Signs Of A Greater Issue


aman_icon.gif faulkner_icon.gif

Scene Title Signs Of A Greater Issue
Synopsis After hours of worry, Isaac's cleared for visitors. When he explains the extent of his medical mysteries, Aman in turn relays his concerns about them.
Date November 8, 2020

Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital

The worst part is Aman doesn't even know of other family to call for Isaac. He knows— he knows he came east to New York after living in Montana. It was boring out there. He lived with his uncle? But not anymore, hadn't talked to him in…

Okay, so there was no one?

Crushing helplessness doesn't help him sort through his thoughts any easier as he sits with his head in his hands in the waiting room. He rocks back and forth once, answering the concern that invisibly settles on his shoulder like a hand seeking to comfort with a stilling of his nervous energy— an attempt to answer the well-understood feeling nudged his way resulting in a fumble. He's too many things at once.

There are words for what he saw happen to Isaac. He even knows them. His friend suffered a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, otherwise known as a grand mal seizure. It's the kind of dramatic one you think of when you hear the word seizure to begin with.

Isaac Faulkner, in all the time Aman has known him and lived with him, has never mentioned a history of seizures, epileptic or otherwise. He's brought up, grudgingly, his history of being kidnapped, but that's— that's about it. That… and the loss of his ability from one of those kidnappings.

Without any history or other preconditions to speak of— he's pretty sure he'd know by now if his new roommate was a drug user— that meant that what happened was the result of a serious, sudden infection like meningitis or encephalitis… or something else equally serious like a cerebral infarction.

A stroke.

And I don't even have any family for him I can call. It's the thing that's killing Aman at the moment. It's what his mind keeps looping back to in the nauseating circles of anxiety it keeps running. And aside from family, who would he even call? Kaylee, maybe, to let her know this happened to someone else who went through what she did. But even then, it was still god-awfully early on a fucking Sunday, so he felt it would be better to just… just wait until a more decent hour rolled around.

A slowly sighed out swear leaves him in an attempt to settle his rattled nerves. He rocks again once heel to toe while he sits.

He waits for news. He waits for several hours.

But then, they finally let him back to see Isaac.

Isaac Faulkner lays awake in his hospital bed, staring at a muted television, looking pale and exhausted. He's alert, though; when Aman steps in the door, his head swivels, brown eyes focusing on Aman.

After a moment, he musters a smile; it's as pale and worn and haggard as the rest of him, but an attempt is being made even so. "Aman," Isaac rasps; grimacing, he clears his throat and tries again, this time with a little more success. "Aman. Thanks."

"I ever tell you you look a little creepy when you smile?" Aman asks him dubiously, one eyebrow cocked as he enters the room. More dismissively, he goes on, "You take your Children of the Corn-looking ass and quit trying to put on a show for my sake. You'd have done the same for me."

"Some fucking morning, though. You scared the shit out of me."

A canvas bag normally reserved for work clothes is slipped off his shoulder and onto the chair next to Isaac's bed. If anything, Aman is still too wound to take it for himself, for all that he handles himself with apparent wellness. "They tell you how long they're keeping you? I ran back home to grab you a change of clothes as soon as they told me you were stable. Didn't want you to add 'took a walk of shame out of the hospital in my pajamas' to your list of injuries today."

Isaac's grin takes on an edge of genuine, if sardonic, humor at Aman's teasing; he makes a noise halfway between a chuckle and a snort, subsiding back against his pillow.

"Scared the shit out of me, for what it's worth," he offers with a sigh. "They won't be keeping me long," he adds, with an off-handed detachment that is… probably more cavalier than he should be, really, given that he just suffered a small stroke.

The mention of clothes draws another chuckle from Isaac. "Appreciated," he says. Then, suddenly looking serious, he looks towards Aman and asks, "Did you get my phone?"

Nodding once, Aman produces it from the front pocket of his jeans. "Yeah, it's still pretty charged. Here." He steps closer to hand it over, but he begins to frown once he makes it there.

"So, uh… there were a couple of spooks out there earlier, by the way," he offers up in addition to the phone. "It, uh— I don't know how much you know at this point, but it wasn't just you that woke up fucked up last night. Kaylee…" Aman solemns, finding it difficult to continue. "She, um, she's in here also. Couple of others, too."

He sounds a little hesitant. He's tried not to pry about Isaac's horribly-fucking-traumatic experience with the kidnapping and having his ability stolen, but he sort of got insight earlier into how many people went through what he did. More than he can count on a single hand, which he's not sure he feels better or worse about.

"Excellent, thank you," Isaac says, smiling as he takes his phone.

The smile doesn't last. "Spooks?" Isaac asks, tilting his head. Mostly, his expression is merely curious… right up until Kaylee is mentioned. Then something changes in Isaac's expression. His eyes tighten a bit, and the fingers of his free hand tap restlessly on the side of his bed.

"Shit," is his final verdict. Isaac still looks like death warmed over, but there's a sort of restless energy to him now. He glares at his phone for a moment as he waits for the thing to wake up, but it takes its time regardless; Faulkner mulls over his words while he waits. Finally, he looks back to Aman, a grim look still on his face. "How is she?" It's one of about a million different questions Isaac wants to ask, but generally bombarding someone with all of the questions at the same time is a good way to get answers that are… not terribly precise, and Isaac very much wants precise answers right now.

"If I had to guess, about the same as you right now, so I'm going to run with that. And you're doing a lot better than you were earlier, arguably, so…"

Aman draws in a deep breath and shrugs, looking back to Isaac. "Did they give you any idea of what happened to you?" he wonders. "I'm not family, so they're not… really telling me much."

"They didn't kick me out, at least, so there's that," Aman supposes, ever in search of a silver lining.

"Better. Yes," Isaac agrees, without any particular enthusiasm. Better is a relative term, after all.

"Something something traumatic brain bleed, blah blah blah mini-stroke," Isaac sighs, tapping keys to send a message to the group and let them know the basic bare bones of what happened.

He looks back at Aman, expression grim. "There's no immediately obvious long-term damage, at least," he says, not quite entirely able to mask the hint of bitterness in his voice. He looks away. "I didn't realize this was going to…" Isaac trails off, shaking his head, momentarily at a loss.

Aman's brow knits together at the news as much as just where Isaac loses his voice. His arms slowly pull into a fold before him for a lack of anything else to do with his hands. "What?" he probes as gently as he can. "You think something in particular caused this?"

"Because if not— it's not like anyone expects to wake up in the middle of a night with a fucking stroke, bud."

Isaac sighs, but for a moment he doesn't speak. Where to even start?

"My physiology isn't exactly normal anymore, Aman," is what he finally says. "Since the plane crash. Can't take MRIs because apparently I've now got some kind of weird EM emission that futzes with it. Blood tests come back scary — white blood cell counts in the oh my god you have some kind of horrible autoimmune disease range," he shrugs, looking towards the foot of his bed. "And there's a mass in my head. Dense tissue, abnormal connections. Can't fucking MRI it because, ha ha, MRIs don't work on me."

He trails off, wondering if he should really be sharing all of this, then decides fuck it. He'd be dead if Aman hadn't called 911 for him, and besides — this is his medical history to share. "So, the short of this is that I should be at least quadruple dead," Isaac says, closing his eyes and slouching back into his bed a little harder. "And yet…"

"And yet, I've been just… walking around. Just like a perfectly normal person. Have been for months… until this happened," he says quietly. "Feels like… like maybe the Devil's bill came due, you know?"

Aman's expression goes poker as he starts making mental bulletpoints of everything Isaac begins to share. Is this what Kaylee's been dealing with, too? Is this what all of them have been dealing with?

His shoulders lower despite himself when he hears there's a mystery, unidentified mass in Isaac's head. Jesus Christ, yeah— that'd potentially cause any number of issues, a mini-stroke included.

But he stops from speaking, struggling to reconcile this news with the knowledge that Isaac's been just fine. Well … except for the night he took a header off a building and received a botched healing. That blindness had been a scare, after all. Aman lets out a slow breath that's not quite a sigh.

"I can see why you've not wanted to talk about any of this. To have all this shit just hanging over your head…"

He takes a step closer to the bed, arms still folded. "People— and by people I mean medical professionals— have a bad fucking habit of shrugging at people having off levels so long as they appear to be fine. If it's a chronic condition, or something that people appear to be living just fine with, it's the sort of shit that piles up over time because some 'well-meaning' know-it-all decided it wasn't worth digging into. Because it doesn't seem like it'll be important, because healthcare's expensive, and we have a shitty system ill-equipped to support preventative rather than reactive care. So people go home rather than get examined, or treated."

"And then shit like that turns into terminal cancer."

Which it sure as fuck sounded like he might be heading toward, and there's no easy way to get around addressing it. A growth in his head, and elevated WBC counts? Why the fuck

"Isaac, I don't have the first clue why the MRIs aren't working, but you have to get that mass checked out. Before you leave, if they'll let you." Aman tries not to frown in his concern, but it doesn't quite work. "They need to check your intracranial pressure to make sure that growth isn't— they need fucking check to make sure it's benign, rather than…" His eyes close hard, jaw tensing. Isaac didn't ask for Aman to mother him, after all. He starts to apologize for that, finds he can't, and instead lifts a hand to rub at the side of his face in sudden frustration.

"Cancer?" Isaac echoes. He stares for a moment, then makes a noncommittal noise. "I'll ask," he says doubtfully. "They poked and prodded pretty thoroughly, though, and there's been no mention of cancer." He looks back to Aman. "Also no mention of growth. They have taken x-rays."

He closes his eyes. "Still. No harm in asking," he murmurs.

For a moment, he just lays there, still and silent, until…

"Pffftbahahahahaha," he chortles, abruptly breaking out in laughter. "Wouldn't that be a hell of a joke, though? All of this shit that's happened… and we die because we're too busy trying to figure out what the hell happened to us to realize, oh by the way, we gave you brain cancer too?" Isaac asks, cackling. "It sounds like a River Styx late-season twist!"

Aman's a little too fresh to all of this to share that same sense of humor at the moment, the revelation still raw for him. The most he manages is to quit rubbing his face in an attempt to change the expression on it away from perpetually concerned, accepting that it is what it is for the moment. "Yeah, that does sound like some kind of shit-tier twist they'd pull. It's particularly on-brand for the way they try to insinuate the evils of Evos. Don't be SLC-E, you'll get brain cancer! type of fucking…"

Okay, so he at least tries to roll with the joke before he devolves into invective muttering. Aman shakes his head to himself. "There's other scans they can do. CT scans, PET scans. They're not great for your head, but if it's all you've got, maybe it'll help. And if nothing else, if they're looking for cancer and for signs of spread, those kinds of scans work perfectly good when not looking at the brain."

After that, he lifts his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "You've been through a fuckton, though, and I'm not saying you have to do this or that. I guess all I'm getting after is yeah, this is fucking concerning, and you deserve answers rather than gee, it's a shame the MRIs won't work."

It takes Isaac a little bit to stop laughing, but when he does it's abrupt. "Yeah," he sighs. "The impression I got, though, is that they don't have any. Not the medical professionals. Not even the spooks."

"And… we seemed to be alright. They looked us over in Canada, and they did a pretty thorough job of it — international incident and all," he says, his tone somewhere between irony and helplessness. "Despite everything, we seemed to be functioning normally… so there wasn't a lot they could do, other than let us go."

Faulkner closes his eyes. "And now, of course, this. A stroke."

Aman struggles to know what to say that's comforting here, and he finds his shoulders lifting up into a shrug. "It's your life, it's your business, but after everything you've been through… I'd honestly see what they can do with those other diagnostics. At the very least it could help you know if this is just a sign of… something bigger. Something happening not just to your brain."

He begins to frown despite himself. "I'm worried about you. If you want to talk about this at all ever, I'm here for it. Otherwise…" Aman waves a balking hand around the hospital room. "We can just leave it at the door when you leave."

Faulkner nods slowly. "Yeah. I'll… I'll ask," he says, lips compressing into a grim slash. He exhales slowly, forcing a tight smile. "I wish I could leave it at the door, believe me… but I can't. Closing my eyes to this mess doesn't mean it's not there. It's just a matter of how I choose to face it."

Which is, on the whole, pretty miserable, but… there it is. He's silent for a moment… then he forces a chuckle. "Who knows? I might even be able to get the government to pay for it. Who would've guessed? Finally a use for my tax dollars I can get behind."

Aman lets out a laugh then, arms unfolding so he can push at Isaac's shoulder. "Your tax dollars?" he teases. "When's the last time you paid taxes on anything aside from your paycheck, mister Park Slope?"

He finds his grin again. Maybe in due time, Isaac will find his comes easier, too.

Faulkner snorts. "Hey, it's not easy making ends meet these days! Especially when a chunk of every paycheck goes towards takeout to keep me safe from my own cooking," he says, smirking; for a moment, there's a flicker of the old Isaac there.

It lasts only for a few moments before lethargy seems to creep over him again, sapping away at him… but it will pass. Isaac is sure of it, now. "I'd like to ask a favor of you, Aman. When you get a chance… make a list of whatever tests you can think of that you think might shed some light on this. Once you've gotten that put together, and once I've had a chance to review what's already been done when I'm not feeling like a dumpster fire floating downriver, I'll see about pressing forward from there."

Aman nods once, firmly. "You got it. I'll make a list, let you get some rest in the meantime." He nods his head back toward the door. "I made a bet with myself that no one's seen to the cat at Kaylee's place yet, so I'm going to go check on him."

"You got your phone, so just call me if you need anything, all right?"

"Will do. And hey," Isaac says, glancing back to Aman. "Thanks again."

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