Past Interlude #16
Everett, Washington - 1994



Smoke hung in the air of the emergency room. Alex felt a little useless hanging onto Adam while paramedics dashed through the automatic doors bearing stretcher after stretcher of victims from an apartment fire. He heard about it on the radio while Scott was driving to the hospital.

"I want milk," Adam whined, not even bothering to hide his crankiness any more.

Alex searched his pockets for change and, finding barely enough coins, stood to look for a vending machine.

"Where are you going?" Scott demanded.

"Adam's thirsty. I'm going to get him some milk."

"Take him with you. If we get called, he'll be by himself."

"We can take him with us," Remy said. Blood stained his fingers, darker and slightly brown now because of the wait. Alex tried not to imagine what the cut looked like under that make-shift bandage. He'd seen how much blood spurted in the living room. He tried to concentrate on getting angry about the clean-up but that didn't work too well.

A muscled nurse marched in the waiting room, calling out "Summers, Remy" in an accented, weariness-roughened voice.

Scott shot to his feet, his arm around Remy's shoulders, not quite helping but unwilling to let go. Adam grabbed Alex's hand. Alex didn't protest. He wasn't scared, not exactly. It was just that he knew Remy didn't like hospitals. He was graceful enough never to need one but still, the fact that Remy hadn't even tried to escape the emergency room freaked Alex out.

"I want milk," Adam said again, quieter but more urgent.

"In a second," said Alex.

The nurse showed them into a curtained cubicle. Remy's breathing quickened as soon as the curtains clattered closed, lending only the faintest illusions of privacy.

"You okay?" Scott asked for what had to be the billionth time.

Remy nodded but the edges of his mouth were white and so were his knuckles on his good hand where he clutched at the bed.

"We'll be out soon."

Another nod.

"I need to get milk for Adam," said Alex even though his baby brother was now pressed against his leg, doing an incredible impression of a barnacle.

Scott's eyebrows twitched but he nodded. Alex reached out to push the curtain away but the nurse came back just then with a disgustingly young doctor in tow. The guy didn't have any grey hairs! Someone who worked in an ER should have grey hair, right?

With quick, impersonal movements, the doctor unravelled the doughnut bandage on Remy's arm. "Okay, so Remy, how did you get that piece of glass in your arm?"

"He fell," said Scott. "We were fighting and he fell on our coffee table."

"Where are your parents?"

"The base," Remy quickly answered. "Grad night. Dad's doing the gauntlet."

The doctor snorted, obviously familiar with the traditional forty-eight-hour hazing that marked the end of training for every new batch of recruits. Alex barely managed to roll his eyes at the ease at which they lied about Dad's drinking.

"And your mom?"

Scott answered for everyone again. "We just stay with our dad."

By now, the bandage was just a bloody tangle on the bed and holy shit! Alex could see exactly what had happened to Remy's arm and no matter what he'd imagined, it still looked grosser because it was real. He tried to back away but Adam, still wrapped around his leg, prevented further movement.

"It looks a little more complicated than I was told," said the doctor. "I can either put local anaesthetic or put you under for a while, whichever you're more comfortable with."

"Local," Remy said without hesitation.

"Somehow, I thought you'd say that." After scribbling on his clipboard, the doctor reached into his pocket and took out a small white pill bottle. Tapping out two capsules, he filled a paper cup at a nearby water dispenser and handed both to Remy. "This is just a slight tranquilizer. It'll help with keeping you calm while we sew you up. I'll be right back with an assistant and some equipment, okay?"

Scott nodded his thanks. Alex wished he could ask for some of those pills; that cut was majorly scary. Blood still leaked from the gash in thick, lazy droplets every time Remy moved his arm.

Trying to keep his mind off of it, Alex twisted around to tap Adam's head. "Hey, you still want milk?"

Adam shook his head against Alex's hamstrings.

"I saw hickory sticks in the vending machine. How about those?"

Again, Adam shook his head. Alex was about to suggest chocolate bar knowing that Adam couldn't resist but Scott's frantic yelp of "Doctor!" shot all possibility of calmness from his head.

High-pitched gasps hissed from Remy's lips which were going blue. His mouth opened wide as he tried to drag air into lungs that somehow wouldn't inflate, the wound on his arm forgotten with the greater threat of choking to death.

A doctor-- a different one, older and a woman-- ran towards them. "Assist!" she yelled as he shoved past Alex. "What happened?"

"I don't know. The other doctor gave him something to calm him down and then he started choking," said Scott.

As two nurses came in, the new doctor poked a finger down Remy's throat but even though he gagged nothing came out. She pressed a stethoscope against his chest. "He's not choking on the pills. I think we're having a severe anaphylaxic reaction here. Does he have an epi-pen?" she asked Scott.

"A what-- He doesn't have allergies," Scott said.

Another nurse pushed Alex away, wielding a small glass capsule and a packaged syringe. Adam was crying now, wailing even, so Alex hoisted him up and tucked his head into his shoulder. Petting the kid's head, he said "shhh, shhh" while half-wishing someone would do the same for him.

The doctor filled the syringe with the clear fluid from the capsule and jabbed it in Remy's uninjured arm. Remy's fingers were nearly blue-black now and he'd slumped against Scott, passed-out or almost there and for five entire seconds, Alex hated Dad for drinking and hated Scott and Remy for hiding everything and hated their mom for dying but mostly hated himself because there was never anything he could do about it.

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