feet.
"Hopefully Otis will get back in time," she hoped, her voice quiet yet doubtful. "If they get back." Her doubt was growing by every passing moment of the men being gone.
"When," Hershel corrected sternly, "when they get back." Adrianne sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, holding back her negativity.
"Yeah." She muttered as she rubbed her cheek before dropping her hand back to her side. "I can give blood, too, if needed. I'm O-negative," she added quietly, gazing at Hershel expectantly.
"We need you strong and clear-headed for when he has surgery. That may not be the best idea," Hershel responded, and as much as Adrianne, wanted to argue, she backed down and agreed. "How 'bout you make some orange juice for Rick. I'll go check the boy's blood pressure, and we'll be out soon," he instructed after a long stretch of silence. Adrianne nodded slightly and watched him shuffle out of the kitchen, her head still hung. She sighed as she turned around to face the counter, grabbing the edge of a basket and tipping it slightly to see what was inside. Onions. Then she tipped the next one to reveal potatoes, then the next one, which was what she was looking for.
She held two in each hand as she balanced them to the sink, dropping them in it to pick up a sharp kitchen knife. After giving them a thorough washing, she sliced each orange in half and, in one giant step, opened a drawer to get the handheld juicer. As she squeezed the juice into a pitcher, the sound of footsteps bounced off the walls and got as close as the dining room. Adrianne quickly poured some of the juice into a tall glass, scooping four tablespoons of sugar and quickly mixed it in.
"Here," She announced as she sped into the dining room to hand the glass to Rick. He took one tiny sip, then lowered the glass. "Drink it all," Adrianne instructed, and he obeyed, bringing the glass back up to his mouth as she went back into the kitchen to finish her job.
As she was squeezing another slice, she overheard Lori call Otis 'the idiot that shot her son'. The juicer slipped out of Adrianne's hand and clattered into the sink, causing a silence in the dining room. She set her palms against the edge of the counter, her back teeth biting the tip of her tongue as she slowly blinked and turned around to see them staring at her.
"It was an accident," She spat, pushing herself away from the counter and storming into the dining room."If you don't believe that, you have some serious problems to think that Otis would shoot a boy on purpose." She continued, jabbing a finger at the dark-haired woman.
"Adrianne, calm down," Hershel eased, throwing her a sidelong glare.
"I am calm." She stated flatly as she gave Hershel a forced smile, then turned back to Lori. "Sometimes I wonder why God chose some people to survive," She added and Rick's head jerked to Adrianne at hearing that, his surprise noticeable on his face as she continued to stare at Lori. Lori stayed silent, absorbing what Adrianne said, her gaze dropping to the floor as she swallowed hard.
"So you've done this procedure before, right?" Lori asked, attempting to ignore Adrianne and turned her attention to Hershel.
"Well, yes, in a sense," He responded, ignoring Adrianne now as well.
"In a sense?" Lori demanded, a look of disbelief on her face.
"Honey, we don't have the luxury of shopping for a surgeon," Rick urged, gently touching her arm.
"You are a doctor, right?" She questioned.
"Yes, of course. A vet."
"A veteran. A combat medic," Lori said, hope filling her eyes. Adrianne snorted.
"No. A veterinarian," Hershel clarified, continuing to pretend Adrianne wasn't there.
"And you?" Lori demanded, turning her attention to Adrianne.
"A clinical epidemiologist," She answered, knowing that she wouldn't had a clue what that was. Lori gave her a blank stare, as Adrianne expected. "I researched diseases. Found cures and treatments. Vaccines. I worked at the CDC," she explained warily. Lori and Rick exchanged surprised and hopeful glances, then their eyes darted from Hershel to Adrianne. When they looked at Adrianne, they had a slight look of confusion and wondering.
"And you did this surgery on what? Cows? Pigs? Or bacteria in a Petri dish?" Lori exclaimed as she snapped out of her confusion.
"I–I–need, to s–sit," Rick stammered as he pawed the air behind him, found the chair and collapsed, his other hand tipping over the empty glass on the table. Adrianne's hand bolted out to catch the glass and prevent it from breaking, then she stalked out of the dining room to leave them alone.
"You guys are completely in over your heads, aren't you?" Lori hissed just as Adrianne got to the kitchen.
"Ma'am, aren't we all?" Hershel responded, his voice serious and questioning.
Night fell and the absence of Otis and the other man began to worry them, causing Adrianne and Hershel to check Carl's blood pressure often to make sure they had time left. Time was running out as Carl slowly slipped toward death, and the atmosphere around them grew uneasy and anxious. Rick was sitting on the couch with his wife; he looked like he was going to pass out with his pale face and drooping eyes, and he was drinking orange juice faster than Adrianne could make it.
Adrianne offered her shoulder to escort him back into the bedroom, where Hershel was once again pumping the black sleeve around Carl's arm again. Rick leaned against the tan wall next to the door and nodded at Adrianne, telling her that he was okay to stand on his own.
"His pressure's droppin'. He needs blood and we are runnin' out of time," Hershel said, and Rick almost immediately jumped from the wall, his face suddenly alert.
"Take some more." He urged, holding out his arm to Adrianne, his bright blue eyes blazing, insisting that she take more.
"I can't take any more from you. Look at you, you can barely stand on your feet," Adrianne argued, gesturing for him to lean back on the wall, glancing up and down his weak body.
"They should have been back by now, something's wrong. I need to go after them," he pleaded Lori, who stood beside him in the doorway.
"You'll barely make it across the lawn, let alone five miles in a car. You'll pass out," Adrianne argued, then tuned them out as Lori began to take over the argument. Adrianne heard her actually say some logical things and she slowly began to tolerate her a little—not like, but tolerate.
Adrianne began to lose hope as she stared out the window, waiting for the slightest amount of light from headlights to slice through the darkness and she grew more and more impatient with each minute. She exited the room and sat down on the chair that was next to the window, it's back to the bedroom. She propped her elbows on her knees as she buried her face in her hands, tangling her fingers in her hair in frustration. Behind the closed door, she could hear Hershel talking to the couple in the room.
"Sorry she said those things. She just lost her husband and she's sensitive to that Irish temper of hers. Just don't bother her and you will grow on her soon enough." She heard him explain, his voice muffled, but she could still hear every single word he said. If he's tryin' to be quiet, he's not doin' a very good job, Adrianne thought as she set her nose on her entangled fingers in front of her.
"Mom?" A young boy's voice said. Adrianne tore her eyes away from the window and saw Nick sitting down on the chair next to her with a worried look on his face. "Is that boy gonna be okay?" he asked, flickering his eyes over to the door of the bedroom that Carl was in.
"He's gonna be fine, we're just waiting for Uncle Otis to come back." She informed him, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and planting a kiss on the top of his head.
Two car door slams rang and Adrianne bolted to the window to find out the source of the sudden sound. She was expecting the pale blue truck that Otis and Rick's friend had left in, but instead it was an old tan Cherokee that brought a black man and an Asian boy wearing a baseball cap. The black guy had a bandage on his arm, which looked like it was made out of cheap drugstore gauze and black electrical tape.
"Stay here, buddy." She told her son as she went back into the room where Rick, Lori and Hershel sat around the bed. She stood at the end of the bed, watching Hershel strap the black sleeve snugly around Carl's arm. "Hershel, there are two men who just got here," she told him, and he turned around to face her, pulling out the stethoscope from his ears.
Footsteps brought Adrianne's attention to the doorway when Maggie brought the two strangers in to see the injured boy. They glanced at her and she gave them a warm, welcoming smile as she let her arms drop to her sides from across her chest. The men stared at Carl's motionless body on the bed, gawking. Maggie escorted the men out of the room as Adrianne walked over to Hershel's side to slowly pull down the blanket . The wound was surrounded in a bruise-like color, swelling his belly out like a giant tumor.
"We don't have much time left," She stated grimly, gently lying the sheet back on Carl to hide the disgustingly discolored skin.
"If they don't get back soon we will have to operate without the respirator," Hershel informed the couple, pulling off the blood pressure sleeve. Rick and Lori exchanged glances like they were both looking equally torn on what to do. "It's highly unlikely that it'll work, but we don't have a choice. If they don't get back soon, you have a decision to make."
Lori jumped up from the chair, her face twisting as tears rolled down her cheeks, and Rick stumbled up to follow her, his expression unreadable. Adrianne and Hershel stayed in the room, gazing at Carl, praying that Otis would get back alive and in time to save him.
A/n: Thanks so much for reading! I know it took me a while to upload this, but I've been pretty busy.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter and please review, alert and favorite! Thank you to everyone who reviewed and followed! It means a lot!
And go check out my beta reader, Carrot Top! She's an amazing writer and she has some pretty awesome stories.