Try Harder


colette_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Try Harder
Synopsis The Remnant breaks one of its cardinal rules: don't bring anybody home.
Date April 9, 2010

Old Dispensary: Infirmary

The old dispensary on Staten Island sees excitement now and again, but every so often, things take a turn for the truly serious. This marks only one of several times since the Remnant moved in that surgery has needed to be performed, but it marks the first time that such surgery has had real urgency to it. "Watch the frame," Raith says as he and his companions finish their journey from out of the cold and into the infirmary. It's perhaps not as clean as an emergency medical room ought to be, but it's clean enough.

Tonight's patient is Eileen Spurling, aka Eileen Ruskin, wounded in the abdomen when surplus ammunition cooked off in a tenement fire. Raith is only doing half the job of carrying her, hands hooked underneath her arms. The rest of the job he leaves to the not-quite-Remnant doctor and surgeon Francois Allegre. Even if either one of them could carrying Eileen alone, this is easier and much faster. Although dark inside the infirmary, Raith has assured all present, including the surgeon and both his patients, Colette Nichols-Demsky walking just behind them, injured not quite so badly as Eileen, that the illumination provided by flashlights will be enough to get started while he kicks the generators on. "Lift on three. Un, deux, trois." Up goes Eileen onto the sturdiest table the room has to offer. "Instruments are in the drawers along the back wall. I'll get the power." Of that, he seems determined, because Raith is zipping back out into the rest of the dispensary without waiting for input from anybody.

Limping in thorugh the doorway, Colette's the last one in and it falls on her to shut the heavy door to the outside with a resounding clunk of the old wood frame. Slouching against the door with a whining noise at the back of her throat, eyes shifting askance to notice a shotgun hanging on wire frames and screw hooks, a metal cable around the trigger and— Colette leans away from the door weakly, a rigged shotgun pointed at her from the dark is too much right now.

More cautious as she walks, Colette's limping cadence gives the report of her footsteps an irregular rhythm. The Frenchman is a complete mystery to her, as is the towering structure of old, cold wood and soft shades of white paint that make the spacious and drafty corridors seem even colder than they are.

A dribble of blood off of Colette's right eyelid reminder her what the numbness in her left side doesn't. Swallowing tightly, she follows slowly the procession that carried Eileen in, each step making her twisted ankle scream with pain. Francois' voice echoing off the walls strikes just unfamiliar enough to make Colette nervous. Green eyes follow the strange Frenchman as he circles the antique dining table they've laid Eileen out on.

Holding her side and making another soft whimper, Colette lifts up her hand and furrows her brows, wincing as she puts her mind onto something other than her own injuries. There's a blossoming of light around the table, a domed disc of white that sheds a muted illumination, certainly not enough to work by. Cursing under her breath, Colette's hand lowers and the light turns off as she rummages in her tattered red hoodie's pouch for her keys.

With a jingle they're produced, LED fob pinched between her fingers. She aims it down at the floor, and for a moment the blinding white LED whines brightly around her ankles, before her attention once more diverts to the redirection of photons throughout the room. A globe of light appears above and beside the table, warping outward like rolled playdough into a ring, almost like a halo— or oneof those surgery lamps— and sheds a colorless and bright light down on the table and Eileen's bleeding form. It's the only thing Colette can do to help.

Not so long ago, Francois was working through a bottle of red after he'd sent Elisabeth on her way, lingering near a roaring hearth and contemplating an early, warm sleep — or at least a bedwards direction. He brings some of it with him, here, in the form of a cosy domestic sweater beneath his snow-speckled overcoat, and the warmth of wine still doing its thing in his system. He's not drunk. He's not drunk. A frantic series of textual action and going from West Village to Staten Island through the stunning cold will sober anyone up.

"Sedatives, painkillers?" is requested at Raith's back, echoing off the tall ceilings he hasn't bothered yet to appreciate once Eileen is set down, Francois already moving as instructed. The rattle of wood and the metal inside heralds his distraction from Colette's antics as he takes the tools he needs — marginally familiar ones, considering recent events.

They clatter into a tray, Francois turning and— going still when he sees the hovering light, forest green eyes showing white all around them for a second before he glances to Colette. "Ah— merci. Also please do not strain yourself." With a slight clatter, the things he's retrieved for himself are set down on the table, another nervous glance at mysterious light before he turns his attention to Eileen's face, shrugging himself out of his coat as he studies her features.

Eileen gave up on talking a long time ago, shortly after she surrendered her phone to Colette and sacrificed her headscarf in an attempt to further staunch the bleeding once her coat and gloves became saturated with fluid. She's spent the last hour and a half reviewing the math in her head instead. A human body can lose up to forty percent of its blood volume before dying, and for an eighty kilogram adult this is about two-point-two-four liters. Eileen is a little more than forty-three kilograms, which means she can lose—

More than she already has. She knows because she's still breathing, wet and haggard, and can feel her pulse fluttering like sparrow wings in her throat. There's a medical textbook upstairs in her room with a chart that she's having a difficult time remembering the contents of, but the footnote beneath it on shock is as clear as the light washing over her face, illuminating its pallid complexion and the absence of colour in her cheeks and lips, which are moving around words she means for herself rather than the man attending to her.

Francois needs no instruction.

If Raith hears Francois call after him, he doesn't answer. Being uninjured means that the ex-spy can be helpful, and the fact that he knows the basics of surgery means he can be more helpful that simple 'holding the light,' as it were. But there is only so much light, even with Colette providing what additional light she can. It might be all the more appreciated then when, slightly less than a minute after Raith vanished, the overhead lights in the infirmary suddenly flicker to life, a sign that Raith has done exactly as promised and provided electricity. Of course, that still leaves the trip back before he can help with any doctoring. And until that trip is completed, Colette and Eileen are left to Francois' devices.

Smiling away the concern Francois had offered, Colette swallows a bitter taste down in her mouth, sweeping her stare across towards one of the chairs around the table. She grabs one, nervously, by the bag and drags it out with a long scuffing noise of the legs against the hardwood floor. Ducking her head down, Colette turns the chair, pivoting it on one leg before settling it down again and sitting down in it, her back to the operation table— or more importantly her injured side facing the light.

Hissing as she looks at the injury, she sees where the broken sliver of wood sticks into soft skin and marks red around the edges, swollen red and tender. The blood's stopped coming from the wound, the injured area weeping clear plasma now. Closing her eyes and looking away, Colette brings her fingers down to feel along the length of wood, flinching and sucking in a sharp breath as she moves the shard of wood even a fraction. Fingers pull away— no more fucking with that right now.

Instead, Colette's lifting her arm up to wipe the sleeve of her red hoodie across her forehead, smearing blood she can feel trickling across her brow out of her eyes, leaving coppery stains on pale skin. Wherever her winter coat was, she didn't wear it on the way from the fire, and she looks half frozen to the bone now in just that thin sweatshirt.

The rumble of that generator kicking on vibrates the floor and the chair Colette's seated in, brings her back to focus. Keeping her brows tensed and head bowed forward, all it requires is a conscious thought to keep that ball of light there and not flickering or wavering too much. It's that notion, that she has to keep the light steady that serves as something to keep her mind active— because if she didn't have that the desire to black out would be so much better, and with a head wound she's heard that's bad.

"If you need it to move," Colette rasps out dryly to Francois, "just ask." Her voice sounds like she's trying to do an impression of Gillian and failing thanks to the smoke.

Francois wouldn't say no to instruction, if only so that he's not responsible for anyone bleeding and dying. Perhaps he'd be a terrible doctor, actually, without his confidence relying on the certainty that he can heal away hurts with the touch of his two hands. Uncertainty doesn't show in the snip of blood-soaked clothing being sliced out of the way, his own sleeves pushed high out of the way. One last foray to the drawers uncovers the sedative he's looking for, breaking out a syringe to stab the steely tip into the gap, measuring out the chemical as he moves back on over.

"It is fine as is," he assures Colette, turning Eileen's arm as he goes to dose her before even beginning with the stomach wound. It could be a stronger doseage, but caution prevails. A fleeting glance to Colette is more directed at her wounds than her face, as he asks, "How are you feeling?"

Eileen's response to the sedative is a stuttering exhale pressed past her front teeth, though she doesn't allow herself to relax much more than the medication dictates she should. The sweat and tears glistening on her face have adopted a tacky sort of texture, and the skin to which they cling has grown cold and clammy during the course of the trip. That she already knows what's happening to her body provides the Englishwoman with the kind of comfort the drugs cannot and spares her the misery of attempting to ask Francois what her prognosis is.

With electricity flowing and no more reason to hang around in the basement, the sound of running footfalls echoing in the hallway signal Raith's return to the infirmary. The overhead lamps are functioning now, but that only helps so much, as they aren't terribly bright. Fortunately, they have Colette. "What do you need, doc?" Raith asks, already taking a census of what Francois has gotten out for himself, and making an inventory of what else he might need. "What does Colette need?" Nurse Raith to the rescue.

"Woozy…" is Colette's delayed answer to Francois. It's clear she didn't even realize he asked her the question for a few moments, not until Raith showed up. Breathing shallowly, she leans forward and rests her hands on her knees. She glances up to Raith, tongue wetting her lips again nervously before she stammers out, "I'll— I'm alright, just— don't let anything happen to Eileen. Please." The teen's voice cracks at that comment, and Colette's furrowing her brows and hunching forward as one of her hands oves to her side where the shard of wood is lodged.

"I'll be alright, just, uh, gotta' keep myself focused on something." Running her tongue over her lower lip, Colette watches the syringe stuck into Eileen, though her focus wavers — and so too does the light gutter — before she looks back up at the photokinetic ring is reaffirmed.

"Um," the sound of her own voice is starting to grate on her, but Colette has to try and stay awake and stay alert. "What's— what's your name?" Green eyes fix on Francois nervously. "I um, I'm— My name's Colette. It's— French, I guess? I think. It's… uh, my— grandmother's name, on my mom's side, sorta. It was Nicolette, but— " there's a shake of Colette's head as she looks back down to her feet.

"Sorry," the teen breathes out, blood slicked hair plastered to her forehead unmoving as she bows her head and hunches her shoulders forward. "When— when I get scared I ramble."

"She will need blood," Francois says, a single glance given to Raith before he's focusing on Eileen. "After I am done. If you have none, then saline. Or Ringer's solution. If you have IV equipment, anyway, but perhaps we can manage if not. Otherwise, Colette has a head injury and I'd like to know about her other wound." Discarding the used syringe into the pan, Francois replaces his fingers against Eileen's throat as he turns his attention back to Colette when that light flickers, and offers her a smile.

Because everything is fine. "My name is Francois — you don't have to be scared. It's been an hour or so since Eileen was shot," a glance to Raith to confirm, "and I don't think we have to worry about it having hit anything important." Because she would probably be dead by now. This, he has enough insight to not say out loud. Cleaning the wound takes up his concentration from there, blood and disinfectant both flooding the table as he works. Soon, the smell of alcohol is in the air, almost as strong as the iron-scent of blood.

If there is one thing Eileen dislikes more than being wrong, it is being uncertain, and right now she's uncertain about a lot of things. The volume of blood that she's lost, for instance. How much time has elapsed since she sent her last text message and, fumbling, snapped her phone shut. Whether or not she's capable of maintaining consciousness for the duration of the operation through sheer force of will alone. Fortunately, Francois does her the courtesy of resolving most of this while his fingers are at her throat and he can feel low vibrations rattling against them.

"«Preserve the work if you're wrong,»" she mumbles, lips numb and voice frayed. Her choice to speak with him in French instead of English is a deliberate one and suggests that it's because she doesn't want Colette to understand what she's saying. The teen is the only one in the room who isn't passably fluent. "«Someone has to do it.»"

"Blood's not happening," Raith says plainly, opening more draws and cabinets, "Not unless your blood type is O negative. But saline we have plenty of." And apparently, plenty of IVs to contain it. Raith deposits two bags along with a catheter within Francois' reach. Arming himself with a pen light, he crosses the floor to Colette's side, carefully brushing her hair aside so he can get a look at the wound on her head. "Don't mind me, hon, you just keep the doctor's workspace nice and bright." The amount of blood running down the girl's face is not a good indicator of how badly she's hurt: The human head has a multitude of blood vessels and capillaries in it, one of the highest concentrations anywhere in the body. It's accordingly easy for a head wound to look much more serious than it actually is. Rather than volume of blood, Raith relies on the narrow beam of illumination from his light to tell him how bad it is. Hopefully, nothing that a few sutures or even a little superglue can't fix.

Preservez le travail si vous avez tort. The words sound like silk wiping a bloody mouth clean, Ils doivent le faire. Whatever hint of a smile from Francois bedside manner was on Colette's lips drains away when Eileen is wetly speaking French in murmurs at the table. Tension runs down her spine, causing her to sit up straight, which directly elicits the hiss of breath and wince of pain from the movement of that shard of wood in her waist. Colette lets out a tiny keening noise and lifts her bloodied hand to cover her mouth. dried flakes of someone's blood — she's not even sure who's — is crusted at her knuckles.

Up close Raith notices something unusual, Colette's pupils don't dilate in response to light. When his pen light flashes in front of them, they stay the same size as they were before. Colette doesn't seem to think anything of it, including her lack of squinting at the light. It's not indicative of anything to do with her head wound, from what Raith's seen too— maybe a quirk of what she does with light and how it works.

Pliant and leaning her head forward towards Raith's inspection, it's clear that his assessment is exactly what the problem was with her brow. There's a split at her scalp, a half inch in front of her hairline and an inch back, nothing more serious than plucking out the splinters — she must've headbutted a floorboard — and suturing it closed.

What's more serious, but only slightly so, is that shard of wood stuck in her side. It's about an inch wide, and Raith's having a hard time at a glance telling how deep it in in her from the fact that it skewered her through the side of her sweater. From the looks of it though, it's a shallow injury, especially given how Colette's moving. She's going to need stitches on both injuries, but he's fairly certain that at least visible injuries seem minimal. Minor burns on her face, neck and hands, lots of scratches and bumps, that twisted ankle she was worried about on the walk in to the dispensary. She's right; she'll be okay.

Eileen on the other hand…

"She got shot— trying to pull me out've the fire." Colette says guiltily to Raith. "I— I dunno. Some— guy pulled me out of the fire and— Eileen was right there and she just." Jaw trembling, she looks past Raith to the operating table and the light to keep it in focus. "Please make sure she's okay Doctor Francois." He has to be a doctor, after all, right?

The catheter and saline bags go ignored for now, although if Francois wanted them out of the way, he would have said something. "«The work will not survive without you,»" is a callous kind of reassurance, quietly spoken as he glances to her face. "«You will simply have to try harder.»" Picking up the hemostats from the tray, silver shining the wavery light that Colette eerily holds above them, his worser hand settles against her belly, and he lends Colette a glance, one eyebrow raising. "Doctor Allegre, if you must. Otherwise Francois will do fine.

"Not Frank or Francis. Francois." The banter is mostly to keep her attention, but his voice is lower when he addresses Raith. "You will have to help me if Eileen starts moving. I'm going to try and remove this thing."

He's beginning too, already, inclined to move swiftly. His left hand is already doing some steadying as he eases the slender pliers into the path already carved by the bullet.

Eileen does move, but it's only to arch her back off the table as far as Francois' palm allows, small hands clutching feebly at its sides, and without her gloves her knuckles bulge visibly against skin that appears tissue paper thin, stained pink by blood. Her head tips back, pale eyes focused on the wall behind her and the open door that leads out into the darkened hallway. It's a little like trying to read without her tortoiseshell glasses: difficult but not impossible, and although the blackness encroaching on the corners of her vision doesn't dissolve when she tries to blink it away, the steady rise and fall of her chest keeps it at bay.

A strangled whimper quivers at the back of her mouth and eventually finds its way out through her nostrils, shrill and hitching as it builds toward a scream.

There's a familiar sound. "Head wound isn't serious," Raith says, "No worse than the ones we got as kids." Because, obviously, even French boys will be boys. "Wood sliver's worse, but only slightly. Stitches and antibiotics, shouldn't need anything more. How you doing over there? You need a hand with anything?" Eileen is definitely the greater concern at this time. All Raith knows is that there's a bullet in her, although he can hazard a guess that it's probably a small-caliber pistol round. Large caliber would probably see her dead already, and a rifle round would have, more likely than not, blown right through. Unpleasant though it clearly is, this is the best of the three possibilities.

The only thing unideal, for a bullet wound, is its location, if only when considering pain and risk. Tension rounds Francois' shoulders beneath indefinite sweater fabric, because if something tears, if he's wrong, then he won't be able to heal it, and— "I think I have it. Will you hold her still, s'il vous plait." He doesn't stop, certainly, and wait for Raith to do as asked, trusting the other man to spring to action and in the short seconds where he might not, Francois keeps her lower body pinned with his other hand as he works.

Slowly, he eases the bullet out in a motion made more familiar from Teo's shenanigans on April Fools. He drops it heavily onto metal, spattering blood and fluid on steel and loosening his fingers around the loops of the hemostats. "This can be closed. Are you able to do that, while I see to Colette?" Gauze is used to clean blood bled afresh, and his own hands, darting a green eyed look over to Raith.

Drops the bloodied material and goes about setting up the IV, briefly checking the cool of her skin with the palm of his hand. A trace of blood he missed makes a smeared crescent near Eileen's temple.

Certainly, Raith springs to action when called to, aiding Francois to the best of his ability until the chunk of metal and lead is removed from Eileen's body. One obstacle crossed. "I can handle a gunshot," he says with a nod when he is asked. While the surgeon prepares an IV, the spy prepares a needle with nylon thread and a pair of forceps. It's not the first gunshot wound he's had to treat, by the look of it.

Eileen's scream is not so earsplitting that it can be heard from outside the Dispensary. It doesn't need to be. Much louder is the thunderous roar of wings as hundreds of birds roosting in the trees that surround the property for a quarter mile in every direction simultaneously explode into flight, creating a deafening boom that's followed by a whorling maelstrom of claws, beaks and feathers. From savannah sparrows to larger red-winged blackbirds and flocks of glittering grackles, they rise into the sky as one and block out the moon behind a nebulous cloud visible from the Dispensary's windows.

The storm disperses as abruptly as it formed, however; new perches are easy to come by, and one by one, the birds resettle in elms and birches further away from the disturbance's epicenter. By the time the last of them has hooked its tiny little feet into a twiggy branch close to the ground and preening its feathers in fidgety agitation, Eileen is making a noise comparable to weeping.

Francois is sorry. Of course, Francois is only sorry after the thing is done, not during, never during. Her damp curls are pushed back from the clammy curve of her forehead, before he's back to taping the catheter in place on the back of her hand, probably not as smooth as trained nurses but not so excessively brutal that her prior scream would imply of him.

Somewhere, Tavisha is wondering what they're doing to her in there.

"I'll stay the evening, and watch her," he offers (not that he wants to go trekking back to Manhattan, anyway), before Francois' turning his back on the two Remnant soldiers and heading towards the drawers once more, to find tools afresh for Colette and tend to the younger girl, who's consciousness is waning as much as the light she hovers over Eileen stays determined.

The situation could have ended very, very differently. There might have been a hundred ways it could have ended, and it's good fortune that it ended the way it did, with Raith able to calmly stitch Eileen's stomach shut, covering his work with antibiotic ointment and gauze. Colette will receive similar treatment, he suspects, although it will be Francois who delivers it in that case. Once again, Eileen pulls through adversity in the way typical of the Vanguard Remnant: battered, bruised, and bloodied, but alive. The worst isn't over, not by a long shot. It's just hiding, waiting for the time to strike again. They can't ever escape from it; they can only be ready for it. The price of living is eternal vigilance.

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