Just Don't Explode


everleigh_icon.gif julie_icon.gif shane_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Scene Title Just Don't Explode
Synopsis Various people visit Shane in the hospital, and his ability is determined by Julie.
Date February 7, 2020

Elmhurst Hospital

Hospital room interior.

Things have progressively gotten worse. But not in the way it was thought that they could.

Shane originally was in the hospital, from the car explosion injuries. His right hand still is very burned (entirely wrapped), though his left isn't quite as bad, it's usable, just bandaged. His ribs were hit hard by the car door that crushed down on him, but he's healed reasonably well over the past week: the impact was nasty but could have been a lot worse.

Normally 'worse' would mean infection in the burns, or some internal injuries not yet seen.

But no, this 'worse' involves that Shane has put on over forty pounds and about half a foot of height, in a week! Being some kind of shape or size shifter wouldn't normally be extremely concerning, except that not under his control, and there's pain from his impacted ribs being altered. There's other things to keep an eye on: can his heart handle the shift well, and is he dangerous to himself or others?

All of that is why he ended up in the hospital bed with a bunch of equipment hooked up to monitor his heart and body, as well as pain medication to help with the rib trouble.

Evidence all points to that he can alter his physical size in some way, fueled by eating a lot of calories. It's made him stronger as well, though with his burned hands, no real tests have been done of how strong. But even just looking at him it's wildly different: he's gone from a short, compact and slim guy of 5'4", and is passing 5'10" — from about 140 to 185. It's significantly changing what he looks like. He's kept his new sweatpants on for now, but they're getting short. Where will this end? WILL it end? It's scary. Very scary.

Everleigh is technically not there in a professional capacity. Technically. In this case it's personal, but it hasn't stopped her desire to be there to help. She was there through the start of this, she'll follow it through to whatever end occurs. She lingers nearby, close to the bed but separated enough to give doctors and machines and people of import the space to work. She's very aware of how these things work so her presence is felt but not impeding anything.

She takes a moment to check Shane, making sure he's not currently panicking from the situation. "You good?" She questions, her phone in hand. It's only there for her to half pay attention to, simply something to occupy her in the midst of this so she doesn't look like she's taken this too personally.

"Yeah. SESA is sending somebody," Shane answers trying to manage his phone in his left hand. He is not left-handed, but it's required: there's no ability to use the touch stuff with his mummified right hand. Left thumb just has mild burns, so it's not pleasant, but Shane wouldn't complain anyway. He finishes reading the message and puts it aside, though.

"All I can think about is food now, though. It's hard to focus on much else. I'm not sure if it's worse, but it isn't better," Shane says to her softly, adjusting some of the leads connected to his arm and chest, but ends up leaving them alone. He shifts restlessly; he's more restless with the pain medication, since his injuries don't feel as limiting.

"I'm concerned about that. I'm not sure if the caloric intake was fueling the growth or if it was simply a reaction to it. Is your body trying to recover what it's lost? This is definitely not my field. At least there are people here who are slightly less lost in figuring it out than I." Everleigh eyes him carefully as he moves, uncertain if chiding him a bit would be necessary. She certainly wouldn't do that unless she had to, though the playful childhood banter and humor had done well so far in keeping spirits up.

"Either way, regardless of what your body thinks it needs, it certainly won't enjoy hospital food again. Who knew you'd be back again so soon?"

“Sorry to interrupt,” comes from the doorway to Shane’s room, where a short and young blonde woman in pink scrubs stands, holding a tablet to her chest. Stepping into the room, the young nurse offers a look up to Everleigh, then over to Shane. “I’m Julie, I know Doctor Altman already came and saw you, but the hospital received a call from SESA to make sure you have a specialist examination, given the nature of your manifestation.”

Julia walks in with a slow duck of her head in nod to Everleigh, coming to rest beside Shane’s bed. As she does, she turns the tablet over and rests it down on the bedside table, then sweeps open a signable PDF, but doesn’t turn it on yet. “My specialization is SLC-Expressive identification. It’s a… broad stroke classification, my own ability allows me to ascertain certain biological changes you may have undergone and help you understand what may be happening to you.” She says with a tentative smile, offering a look between Everleigh and Shane. “Entirely non-invasive, but it requires your consent. Anything I find here is entirely confidential.” She motions to the tablet, then waits by the bedside.

"If nothing else… we've decided to intervene before something gets out of control," Shane says bravely to Everleigh. They called an audible when he hit 5'10". What if this didn't have a ceiling? What would that do to his life? It was like being radioactive, possibly: entirely uproot a lot of what he thought he could do, if he goes beyond certain boundaries…

"Hi Julie. Agent Bishop — Shane, if you like, since I'm half in a hospital gown," Shane smiles briefly at Julie. He's a little bit more flippant than he might otherwise be, but that's a defense mechanism Everleigh will read loud and clear. Pleasant, but he's afraid. "This is Dr. Everleigh Madison; here as a friend. I'm already registered as an Unknown manifestation, and I don't think I'll be able to mask whatever this is. I don't have a lot of expectation of privacy at this point," Shane says, with a release of breath that makes him flinch slightly. Those rib injuries.

Shane extends a bandaged hand to look at what she's presenting to him, though he fumbles the tablet. The bandages make it difficult, and he almost drops it, and grabs for it.

And cracks it.

"Shit," Shane releases abruptly, with a heavy tremble of hand as he reacts in obvious fear and tension, and puts it on the side table with a clatter of shaking. From his reaction, one would think he'd dropped a baby.

Everleigh crosses the gap between herself and the hospital bed in one smooth motion. "You're good, just don't worry about it. We're in the process of figuring everything out so there are naturally going to be mishaps. This just happens to be one of them." She flashes him a reassuring smile. It's genuine. If she's worried about it, it's taken a full backseat to making sure things are normal.

"I have to say, Julie," she says, glancing in the other woman's direction. "That is certainly a very useful ability. I wish this was an option when I had registered… it was a headache trying to figure out how my ability worked and classifying it. A literal headache by the end of it." She turns her gaze back to Shane. "But yes, I'm not here in a professional capacity. Shane's an old friend and needed some help, so here I am. If you need me to sass him for anything, though, that's well within my role as friend."

Grimacing as she picks up the cracked tablet from the table, Julie creases her brows and looks up to Everleigh. “It wasn’t always like this,” is all she has to say about her power, giving focus back to the tablet. “This is fine,” she says with an attempt at a smile that mostly lands, rubbing one finger over the crack. “We’ve got ones in worse condition here,” she says, putting it back down on the table.

Julie sweeps back her hair from her face, sliding a hair tie off of one of her wrists as she gathers her hair back into a ponytail. “This should only take a moment, and you won’t feel anything.” As she talks, Shane and Everleigh can see her pupils widen far beyond normal dilation. They grow to a point that it seems to swallow her iris, making that blue just a faint ring around large pools of deep black. When she talks again, it is with a distant quality. “Are you comfortable with me discussing the results with Everleigh in the room?”

There's a bit of visible humor here, as Shane winces, nose wrinkled, trying to push himself to sit up: very embarrassed, blushing: not necessarily from the reaction, but from the expressive reaction paired with his physically dominating presence. It's a mismatch that lends somewhat silly: in the same way a tiny white kitten would be humorous if it acted against type and was very SERIOUS.

"She's been with me from the start of this, from the … event that triggered. I'm okay with it," Shane assures Julie. He moves a hand sideways to brush Everleigh's arm with the bandages along the edge of his right wrist. Safe enough, he's being delicate with both his injury and with her.

Shane then watches Julie with a new focused intensity, brows lowering to stare at her, his jaw clenching down tight, the muscles in his cheeks flexing with it. This is extremely scary and important. It could be — no, WILL be — life-changing news. It will determine if he's on negation medication. If he can continue to even be a SESA agent. If, if, if.

Change can be scary anyway, let alone feeling entirely out-of-body at the same time. "Will this stop?"

While Everleigh is quite familiar with how to handle comforting and calming someone in a professional setting, a personal one is unfamiliar territory. How personal is just enough? How personal is too little? Instead, she settles on a middle ground. She remains nearby, but doesn't make a move otherwise. She'll just be there in support.

"We'll figure it out, Mulder. No one's going to let this ruin your life." She's aware of the panic there.

Jule’s unblinking stare remains focused on Shane. Every so often there’s a subtle crease of her brows, followed by an audible “Huh.” After a minute that feels like forever, her pupils contract and her posture relaxes, eyes narrowing and nose scrunching up. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a manifestation like this, Shane.” She quickly looks over to Everleigh, then back. “You’re undergoing rapid cellular mitosis stemming from your manifestation, which we sometimes see in mimics, like…” she makes a vague gesture in the air with one hand, “someone who can turn to stone? We see a temporary spike in cell division around that first transformation, but then it subsides when they revert back to their default state.”

Crossing her arms, Julie rests one hand on her chin. “This, however…” she blinks and shakes her head. “You’re in fine health. Provided you keep your caloric intake high. Right now your body is metabolising at an accelerated rate, because you have a form of superhuman strength that is directly proportional to body mass. You’re going to plateau, but you haven’t finished growing yet. But you’re going to be… very tall.” She looks Shane up and down slowly, then makes a gesture far over her head with one hand.

“Unfortunately I can’t tell specifics beyond that. I know this isn’t a temporary state, this is… whatever size you land on is going to be your new normal. Upper limits of your strength are unknown, so you’re probably going to want to work with a personal trainer experienced with Expressives to get a handle on it. Given your rapid size change, you’re also going to experience some coordination issues. I’m going to suggest that Doctor Altmann recommend a physical therapist to you to help regain your coordination. He’ll probably suggest a medical leave of absence from work, too.” Sighing softly, Julia picks up the cracked tablet and looks at it again, then up and over to Shane.

“For what it’s worth,” Julie notes in a conversational tone, “this is one for the medical books. We’re always learning new things about our kind and…” she smiles, just so. “Well, we just learned something new.”

Shane chews on all of that information, by staring at her. He's usually quick to process things, get through a puzzle, but this is really personal. It's different when it's happening to someone else. He draws his knees up a little, curling his left arm around them against the sheet, pulling at the fabric a little between long fingers. He's trying to decide how he feels about it. He didn't want to be 'new' to the expert.

He's still taking it in, to really have questions right off the bat. "We're talking like … Bigfoot? The Hulk?" questions Shane slowly. He's impressed she can see everything she saw. And is fighting his own disbelief or pessimism. If she's wrong, and he grows a second head… well. There's still a lot to be unsure about.

"So I should eat? This is going to happen anyway?" Shane asks. He looks sideways at Everleigh, unsure exactly what he's looking for. Maybe just to see if she's in a panic or a relief. A cue of if he's underreacting or overreacting.

"But it's strength. A muscular thing. Okay. That can be managed." That sorts it into a bite-size piece of information. "Not a nuclear warhead." That was mostly to Everleigh, from prior conversation. He won't explode.

"Remember when I made mention of that teacher I had in undergrad that had to take in more calories?" Everleigh glances over at Shane. "It means it's probably better to find more high-calorie foods or some kind of additional supplement to keep that intake high." She observes him carefully. "But it's good news that it's going to plateau. I was a bit concerned."

She doesn't like admitting that she's concerned given she's supposed to be the supportive one keeping him going, but she's being honest in the moment. "No explosions, see. You'll be fine. Just some adjustments and you'll be able to figure things out. It's not the end of the world. Or your world."

“Certainly no explosions.” Julie agrees with a somewhat more hopeful smile than her usual ones. “As for your size, I can’t make a definitive estimate,” and the words Hulk soar square over her head, as if she’s unfamiliar with the character, “but I’d say around…” she wobbles her head from side to side, “six and a half to maybe seven feet? Big, but… not sasquatch.” That reference, she gets.

“I’m going to write a report and have it sent to Doctor Altmann, then I’ll send a consent release form to you in the event you want to allow these medical records to remain for Expressive research…” Julie says with a pinch of her brows, inspecting the cracked tablet screen. “Doctor Altmann will be around to discuss physical therapy and meal preparation so you don’t cannibalize your own body mass. I imagine SESA will have someone here to confirm details with you soon as well.” Julie glances to the door, then to Everleigh and Shane. “Unless either of you had any questions?”

"I… guess not, no. We'll wait for the doctor's perspective, now that we have something to go on," Shane decides. He nods his head once about Julie's question regarding his consent for his medical records. It's a lot to take in, he'll deal with it.. When he deals with it.

"My brother's six-four. This isn't … too insane," Shane decides slowly, as if mostly to himself, possibly to Everleigh. "I need to call Hank again." Bringing his brother into this, at least for information, has become more important. More important in that at least Shane has something to say, some type of answer. Not just that there's hanging questions and they don't know.

"I've done some physical therapy before. I… have a good idea what this will be." Shane swallows and nods to Julie. "Thanks for your help."

"I appreciate the help, Julie. It's good to have some answers, at least. You've been a big help." Everleigh looks between Shane and Julie. "I don't have any questions myself." She'd gotten the serious questions out of the way. He'd be fine, just some adjustments were going to be needed. "I'm sure he'll have a time adjusting to being the short one."

She's certainly recalling all the times in high school there had been jokes about his height and build before. This was certainly an ironic turn of events. She moves over to lean against the wall, letting it support her weight as she takes in a deep breath. "So how're you holding up? Aside from the physical, of course."

"Probably suffering from some significant denial," Shane answers Everleigh, glancing towards her and up at her as she moves towards the wall. He draws his hands in to his lap, letting his knees drop slowly back down again, stretching his legs out, pressing through the muscle down the legs. The sense of being battered and bruised from the car accident is making more sense, in that there's more than JUST that going on. A combination of things have hit his body and he's struggling to keep up, to cope.

And that's the physical, again. But that's Shane, too: focusing on the material things, the /facts/. The inspiration, the instincts are always there, but downplayed, as he focuses on what's concrete. So being hungry, being in pain, it's all front-seat to any emotional hardships going on beneath it.

But that's normal: safety and hunger are two major needs, and they need to be met, before he can start to patch up the emotional turmoil. How he feels about who he is, what happened to him, his identity. And it's all in flux, still. The fear is still present, but tastes less coppery. He'll handle it, and not show weakness. Like usual. He'll hold the emotions in with a vice grip that isn't always as tight as he wishes it could be.

Though she had hung around for a few moments more than necessary, Julie quietly slips out of the hospital room as Shane and Everleigh slip into more casual conversation. She pauses in the hall just outside of Shane’s room, looking down at the cracked tablet for a moment. Looking at her muted reflection in the splintered glass, Julie is momentarily lost. Then, as an announcement comes over the hall intercoms, she straightens and looks around before briskly walking away, nearly brushing shoulders with someone moving at an equally brisk pace from the other direction.

Deputy-Director Kristopher Voss doesn't often make house calls like this. But when one of SESA’s finest winds up hospitalized after a late-life manifestation, he makes exceptions. Voss doesn't much wait for a response as he knocks on the door while opening it, slipping in as a drab silhouette dressed in dark colors in an otherwise egggshell white environment. Voss squares a look over the frames of his glasses at Everleigh as he enters, then fixes that look at Shane.

“Agent… Bishop?” Voss says with an audible hitch in his voice, shutting the door behind himself. “I came down as soon as I heard. I didn't get filled in on the specifics— what— happened?” Surprise at Shane’s condition is evident on Voss’ face, bewilderment too at the mountain of a man laying where a charismatic bean-pole should be.

Everleigh's not certain she'll be able to help with anything in any immediate sense. Physical problems had to be dealt with and gotten used to first—they were the easiest to tackle. She opens her mouth to say something, but the presence of another figure has her falling to silence again and taking a half-step back out of the way to allow the conversation.

"He decided he really liked hospital jello," she quips, the small smile she has disappearing after a brief moment. "Sorry, creating a moment of levity." She lets the silence take her, giving them a bit of space.

Shane has turned red, very red. He's self-conscious, and isn't entirely aware exactly /what/ sort of thing he looks like at present, so he doesn't have any resilience to Voss's strong reaction to him. "Deputy-Director," he gets out in greeting, voice a little low, with a cough. Broad chest makes his voice a bit more brassy. Or maybe that's also the embarrassment.

Shane glances at Everleigh as she quips, and it breaks some of the blush, as he laughs softly. "Don't tease me, do you have some jello?" Shane asks her, using it to help pivot up out of his automatic freeze. He's usually self-assured, but this? There's no real experience in his past to pull from about this. It's somehow his fault and entirely not his fault at the same time. Can someone apologize for their weird genetics?

"I ….attempted to help someone in a car accident, but the car exploded. I'm…" Shane tries to decide how to sum up. "Starting to manifest. Details still, ah, pending, sir." And it's awkward.

Voss eyes drift up and down Shane’s bandaging. He lifts his glasses up with one hand and massages the bridge of his nose with forefingers and thumb, sighing softly. “I’m grateful that all you have to show for being caught up in a car explosion are some burns. Everyone at the office will be glad to know you’re…” he can’t ignore the near-literal elephant in the room, “well.

One corner of Voss’ mouth crooks up into a smile as he steps closer to Shane’s bedside. “I had a similarly perilous manifestation, so I sympathize with what you’re going through right now. But I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of one going quite like this.” He briefly looks to Everleigh, eyes drifting up and down as he assesses the dynamic she has with Shane, before turning his attention back on the bedridden agent. “Obviously you’re on medical leave pending a clear bill of health. But, is there anything else you need? SESA takes care of its own, Agent Bishop.”

Shane turns more professional, more serious, when speaking to Voss. He's overwhelmed in general: he needed a few moments to collect himself more from what Julie had just informed him. He's reeling from that, getting his head around that, so he wasn't quite as prepared for the deputy-director.

"We… just now learned that… I have something muscular going on. Classed as biological enhanced musculature, metabolic swing, I guess." He trails off. Improved dense body mass means he's bulking. That's what Shane got out of the description. "—-We're not sure yet. It's been brought up that I need to be monitored, to be sure my heart is handling this … and that I'll need physical therapy, to get used to…" Shane moves his bandaged hands across his body, which draws a lot of motion through his bulky upper and lower arms. Said elephant. "This." This indeed. Shane sits up more, bracing one hand on the metal rail, and the bed groans a little in complaint. Is that metal rail dented from his hand? Yeah. Super-strength will need physical therapy.

"But I need to hear from the doctors. I'd like to continue to help on my cases from a paperwork perspective, but I… know my status is a little uncertain." The workaholic doesn't like to be taken off any case. Even if he is literally exploding.

"I'm sorry. I don't know how to answer your question, yet. I think I just need time, sir."

There's the slight downturn of a frown at the corner of Everleigh's mouth when she hears him mention 'helping on cases'. Regardless of how well he thinks he's recovering or going to recover, it's her opinion that he is likely going to neglect a large portion of mentally learning to deal with it. She's seen it before. She's been there before. Workaholics never like taking a break.

She doesn't, however, voice her opinion on that. It wasn't asked and she's certainly not going to piss her friend off by suggesting he do no work at all. Sitting around and having nothing to do? Now that's a workaholic nightmare. Instead, she rests her back against the wall and listens unobtrusively to the two chat.

“Paperwork can wait,” Voss says flatly, giving a look to Everleigh after. It’s a fleeting one, and Voss finally steps right to the side of Shane’s bed. He scans the new silhouette with a familiar face attached, then exhales a slow sigh through his nose. “Sometimes I forget we live in a world of unpredictable strangeness.” His mouth twitches into what might have been an attempt at a smile.

“It sounds like you’re in good hands. I just…” Voss glances to the door, then back again. “I wanted to check up on you myself. I’d recommend you see our appointed therapist regarding this but,” another fleeting glance to Everleigh, “seems you’re ahead of the curve on that too.” It’s as close to a joke as Voss has ever made.

“If anything changes, keep a line open to the agency. We won’t expect you back in the field right away.” Voss says firmly, resting a hand on the rail at the side of the bed, then slowly stepping away while letting his hand lift off the rail. “Focus on your recovery and…” his brows lift, “try not to explode again. It seems to not agree with you.” With that, Voss shows himself out.

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