On Forgetting Ch. 03byewebie©
The time line skips around a little in this chapter. I refrained from putting dates on it as they happen as flashbacks, but let me know if that should be changed, or if it's difficult to follow. The feedback so far has been fantastic, thank you. Again, as I'm still working on finding my public voice here, all comments are welcome. I should be able to get at least another chapter up before massive piles of work consume me briefly. But again, I have this well planned in my mind and growing gradually on paper.
Thanks for reading,
Connor dumped his bag on the bench and scanned the crowd gathering in the large hospital foyer. The pack of familiar faces made him smile. It was good to be back. They hadn't had much time off for the summer, but thankfully, their clinical rotations hadn't started until October. Now they were facing their final year as students, their final year as a class, and their final year before becoming "real doctors" and having to make real decisions with real responsibility. It was a scary prospect, but if anyone was ready for it, it was this rowdy hodgepodge class. As much as he didn't like to admit it, he had missed the class. So many familiar faces.
Now there's a new face, he thought, catching sight of a brunette moving through the crowd. Well, not so much a new face. He couldn't see her face from where he was standing, but he could certainly appreciate the view. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something in her walk that was horribly alluring. It was sexy without trying to be. Not overly feminine, not over done, just amazingly tempting, and he couldn't look away. He exhaled sharply as an energetic redhead collided with his chest, hugging him emphatically.
A giggle erupted from her. "Heya, Connor!"
He grinned, returning the hug. "Katie! How was your summer?"
"Fantastic!" She bubbled. Her eyes darted over his shoulder and a wide smile stretched across her face.
As suddenly as she was there, she bounded off into the crowd. Connor raised a brow and turned, following her path through the people. He froze when Katie embraced the brunette he had been watching. "Not fair," he muttered, stalking toward the pair. "Katie," he dropped a hand onto her shoulder. "I thought we knew the rules. You're supposed to introduce me to any cute frie-" His words dried on his tongue as the brunette turned to face him.
Langdon smiled. It was a broad, clean, and terribly amused smile. "Connor." She nodded.
"Lang," his face turned a dark shade of red. Katie giggled as she watched the exchange. It was just like Connor to put his foot in his mouth. "I uh..." he rubbed the back of his neck. "Hey..."
Langdon laughed. "Hi, Connor, have a good summer?"
He looked up and scuffed his shoe, noting the amusement twinkling in her eyes. "Yeah... You look fantastic," he whispered. "I um," he shifted nervously. "I'm going to go over there, where it's less embarrassing for me."
Katie chuckled. "See you round, Connor."
That was unfair, he thought to himself as he retreated from the girls. That was totally unfair. The last time he'd seen Lang was the swim at the cove. I mean, yeah, she'd lost a bit of weight before that day and he'd happily taken note. But what happened to Langdon over the summer? I mean, she was, well, not chubby really, but she wasn't... He stopped himself before he could say gorgeous. That was so unfair.
Connor awoke with a start and instinctively reached across the bed. He groaned when his arm closed over empty sheets as he remembered that Laney was still in the hospital. Now, that is truly unfair, he thought, running a hand through his hair. And that whole embarrassing moment in his life had happened well over a year ago. What an odd thing to remember.
Langdon was restless. The remnants of various drugs slowly worked their way out of her system, leaving her irritable and strangely anxious. She tossed and turned, unable to find a restful position in the foreign hospital bed. Something was missing and she could not get comfortable. Sighing, she punched the pillow and curled up on her side, eventually falling into a fitful sleep.
The train rocked gently as it pulled from the station and Langdon bit her lip, staring out the window. Connor snickered. "You having second thoughts already?"
Langdon rolled her eyes, "Are you kidding? You've talked about this for ages."
He laughed. "And you've been looking for a way to cop out of it ever since you first agreed."
"You're so full of it!" She threw her newspaper at him.
"No, you're full of it." He rolled the captured newspaper and tapped her knee a few times.
She raised a brow. "That's an intelligent comeback."
He smacked her a little harder with the paper. "You're in a sassy mood."
"Me?" she wrinkled her nose. " You're the one hitting me with a newspaper." He mischievously smacked each of her arms. "Stop it!" He hit her multiple times before she could get her hands on the paper and tear it away from him. "You're so annoying."
He made a grab for the newspaper that she dodged easily. "Aw, come on. Give it back."
"No." She sat on the paper and crossed her arms, sticking her tongue out.
"Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way," he mused. "Lang, you're just the prettiest thing I've ever seen." The poor southern accent he affected had the corners of her mouth twitching. "Yer jes like my mama's pecan pie."
"Yeah, how's that? Nutty enough to be around you?"
"Hush you. How are things with that Andy guy going?"
Langdon frowned. "They aren't."
"Oh," Connor glanced nervously out the window. "You want to talk about it?"
Langdon gave an undignified snort. "Do you want to talk about, what's-her-name, Nadine?"
"Point taken," he muttered. In the ensuing silence, Langdon shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Connor watched her, a small smile playing across his lips. He quickly relocated to the seat next to her and draped an arm across her shoulder. He leaned in close, crowding her against the window and whispered conspiratorially, "Nervous, Lang? It's ok if you want to back out."
His proximity earned him an elbow to the gut and a dirty look. "Cold doesn't bother me, Connor. Lest you forget, I'm from the northern, icy tundra of America's Midwest." She flapped her hands in exasperation. "Plus, it's not even cold outside. It's the middle of July! I don't care how cold this water is, it can't be worse than cutting a hole in 3 foot thick ice and jumping in that."
"If it's not the cold, then what has you so worked up that you're squirming in your seat?" he tried to suppress a smile, but it failed. Langdon met his eyes briefly then tried to cover a blush by turning back to the window. "Oh, come on, Lang," he poked her playfully in the ribs. "Now I'm curious."
"It's nothing," she shook her head.
"It's not nothing, tell me." He poked her again.
She tried to catch his hands, "Damnit, Connor!"
He caught both of her wrists in one large hand and grinned. "Guess what, Lang. I'm bigger that you are, and I can do this all day." He poked her a few more times before tickling her mercilessly.
Langdon squirmed, fighting to pull her hands free, and burst out laughing. "Stop, Connor. Stop!"
"Tell me what's bothering you." He reached her armpit and she nearly jumped out of the seat.
"You're bugging me!" she squeaked between gasps.
"Oh come on," he tickled her stomach, laughing at the way she squirmed. "If you don't tell me, I'm going for your feet," he threatened.
"No!" She sucked in a breath, "Fine, I'll tell you!"
Connor laughed with satisfaction, and sat back in the seat. "Whenever you're ready."
Langdon straightened her tee-shirt and pulled her hair back into its neat ponytail. "God, you're so annoying." Once she was back in control of herself, she frowned at Connor. "It's really not a big deal." She squeaked as Connor reached for her sides again. "No, wait!" She sighed, "Ok, you know how the airline lost one of my bags when I came back after Christmas?" When he nodded, she continued. "Well, among a few other things, that bag had my bathing suits in it. And, well, I haven't gotten around to getting a new one."
Connor leaned forward, a look of fascination on his face. "Tell me you're going in naked."
"No." It took a good deal of self-control not to reach across the space between them and smack him upside the head. "I just... I'll be wearing underwear."
"See through underwear?" He grinned.
"Maybe some lace that'll show a little nipple?"
"I know! White underwear. Brilliant!"
Langdon groaned. It was going to be a long train ride.
An hour later, Langdon stood cautiously at the edge of rock jetty staring at the roiling seawater below. She glanced back at Connor who stood, arms crossed, waiting for her to go first. According to Connor, it was her lot to go first, not because he didn't trust her to jump, but more because he just didn't trust her to jump. She frowned. "Are you sure this is safe?" she shouted over the sound of the waves.
"Lang, we've been over this before. Yes, it's safe. No, there are no rocks down there that you'll hit, just jump out as far as you can." Connor reached her side. "If I were you, I'd be more worried about the trying to stay in there for ten minutes than the getting in. Don't disappoint me again, Lang, ok?" He gave her an once-over. "You had me all excited that you'd be in your underwear, and I'd swear that underwear covers more than any bathing suit I've ever seen. Now get your ass in the water."
"You're buying the beer after this, right?"
Connor laughed. "Whatever beer you want."
"Even if I'm drinking Guinness?"
"Yes, even if you insist on drinking Guinness. Hell, I'll splurge and buy you a whiskey if you want one." Connor crossed his arms back over his chest. "Now go."
"You're coming in right behind me?" she asked cautiously.
"Lang, I swear to God, I'm going to throw you in..."
"No need," she grinned. She took one last look below and stepped back from the edge. She wanted a running start. It wasn't that she didn't trust Connor about the rocks, but she wanted to put some distance between herself and the edge of the breakwater. "See you in the drink," she winked at Connor, and leapt off the edge. Mid air, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes just before she hit the water.
The impact knocked the air out of her lungs as she plunged deep into the sea. Langdon kicked toward the surface, her skin already felt like it was burning from the cold, and the shock of the temperature had her heart beating at a rate that could only be described as absurdly and unhealthily fast. With one final kick, she broke the surface.
Langdon sat up and gasped for air, her eyes darting around the darkened room. It took her a moment to remember where she was before sinking back against the pillows of the impossibly uncomfortable hospital bed. Beside her, the heart monitor was gradually slowing to a normal level, the beeping becoming a soothing noise. Langdon shivered; she was freezing. Connor had been right that water was ridiculously cold. Not nearly as cold as the water back home in the dead of winter, but absurdly cold for a warm July day and a ten minute swim. What did happen once I was in the water? Langdon racked her brain for the rest of the memory, but came up blank. That was it, she thought. That's the last thing I remember. Jumping into that ice cold water...
It made some strange sense to her. Falling into the frozen Liffey must have reminded her of before. But that was a year and a half ago. Langdon shivered again. She suddenly felt very lost and alone.
Langdon dropped her journal in frustration. Connor looked up from his seat at the bedside. "What's wrong?"
She ran a hand through her hair. "I don't remember this!"
"Langdon, babe, you need to give it time." He took the journal from the bed.
"That's all I have, Connor. Time. I've nothing to do but sit here and stew over the fact that I don't remember it." She dropped her head back against the pillow. "And it's just creepy reading things that I've written when I don't remember it."
"I can see why that would be weird." He frowned slightly. There was little reason for her to stay in the hospital any longer. Come to think of it, it was strange that she hadn't raised the issue herself. He settled on the edge of the bed. "Can I do anything?"
Langdon shook her head miserably. "I need something else to think about."
Connor used a finger to tilt her chin up. He flashed a mischievous smile and pressed his lips to hers. "I can come up with plenty of things for you to think about," his voice soft and deep.
Langdon chewed on her lower lip. Normally Connor's proximity would have terrified her, but for the first time it felt right. "I'll make you a deal," she whispered.
She didn't pull away. She was holding her ground. A thrill ran through him, part hope, part excitement. He couldn't resist the temptation of putting his hands on her. One hand rested on her hip, the other played with a loose strand of her hair. "What kind of a deal?"
"I will think about these other things," she tapped his chest with a finger. "If you spring me from this hell hole."
Connor almost exploded with laughter, almost. This was the Langdon that he knew, and thank god she was back. It wasn't that he didn't have a certain appreciation for this vulnerable Laney that he was getting to know, but he missed her sass. He missed the playful banter, the fire, and frankly, the aggression. And now, here was a little of that spark trying to strike a deal with him just to get out of the hospital. He barely kept control, and couldn't keep the corner of his mouth from quirking. But he didn't give her back her space just yet. "You drive a hard bargain."
Langdon's composure faltered slightly. "Please, Connor. I can't stand it here. There's nothing to do, and it's depressing, and I'm sick of it."
"And what would you give me if I spring you from this jail?"
"Hey, Connor, I need help with this pat..." Eoin glanced up from the doorway and had the courtesy to look contrite for interrupting.
Connor groaned and dropped his forehead against Langdon's shoulder. "We'll finish this conversation later," he muttered. Langdon blushed and giggled nervously. Connor flopped into the chair next to the bed and cleared his throat. "Ok, Eoin, you're here, I can't fix that. What are you looking at?"
Eoin shook his head. "We, Connor. You may be taking the next few shifts off, but these are your patients too." Eoin dropped the chart in Connor's lap and perched on the edge of the bed. "And we're looking at something that I can't figure out."
Connor skimmed the admission records and notes. "So, 19 year old male, presented to A&E, spiking fever, night sweats, chills, headache, nausea... Tell me you started him on rifampicin for bacterial meningitis."
Eoin nodded and rubbed his forehead. "I did, and he got better for about five days, but it all came back. Plus the lumbar puncture came back clean."
"What about the blood cultures? Microscopy?" Connor asked.
"We're still waiting on a few of the cultures, but so far, nothing. I looked at the H&E stain myself and didn't see anything." Eoin sighed. "It's ugly, man. I think he's getting a rash."
"What about drug allergies?"
Eoin stood and started pacing. "None."
"He was home for Christmas."
"Where's home?" Connor asked.
Eoin waved his hand absently. "One of those M-states in the US."
"Massachusetts?" Connor raised a brow. When Eoin shook his head, Connor tried again. "Maine? Missouri? Mississippi?"
"Montana," Langdon interrupted softly. "He's from Montana, isn't he?"
Eoin perked up. "Yeah, that sounds right."
"It's Borrelia reccurentis." When they both blankly stared at her in silence, she continued. "Relapsing fever. It's cyclic because of the antigenic variance. Plus, it's louse or tick borne. He probably went camping and picked it up at his cabin." Both of the men continued to stare, and Langdon shifted uncomfortably. "I'm right, I know it."
Connor handed the chart back to Eoin. "Put the kid on penicillin," he said softly. "He should be improving by the morning." Eoin nodded slowly, collected his papers and headed for the door.
"Oh, and don't worry if his vitals take a dip initially. It's Jarisch-Herxheimer. It'll be gone in a few hours," Langdon called out before Eoin could leave. Eoin glanced back with a strange look on his face, nodded and left the room.
When she turned, Connor was studying her intently. "How did you know that?"
She shrugged, "I don't know. Western US, ticks, recurrent fevers... It just makes sense, right?"
"Yes," he said softly. "But how did you KNOW that?"
"I'm not sure. How do we know anything?" she asked, unnerved by Connor's sudden intensity.
"Laney, that's final med contagious disease material," he raised a brow. When she didn't respond, he continued. "We learned that just last spring, so how did you remember that?"
"I don't know," she confessed. "It just popped into my head. I don't remember learning it, but I know it all the same."
Connor leaned forward keenly. "What else do you think we could dig out of your mind if we tried?" Langdon chewed on her lip and shrugged. Connor relocated to the bed, settling just in front of her. "Can I try something?"
Langdon searched his face cautiously before nodding. "As long as it won't hurt."
A wide smile stretched across his face. "It won't hurt a bit, I promise. Just trust me, ok?" When Langdon nodded again, Connor carefully took her face in his hands, barely touching her cheeks with his fingertips, and studied her eyes for several moments. "Anything?" he asked softly.
Langdon shook her head. "What exactly am I supposed to be doing?"
"Relaxing," Connor ordered. "Watch my eyes." Langdon licked her lips nervously and met Connor's intense stare. She watched the hazel in his eyes become more defined with his proximity, seeing the dark green fade into chocolate brown at the edges, pulling out the strange amber flecks that shone gold at times. He reached up and brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead, tucking it behind her ear; Langdon blushed down to her toes, but couldn't tear her eyes from Connor's. All the colours blended so wonderfully and were framed by dark lashes that were just shy of being feminine, but created a stark contrast against his lightly tanned skin. She didn't jump when his fingertips slid back toward her hairline and face was cupped between his palms, but the heat that radiated through his skin warmed her to the core and trickled down deep into her belly.
"Anything?" his voice was gravelly, thick, sexy. Langdon couldn't answer, she barely found the coordination to shake her head. But then she was staring into his eyes. Those eyes were consuming her. God, she'd never noticed it before, but Connor was gorgeous. Dark brown wavy hair, to match the deepest brown in his eyes; a strong, solid jaw line; a greek nose; the body of a god; Langdon couldn't breathe. Connor was hot. He was sexy. He was... He was kissing her? Langdon sucked in a breath as his lips feathered across hers. He kissed her, softly at first, holding her as if he were afraid she'd pull away. As his fingers wove into her hair, cradling the back of her neck and pulling her closer, Langdon let her eyes flutter shut and her sigh was muted by Connor's mouth. One of his hands wandered, caressing the exposed skin of her neck, her collarbone, and her arm before finding the small of her back and pressing her firmly to his chest.
A small knot of tension began to build in Langdon's stomach as the room began to spin. She clutched at Connor's arms, holding tight to the solid stability he exuded. She moaned again and he took the opportunity to slide his tongue between her lips, flicking playfully against hers. As she let her tongue tangle with his, Connor released a groan from deep within his chest. Langdon fought against an aggressive urge to pin him down and have her way with him right there on the hospital bed. And from the increasing urgency of his roaming hands, she didn't think Connor would mind one bit.