Miles Sutherland, Carter ‘Gil’ Gillespie, Ragnar Bjornson, Gideon Sterling, Ewan Clarke (briefly), Tommi, Jerri and Lucas.
Afternoon, 27th January, Rapatoka
Miles waited at the water’s edge and watched the approach of the boat containing the injured Gil. The hard ball of dread in his stomach hadn’t come as that much of a surprise. Even though he’d been busy tending to Caroline and interacting with the natives, memory of his night with the young paramedic lingered at the edge of his consciousness, lapping over occasionally much like the waves at his feet. Now it wasn’t only Darren who seemed to be with him and yet not with him all the time.
While the image of making love to Gil often haunted him, other occasions also flitted through his mind: their confrontation in his office after the young man disobeyed his order to return to base, standing toe to toe, not yielding an inch, calling him out for hiding away.
That memory was supplanted by a more pleasant one of the sexual tension between them a few days later when Miles prepared a meal for Gil. In some ways the young man had wheedled his way into a gap he didn’t even know he had in his heart. Darren was still there, but increasingly, whenever he did something, he’d wonder whether Gil would approve, or if he would call him on it.
Miles shook his head. Now he had to treat his injuries. No doubt Gil would tell him what to do and how to do it. That’s assuming he was well enough to do so. The thought that his injuries may be serious took all the joy out of a day that had started so well.
Cold water lapped around his ankles as Miles watched the blond soldier who had gone back to collect Gil steer the boat into the shore. A flurry of activity ensued while Gideon’s men transferred the stretcher to the hospital. A cursory glance was all he needed. Gil was far beyond telling him anything; he was unconscious.
Miles stopped them and placed his fingers on the young man’s wrist. Gil’s heart was racing far too fast, and his skin felt cold and clammy. “Hurry up and get him inside.” His order came out harshly, probably curter than it should, but Miles was angry. No, he was furious. Considering they’d been brought here for their safety, Eidolon and its representatives had done a shit job to date. He followed the stretcher into the cool, dark interior of the hospital, ruffling Lucas’s hair as he went past.
Gideon caught his action and smiled in an effort to reassure the round-eyed kid standing just inside the doorway. It didn’t work. He still looked scared. Two of the big islander lads—obviously twins, resembling a pair of bookends—wordlessly offered to help, stretching out their hands. Under Miles’ instruction, Gideon helped Rag and the two islanders lift Gil while Clarke dragged the stretcher out from under him, then they lowered him gently onto the long table across the far side of the room.
“Lucas.” Miles beckoned him over. The young boy’s gaze kept shifting back and forth between the men in their army uniforms. “Can you boil a kettle for me, please.” That would kill two birds with one stone: give him something to do, and provide water to scrub up in. “Make sure the pan you use is clean, right? ” Miles added as the lad scampered off and received a thumbs up gesture as he disappeared through the door. “And use bottled water…” He snorted at the lad’s eagerness to get away.
Gideon beckoned to Clarke, speaking quietly so only he could hear, “Take Pierce back to Mystery Island. Advise her that another storm is on its way, and she’d better get under cover. If she raises any objection, tell her if she doesn’t move her arse now, she’ll be stuck here all night without supplies or a proper bed. If she objects, shoot the bitch.” He grinned and added, “On second thoughts, scratch that. Throttle her instead. I don’t want blood on the boat. When you get back to the resort, find Tate and tell him I’ll be back tomorrow. Don’t wait up. You come back to get us at first light, okay?”
Clarke nodded, his face split by an equally broad grin. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow then. Anything more you need?”
Gideon shook his head. “If there is, I’ll radio in. Make sure one of you kips in the Comms room, just in case, okay? This is probably going to be a long night.”
Gideon watched him go, wondering how much grief he was going to get from Pierce. Knowing Clarkey, though, it would most likely be water off a duck’s back. He wouldn’t let it stick, whatever she said.
Rag had begun to break out the equipment he had brought with him while Miles assessed their patient. Gideon dragged another table over so they had somewhere to lay things out for use.
Miles spared the two men a glance, giving an approving nod as Rag unpacked a bergen stuffed with medical kit. A portable defibrillator joined a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, IV kits and dressings. Gideon caught Miles’ expression and smiled grimly. “Rag is our emergency medical technician,” he explained. “This is standard kit for him and he knows how to use it all.”
“In which case, Rag, how about you get Gil’s clothes off him and check his BP for me. Can you do that?”
“Right-oh, doc, no problem.” Ragnar grabbed scissors and began to cut through Gil’s t-shirt.
Miles unwrapped the field dressing and took his first look at the damage. Shit, if he wasn’t careful Gil might lose his arm. Miles’ tried to squelch his anger, but it still simmered just below the surface. This whole place is a death trap not a safe haven. He took a deep breath and shoved the emotion away as useless. Now was not the time. He grabbed his stethoscope and began to check Gil’s vitals. What he learned didn’t reassure him one little bit.
The noise of the outboard springing into life was one of the sweetest sounds Gideon had heard all day. As it faded into the distance, he relaxed a little. One way or the other, Pierce had obviously gone with Clarke. Gideon watched as the doctor managed to bring his wayward emotions back under control. He could tell the man was angry, but he admired the way Miles kept a lid on it. The doctor was obviously worried; the paramedic wasn’t responding well, and they didn’t have half the facilities that a modern A&E unit would have to deal with it all. Unless Gideon was very much mistaken, the young man on the table meant more to the doctor than Sutherland was admitting.
Miles saw Gideon watching and frowned. “This is going to be difficult at best,” his voice was gruff. “I have no general anaesthetic. I’m going to have to use local, so I need people to hold his extremities. We have to make sure he doesn’t move inadvertently during the procedure. Lucas, can you hold his hand still please?”
“I can hold his shoulders and one of the islanders can hang onto his legs,” Gideon said. “Rag is the one who knows one end of a thermometer from the other; it’s his help you’ll need in an emergency, not mine.”
“Doesn’t matter who it is. I just need you to hold him still. This is not going to be made easier if he wakes up or even moves involuntarily while out cold.” Miles looked at the wound again. The spear was well and truly lodged. Extracting that bastard was going to be complex. He had no idea what damage had already been done for one thing. He’d repaired spear and arrow wounds in Africa, but they had never been barbed like this. Gil’s condition seemed worse than expected given the injury. There was something not quite right about the way he was breathing.
Miles walked into the kitchen and made use of some of the water Lucas had boiled, scrubbing up carefully before donning gloves. One thing for certain, the spear wasn’t going to extract itself.
“BP, ninety over sixty…” Rag took the stethoscope out of his ears and draped it round his neck, glancing at the ECG monitor on the defibrillator. Gillespie’s heart rate was still steady but the blood pressure was worrying.
“Damn, that’s too low,” Miles muttered.
“He could do with a transfusion, whole blood…” Rag suggested.
“In case you didn’t notice, there’s no local blood bank within cooee,” Miles replied testily.
“From me, Miles,” Gideon replied, eliciting a startled look from the doctor.
Miles shook his head. “Too dangerous. I have no idea what his blood group is.”
“I’m O neg. It’s the friendly type, like me.” Gideon winked. “It can be given to anybody. It’s a proven battlefield technique, Doc. We call it the Walking Blood Bank; those of us who are prepared to donate if it’s required on the spot.”
“How do I know your blood isn’t contaminated?” Miles felt his own blood pressure rising. “Do you know how many people have become infected with HIV after receiving blood transfusions?” Losing Gil to a wound was one thing. Watching another lover die from AIDS would be simply too much.
Gideon watched Miles’ shoulders tense up as he lent over and began working. “You don’t know,” Gideon replied gently. He’d read the files and had a good idea what the man was thinking. “You have to trust me that I’m clean, and that my blood group is a match. I know it is. I’ve done this before, contributed to saving more than one of my colleagues in the line of duty.”
“The accepted terminology is “positive” or “negative”, mate. “Clean” isn’t used in the gay community; people affected aren’t dirty, just sick.”
Gideon shrugged. “I’m not gay, but thanks for the heads up.” He grinned. “I always consider the day I don’t learn something to be a day wasted…”
What a wanker, thought Miles. The last thing he needed at the moment was a smart-arse. He cautiously cut further into Gil’s arm. The blood was flowing freely now. He needed to operate slowly, carefully, to ensure he didn’t cause any more damage, but because of the blood loss he didn’t have that luxury. “Rag, have you got a tourniquet in that kit of yours?”
Rag nodded and rummaged, bringing out a strap with a quick release fastening on it. He quickly wrapped it round Gil’s arm above the elbow and tightened it. The bleeding lessened immediately, but it wasn’t something they could leave on indefinitely. Constricted blood flow meant even more complications.
Miles glanced up and stared at Gideon, their eyes only inches apart as they bent over the unconscious man. Why should I trust you? He was Eidolon’s representative after all and so far they hadn’t done anything to reassure him they were looking after any interests other than their own. The blood flow increased as he made another cut, releasing the next barb. Shit. He had to take the risk. He gave the man a sharp nod and went back to his task.
“Here you, come here.” Gideon beckoned the second of the large native islanders over and showed him where to stand so they could keep the patient immobilised. Gil moaned softly and tried to move, but the three islanders held him steady, gently but firmly. Miles paused until his patient was still again.
Gideon straightened and backed away. “You got the kit, Rag?” With a brief silent nod in answer, Rag drew out more sealed sterile packets. “Then let’s do it.” Gideon hopped up onto a vacant bed and rolled up his sleeve as Ragnar brought the equipment over. “Rag can draw off a liter and then transfuse it into Gil straight away.”
“A liter, are you kidding?” Miles shook his head, but didn’t stop what he was doing. “That’s too much, 500ml and that’s it. Any more and you risk causing trouble for yourself.” Miles was putting his foot down about this. It was a crazy idea in the first place, and he didn’t need another basket case on his hands.
“Rag, take two 450ml bags off me. One isn’t enough. Look, doc, you can give me the hot sweet tea and biccies afterwards, and I’ll lie here like a good boy and recover, but Gillespie needs this. Normally in the field we’ve got plenty of guys who are ready and willing to donate but right now, there’s only me. So don’t argue. I’m fit, I’m healthy, I won’t suffer too much.”
“Seems like I don’t have a choice.” Miles snapped. At least the men knew what they were doing. In no time at all Gil was hooked up and the blood slowly but surely replaced what was lost.
Memories of looking after Darren flashed through his brain during the operation, making it hard to concentrate. In the end, Miles had to push all his emotion aside and disassociate himself from the fact that the man under his knife was a good friend and lover, or at least had been his lover. Was that one night all they would have together?
It felt like forever, but Miles finally finished removing the lethal looking weapon. He stitched the wound closed, leaving in a tube to drain off any resulting build-up of fluid. There was nothing more he could do.
A sudden exclamation from Rag startled Miles as he turned away, peeling off his gloves.
“Doc! He’s going into ve-tac.” Rag worriedly scanned the screen on the defibrillator they were using as an ECG monitor. Ve-tac—ventricular tachycardia—was a dangerous condition, a too-rapid heart beat that could lead to cardiac arrest if it wasn’t treated.
No! Damn it, everything had been going okay. Removing the barb had definitely been fiddly, but nothing that should have caused this reaction. What had gone wrong? Miles rushed back to the bedside and couldn’t breathe for a second as he took in Gil’s still form. He looked so peaceful. Darren had looked like that at the end. His knees nearly buckled under him. Easy, Miles, you can do it. Darren was always able to calm his jitters. He took a deep breath and pushed Jerri aside, motioning for the others to stand back. “Quick, defib!”
Had Gil had a hemolytic reaction? If it had been the wrong blood type, Gil’s kidneys could fail, causing circulatory collapse. Had he killed him after all by believing Gideon? Bugger it, he had to focus. He needed to act now, before Gil’s heart stopped; otherwise the defibrillator would be well-nigh useless. Rag had powered the machine up, pressing buttons and prepping the paddles. The high-pitched whine like a camera flash aggravated Miles’ ears. Rag handed him the paddles. “Clear!” Miles barked and pressed them to Gil’s chest.
The resulting jolt wasn’t nearly as dramatic as all the television dramas loved, but it was dramatic enough. Rag glanced up. The islanders looked startled, obviously never having seen anything like this before. The doctor was ignoring them, his attention fixed on the display. It beeped, steadied, then the alarm sounded. Rag swore under his breath. Shit. “It hasn’t worked. He’s going into ve-fib.”
“Again. Clear!” Miles was following protocol with the verbal command as he pressed the paddles to Gil’s chest once more. The islanders didn’t need the warning, they had stepped back as far as it was possible to go. Once again, the charge shocked through Gil and both men glanced at the screen, anxiously watching for any change.
“It’s stabilising, I think…” Rag said cautiously. The trace had gone back to a regular blip, but it was still touch and go. The doctor closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Suddenly the machine emitted a continuous whine. “Flatline!”
“Oh, shit!” Miles stared at the paddles then at Rag.
“No use, Doc.”
Miles tried to think, but his brain refused to work. “Epinephrine… vasopressin? What have you got in your bag?” If they don’t work it’s down to CPR… So few patients came back from that. Those that did… images of brain damage and renal failure popped up… He could not lose Gil like this…
“Doc!” Rag was shaking him, pressing a syringe and a bottle into his hand. “Come on, Doc, move! He needs you now…”