Let Go



Scene Title Let Go
Synopsis Delia Ryans treads a difficult path and finds herself in the company of an old man with one last gift to give to the world.
Date June 9, 2010

St.Luke's Hospital

Delia Ryans shouldn't be at St.Luke's Hospital on a wednesday evening, but what Delia Ryans should be doing and what's been asked of her are two wholly different things. In the aftermath of the Great Storm, with the hospital's staff pulled precatiously thin, volunteer work from nursing assistants has become a more prominent feature at this particular New York City hospital. Wednesday has seen Delia called in by hispital staff to help out the beleagured nurses that she typically aids on weekends, and having been at the hospital nearly all day has worn a rut straight through the young redhead.

The clock on the wall in room 302 says that it's 7:30 and the dusky coloration of the sky outside the room's artly blinded windows suggests that it means PM rather than AM, an important distinction that in retrospect is more important than she first realized.

Room 302 belongs to Russel Vaughner, a patient suffering from terminal lung cancer. These trips Delia is asked to make are typically the duties of a hospice nurse in most normal circumstances. Given Vaighner's history, however, the situation itself is anything but normal. Russel was nearly killed, just a month ago, by an attack in the hospital by what hospital staff said was a serial killer targeting the Evolved. Russel himself is known to be SLC-positive, but has never claimed to know what his own ability is, and was only registered after his admittance to the hispital after paramedics found him unresponsive in the snow back in May.

He'd been suffering with his illness on his own, alone, in an apartment in Harlem now destroyed by the snow that had nearly consumed the city. His last few days, undoubtedly, will be spent here behind eggshell white walls with the smell of antiseptic stinging his nose and the only comforts afforded to him being a private room, and the visits by hospital staff.

That Russel has the will to offer an honest smile to Delia when she steps thorugh that door is both uplifting and heartbreaking.

Knocking on the door, Delia peeks in and smiles at the man in the bed. Clearly, she's nervous. A man with the SLC gene and she's expected to care for him in his last hours. She's not holding a chart or any meds, what she is holding is a stack of games that she pilfered from the children's ward.

"Hi Russell, I brought some stuff that we could do. If you're feeling up to it."

The redhead moves into the room and pulls a chair alongside the ailing man's bed and sets the stack down on her lap. "I have connect four, monopoly, uhm… a puzzle, probably has pieces missing but it might be fun anyway… And a crossword puzzle that I got from today's paper." Placing all of them on the bedside table, she picks up the crossword first and shows it to him. The page as been neatly cut from the Times and after she places it on the tray table, she fishes a pencil from her uniform. "I can write the stuff in, you can help me guess the words, huh?"

Russel's smile isn't tired, it never really is. Having not undergone khemotherapy much of his silvery hair still remains, all the creases sagging frown-lines on his face make him look like a particularly weathered statue. "You're new…" Russel comments in a rasping voice, the gravel and salt sound of his tone such a vibrant indicator of what exactly is murdering him on the inside. "You're nicer than Terri," he admits with the flash of a whiter than expected smile, then offers a very shaky and weary hand at the side of his bed, palm up and fingers uncurling, an offer.

"I… I used to do crosswords with Amy when she was little," though Russel gives no explanation of who she is or was, "every morning with breakfast we'd open up the paper and fill the whole thing out before lunch. She… she really enjoyed that, liked spending time with me after her mother passed away." Furrowing his brows, Russel's tired eyes alight up to Delia, lips pulled back into a faint smile.

"You know… the nurses never talk to me," Russel admits, his expression becoming distant, "they just come in and check things and leave." From the sounds of things, this sort of contact is appreciated. "What's your name?"

The young woman's expression saddens as she listens to his story. Lowering the pencil to her lap, she shifts a little in her chair to get a bit more comfortable, then her other hand moves to her pager as she unclips it and sets it on the table, at the same time powering it off. "Well I'm not exactly a nurse, not yet. Still studying. If I can get back into the swing of things, I'll be an RN by the end of the summer though."

She drops the pencil and leans forward to pull his blanket up a little, arranging it nicely and tucking him back in. Something a mother would do to a child that's had a nightmare but without the kiss at the end. Settling back down, she picks the writing implement back up and swirls the tray table between them, so they can both see the crossword. "My name's Delia, you can call me Lia for short if you want. That's what my dad calls me."

"S'quite a pretty name…" Russel comments, brows furrowed and head tilted to the side, staring off distantly to the partly blinded windows and the cityscape beyond. "Did it really stop snowing?" is an odd question to ask, given that the snow stopped back on the 20th of May. Though when Russel offers a look back to Delia, he just smiles away the question with a shake of his head. "Ain't much important…" he admits tiredly with a small shake of his head.

Well then," Russel asks with a subtle nod of his head, "why don't we start with all the across words, and work our way down from there." When the old man's eyes settle back on Delia there's a weariness in his eyes that wasn't there a moment ago, tired like someone fighting off that desire to just lay down and sleep after a hard day's work.

"And…" he interjects before Delia has a real chance to look down at the crossword, "what made you want t'become a nurse?" he wonders aloud, one silvery brow raised.

The compliment on her name receives a wide smile from the redhead and she lifts her eyes to look into his. "Thanks, I didn't pick it though, I was named after my grandma." Looking toward the window, Delia stands and makes her way toward it. She opens the blinds just enough to allow him a look at the sun and the sky outside but not enough to bother his eyes.

"It stopped at the end of last month, it's pretty warm outside now. You'd probably like it." After angling the shades just enough to allow some of the cheerful light in, she goes back to her chair and plumps the pillow behind his head before retaking her seat. "Maybe if you feel up to it, we could take a walk outside? I might be able to whip up a wheelchair and a mask for you, if your doc says it's okay, of course."

She doesn't pick the pencil up again, instead she folds her hands in front of her and just sits there, smiling at him and listening to his questions. Before she answers, she takes a deep breath and lets it out. "Honestly? I want to be a doctor… Nurse is just the first step. I decided after my mom died."

"Last month…" Russel echoes those earlier words with a slowly dawning look of understanding on his face as his eyes follow Delia around the room. "It's not time to get up yet, though," Russel adds in comment to taking a walk out in the warmer weather. "Soon, just… not yet, I don't want our litte talk to end just yet, you know?" Watching Delia when she sits, there's an appreciative expression on his face when she finally answers the question of why she wanted to become a nurse, though the smile turns to a bittersweet one when she speaks of her mother.

Silent for a moment, Russel nods his head slowly. "My wife passed away in a car accident in 1996," he explains without prompting, "Olivia, she… she was the kindest wife a man could ask for. Our daughter, Liv," he smiles at the name in distant appreciation, "she took it really hard when her mother died. Never really… was quite the same again. She… I lost her almost ten years to the day after my Olivia, died up in that… in the explosion." Russel's attention moves to the window briefly, then back to Delia.

"Her little girl, Amy, my grand-daughter, she moved in with me afterward. Not… not 'cause of nothin' on her end, but because she just… she didn't think I deserved to be alone, you know?" There's a faint smile on Russel's lips as his head dips down into a slow nod and he looks past Delia, sort've staring through her.

"Amy and I both sort've fell into bad habits after Liv died. I stopped really… goin' outside, and Amy started her pack-a-day habit again…" there's something of a rueful grimace at that, and Russel looks back to Delia, shaking his head slowly. "S'good to see someone who makes somethin' better of themselves, in spite of tragedy."

The bright smile on Delia's face falters and wanes as Russel talks. By the time he gets to the end of his story, she's actually sniffling and trying to keep herself completely composed. There's the little huff of a laugh when he says the word 'explosion' and she looks away. Taking a deep breath, she closes her eyes for as long as it takes to fill up all of her lungs with air. When she opens them again, they're clear of tears and she lets it all out in a long sigh.

"My mom died in the explosion," her words are quiet and she can't quite bring herself to look at the man in the bed for a little while. "She was shopping, for me." It doesn't need to be said out loud, there's still an expression of guilt painted all over the young woman's face, she partially blames herself.

"So.. Wh-where's Amy now? Does she come and visit? Did she… did she stop smoking?" Given Russel's condition, Delia seems to expect his answer to be yes. "I mean, I don't want to pry or anything, I was just curious."

Russel's expression is a longingly silent one when he watches Delia, his brows furrowed and head shaking from side to side slowly. "She doesn't blame you…" he offers in hushed quality, "so you shouldn't blame yourself." Implicitely personal that statement was, and backing away from it Russel tracs towards the latter question as he looks out to the windows and the gray skies beyond. He's silent, strangely, in that answer before his attention turns back to Delia and his gray eyes seem to imply some sort of wordless tragedy behind them.

"She was very sick," Russel admits in a small voice, "she stopped smoking, but… only after it was too late." Shakily, one of the old man's hands comes to rest on the rail at the sie of his bed, fingers brushing over the cool plastic. "She spent the better part of the last five years in and out of hospitals, lung cancer…" the very same malady that is sending this gentle old man into the grave.

"There comes a time in every parent's life…" Russel says with a certain additional gravity, "when they have to make choices about their own happiness and well-being, and that of their family's. When they have to decide whether or not the choices they make to save themselves are worth watching their own children suffer…"

Curling his fingers against the rail, Russel pulls himself up slowly, and much to Delia's surprise rises up to sit straight in the bed, then folds the rail down and slowly brings his legs around the side as he detatches the fingertip heartrate monitor and the IVs in the back of his hand. "When a parent has to… make the hard choices for their own." Russel's attention turns back up to Delia, "One day when you're a parent… you'll understand."

Delia gapes, her shocked expression freezing for a moment as Russel begins to unhook himself from the monitors and the alarms sound. "No, no, Russel, you have to keep those on." What she doesn't add is that the charge nurse will likely flay her alive. "If you want to get up and go, I can get a wheelshair and a mask… J-just lie down again, c'mon, please? I don't want you to hurt yourself."

"We can talk some more," she continues, her voice turning a little more anxious and wary. One of her hands rests on the man's shoulder while the other is busily turning off the alarms that are dinging away, a mechanical call for help for a man no longer attached. "You said parents have to make the hard choices, are you making a hard choice? You have more kids? I .. I don't see myself being a parent any decade soon, you know? Too many things going on, my sister, she needs someone to take care of her… Then there's my dad, you know? He doesn't look like he needs anyone, but I think it's just an act. He just doesn't want to be around because he's scared."

The student assistant gives up on trying to keep the old man down, with a defeated expression, she looks around the room, smiling a little as she spies the wheelchair in the corner. "If you're feeling like going outside, we can take a walk. I'll get a wheelchair and take you."

When Russel's bare feet touch down on the floor, he very slowly pushes himself up to stand straight, offering an askance look over to Delia, then out to the window, then back to the redhead again. A weathered hand is lifted, rests on her shoulder and squeezes gently without any of the trembling illness that once unsteadied his fingers in her presence just moments ago. "I have just the one daughter, and she's doing fine now… I don't blame her for the choices she made, and I don't want her to feel guilty for what I did for her." Looking down to the crossword, Russel offers a hesitant smile, then looks back up to Delia again.

"You've been a sweetheart…" the old man explains to Delia before he looks down at his feet, then shifts his gaze over to the door to the hospital room, then back to Delia again. "It wasn't your time," he admits in a small, hushed voice as his hand comes off of her shoulder, shaking his head slowly, "I couldn't let it happen to you, just like I couldn't let it happen to Amy…"

Rubbing a hand at his throat, Russel offers a smile and looks out to the window and the rainy city street beyond. "Delia…" he intones quietly before looking back to her, "it's okay," comes with the noise of an EKG's steady flatline whine, "you can let go now."

St.Luke's Hospital


The noise of an EKG flatlining has Delia bolting up in the chair she's sitting in, her heart fluttering in her chest and the dark confines of room 302 coming into slow focus. Her fingers slide away from a soft and wrinkled hand she'd been holding, and somehow the distinction between dream and reality becomes all the more clear as she jolts into a standing position, eyes wide.

Russel Vaughner has been in a coma since his arrival to St.Luke's back in May when he was found unresponsive in the snow near the hospital, frostbite scars across his face evidence of this. He has never woken up, not once, and yet hospital staff are required to check up on him daily. They say that coma patients can hear the voices of people around them, and perhaps that is what compelled Delia to sit with Russel, to read the newspaper to him and hold his hand while he lay there trapped within himself.

Whatever just happened, science won't ever readily be able to explain. But the brain tumor that killed Russel Vaughner didn't show up on his CAT scans when he was admitted, couldn't have been present from the bloodwork done.

Maybe that's why his daughter Amy no longer has cancer, maybe that's why Delia has so many healthy years ahead of her now.

Maybe he was finally ready to let go.

Only Delia knows.

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