There had been no question as to whether Chris would accompany Dave to to the ER. In fact, not even Proctor argued with that when he stated it. Dave was in a bad way, but at least when he passed out, he stopped throwing up. When the gurney arrived, Chris could only stand back and watch as Dave was transferred onto it, on his side in case he started to be sick again. All he could remember was Dave indicating that the pain wasn't just in his stomach and it hadn't just come on suddenly. It kept going over and over in Chris' mind, but he couldn't get it to lead anywhere. When Dave was rushed into the depths of the ER, Chris soon had his cell planted to his ear with his Mom to check how Rick was. He interrogated her even when Mrs Deleo promised him Rick was okay. Sleeping and bummed Bella got paged to leave his side, but so far, he was holding up.
It placated Chris just a little, but he didn't put his cell phone away. He kept a tight grip on it after literally barking orders at Kathy and Tuck to get Serena to call him as soon as she could. So far she hadn't, but he needed it more than ever. It had barely been five minutes after his Mom told him that Bella had been paged from Rick's side to when Chris watched, dumbfounded, as the oncologist pregnant with his niece or nephew came rushing into the ER with what looked to be two students in tow. There was a hushed and rapid consult at the nurses' station where Bella listened, looking worried and serious, before she had disappeared with the students to the examination bays. Chris had just shaken his head in slight disbelief, trying not to let the panic build up inside him. The ER was a big place, lots of patients. She wasn't here for Dave, surely?
Only, eventually Bella herself had come to approach both Chris and Proctor, who had been waiting on news of Dave. She had soberly revealed to them that Dave had requested she speak to them, and Chris could only listen numbly as she relayed the news to them about Dave's recurring cancer. She was admitting him for surgery ASAP. He was sedated at the moment for an endoscopy, and she would keep them posted. Chris had gone straight to the nearest bathroom and threw up in the sink from shock. But them he forced himself to stop, to calm down, and try to process everything that had just happened. Now he was standing back out in the ER corridor again, waiting until Dave was moved to the Oncology ward or to hear if anything else weird showed on the endoscopy. His phone was still clutched in his hand and he was staring blankly at the wall opposite. Footsteps running up the corridor caught his attention, though and he turned to see Serena hurrying in his direction. She looked like she was literally just out of the surgery, and must have come running at the first indication something was wrong. "Oh thank god," he mumbled, pushing off the wall so he could hug her as soon as she reached him.
Serena wrapped her arms around Chris as she tried to catch her breath. She was hot, and she was sweaty and she was trying to comprehend what had been going on in her absence, but all she knew was that something had happened to Dave and Chris needed her. She rubbed her hand against his back as she closed her eyes briefly. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, it was just this stupid leg and it needed to be cut off and you can't really rush it, you know? I mean, I know it's taking off the leg, but you still have to make it neat, and Eva's a perfectionist. More than me, so that's saying something. But anyway, I'm here. Are you okay? What did I miss?"
"Kinda glad to hear you didn't just hack some poor dude's leg off to get an early mark," Chris joked, even if his voice was shaking as he clung to her. He closed his eyes and didn't let go, just standing there in the hug for as long as he could get away with it. "Dave's got cancer."
"What?!" Serena's eyes snapped open as she hugged Chris even tighter and clung to the back of his shirt. "What? Cancer... Oh my god... Does Aimee know? Is he okay? What happened? What kind of cancer? Shit. I can't believe it."
Chris had to pull back a little to push his fingers through his hair helplessly. "No... no... I don't know. I don't know about Aimee. I was over in MT1 waiting for you. I was being good and I really was waiting. But then Dave was there, and I got pissed off, so I confronted him. Then I sort of got mad when he tried to fob me off again, even if he did say something weird like he was tired of sitting around and waiting for me, that he felt like he needed to take a number to just talk to me. Which pissed me off, but only because I felt like a complete prick when he said that. I yelled at him, something prickish that I can't even really remember now. Something about nearly dying. And then he just... started to be sick. Badly. He doubled over in pain and then he was throwing up blood. But he did say when Proctor asked that it hadn't just come on and it wasn't just his stomach that hurt..." He just stood there looking helpless, floundering for a moment as he gestured silently off to the side from where Bella had appeared when she came. "Then I saw Bella. Mom said she got paged, but I... I... she came, and he... he has testicular cancer, but it's spread. It's Stage Four. It's gone to his stomach and she needs to operate ASAP. Why does this keep happening?" he finally asked, some shocked tears dripping down his cheeks.
Serena bit down on her lip as she started to brush away the tears and tried not to start shedding any of her own. Stage Four testicular cancer. It made Serena's stomach twist to think of Dave so sick with cancer. Again. "I don't know, baby. I don't... I can't believe it. You know that it's no one's fault, right? It's not yours, and it's not Dave's. It's fucked up cells in the body. You yelling at him didn't make him sick. Maybe it just triggered a stressful reaction, but you didn't make him explode anymore than he made you explode. Bad timing. That's all... Shit, I feel so sorry for him. I need to tell Aimee, though. She needs to know. How the hell's it gotten to Stage Four and no one knew? I didn't mean to hog you, by the way. I don't want to be That Girlfriend. The one that the best friend feels like he can't even be around."
Chris nodded and swallowed heavily. "He gave Bella permission to say. That's something. I just... I don't know anything else. Bella says he too ill for any heart-to-hearts yet. Maybe after the scope when gets taken back to the ward. She is figuring tomorrow for the surgery, but maybe the day after. She needs to make sure he hasn't got any infections or anything like that. All the standard. I-I don't even know how any of this happened!" he said tearfully, still managing a tight grip on his phone like some sort of lifeline. "I can't even remember him being around so much when I was sick, but I was unconscious for a lot of the time. I remember he was there with the bleed, and I was so fucking glad he was. But other than that I... did I make it seem like he could talk to me? I can't remember now. There was so much going on. What if he had symptoms and needed to talk to me? I might have realised something was wrong. I don't even know how long he's known, but he was still working. He had Stage Four cancer and he was still working."
Serena pressed her lips together as she kept an arm around Chris but guided him towards a row of seats so that he would be able to sit down. "Well, I... I know he was having problems getting it up. Aimee talked to me about them. I think Dave wanted to talk to you about them. He was having man issues, and wanted to talk to his best friend about it. Only you exploded and he just had to step back again. He was there when you were sick. He sat with you. He waited for you to wake up. I think he just realised that when you did wake up, I was there, your mom was there, and Rick was there. He didn't seem needed. Dave should have never felt like he needed to take a number. He's your best friend! He has every right to be there. And now he has cancer again, and he was probably working through it because he just didn't want to have to stop and confront it. Why would he? He's gotta be wondering why he has to fight it all over again."
Chris just shook his head, tears slowly spilling over that he couldn't stop. He was in shock about the news, and he felt an unwavering pile of guilt hearing Dave had felt pushed away when he had been so sick. "He must have at least known. By the time he was brought in and Bella came to see us, she had more information than she could have known in that short space of time. He had a diagnosis before today. And I can totally understand why he hasn't said anything. I mean, I freaked the fuck out the first time, didn't I? I've shot this all in the foot. My best mate didn't even feel he could come to me when his cancer came back. And now Rick is having chemo, and Bella's admitted him because he spiked a fever. All I feel like doing is throwing up. What do I do? I have no idea how to deal with any of this? If Dave dies... if he..." He put his hands over his face with a sob. "Oh god, Lisa."
Serena kissed Chris' temple as she gave his shoulders a reassuring squeeze. Her bottom lip trembled before she caught it with her teeth to try and curb the urge to cry. "You be there for him as best you can. You're still not well yourself, Chris, so you can't push yourself too far. But he just needs to know you're still his friend, and that you care about him. That's all that matters right now. He's not... I hope he won't die, but right now I think all that matters is driving home that you're still his best friend no matter what. I just can't believe he's been working so hard despite obviously knowing what was going on. It's insane. Shit, she doesn't know either?"
"That's why I'm here. I just need to see him and let him know I'm here. That I'm not angry or pissed off or... I don't know. I feel like someone should have seen the signs. What if there were signs and we all missed them. What does that say? That hey, he gets remission, so that's it? The world is perfect again? When maybe we should have all been watching him closely. Which probably would have pissed him off. He was freakishly healthy in college. He never got sick. He was always making sure the rest of us were okay. This just seems so fucking cruel. And I hurt him. I didn't know I was, but I did." Chris put his head in his hands and looked at his shoes. "I don't know what she knows. I don't know anything."
Serena started to rub his back as she failed to come up with the answers. She'd known about Dave's issues in bed, and the fact that he was tired. But everyone on Alpha was tired. Even she'd been exhausted since coming back. For a little while there, Dave had been covering for two gaps though. He'd hit the ground running and hadn't stopped. Serena didn't think that would have done him any favours. "It's... I don't know either, baby. I really don't. I want to say there were signs, but I don't think there were. We all missed it, and I think that says we had our minds on other things and not Dave. As much as that sucks for me to admit outloud... We all took it for granted that he was fine."
Chris was taking it all in, resting his fingers against his lips has he tried to think it all out. "What about Aimee? Has she said anything? Surely she had to have noticed something was wrong. I know how it is to just get on that working wheel that never seems to stop. You get focused and you just keep functioning, even if you're sick. I've been so wrapped up in myself that I couldn't have noticed. But he did, you know. He tried to talk to me. That day I busted my sutures, we were talking. If he just had a bit more time, he might have said something to me. Anything. I could have worked with anything. He's my best mate and he's already been through this. He doesn't deserved it. Why does my brother and best mate both have cancer? Why do I nearly die trying to help them? Why does my Mom get beaten up by my goddamn father? It's got to stop. I just feel so sick, like it'll never stop. I wouldn't even know what to do if he died."
"If Dave died?" Serena asked quietly as she sought clarification. She gave a slow shake of her head. "I don't think any of us would. It's hard to imagine life without Dave now, but I guess he wasn't feeling so much a part of it. Aimee just mentioned him not being able to come to the bed party. Then he just pushed her away. He wasn't even letting her sleep over, or going to her place. He just did a total tortoise job. She needs to know, she has to be able to understand that it wasn't her that drove him away. Didn't he break up with his girlfriend last time? If he doesn't think Aimee can hack it, he might break up with her this time."
"Either of them," Chris mumbled with a frown, his eyes stinging from the want of more tears to fall. He shook his head. "That's not Dave. It's not. Look how he was with Rick. He wanted to help, he was willing to talk about it all, he practically dragged him back to Miami for treatment because he knows how important it is. All this is... it's... something's wrong. Shock or denial, I don't know, but it's not Dave. He was so head over for Aimee. But to be fair, if my balls were in agony, I'd probably be pushing you away too. You feel an obligation, like sex is something you should be able to give to your girlfriend. When you can't, it's just hard. It's a dude thing. Of course she needs to know. I just don't have the strength to tell her. No... he didn't break up with his ex, she broke up when she couldn't face the prospect of him being sick. Maybe he just doesn't want to experience that again, even if he says he understood why she did it."
Serena ran her tongue over her lips as she took Chris' hand and gave it a squeeze. It wasn't like he'd been up for sex lately, but the idea of his balls being in that much pain, or Chris having testicular cancer was devastating. At least he could heal from the surgery, and when he was ready they'd be able to indulge. What if Dave wasn't ever going to be able to indulge. "Maybe he just can't face that happening with Aimee because he is so head over heels for her. Maybe if it all falls through with her, then he just won't be able to take another knock. I can tell her if you want. I don't mind. I won't know where to start, but I can do it. Shit, I don't understand why he has to go through this all again... It's awful. No one deserves this, least of all Dave."
Chris rubbed the back of his neck with his other hand, feeling all the tension start to build there and make his head hurt. "Or he's pushing her away so she doesn't need to deal with it. I don't know Aimee well enough to make any calls, but would she cope with having a lover with cancer, going through chemo? Last I heard, they hadn't had the committment or baby talk. Dave knew he had to bring it up, but I don't think he had. Is this just too heavy for a relationship in their stages? I wouldn't know, I'm hardly the relationship expert. Someone has to tell her. You should be the one. You're her best friend. Trust me, it's better she knows than doesn't. Not knowing sucks."
"What would you have done if we'd been facing something like this just after you fixed my clicker? We've known each other for longer, but we hadn't been in a relationship for long. I don't know what I would have done. I don't know if I would have known then just how much I didn't want to lose you. I knew that you meant a lot to me, and that I was starting to get the inkling..." Serena trailed off as she tried to put them in the other couple's shoes. "I know now that there's no way I'd abandon you. I wouldn't be able to walk out on you now. I think Aimee would have the stamina if she knew for sure that Dave was it."
"That is like asking me how I would have felt if my brother had died before we got him help. I don't know. How the hell am I supposed to know something like that? If it was you, I probably would have helped you, but I probably wouldn't have fallen in love with you. I know that sounds harsh and prickish, but it's the truth. I wouldn't have wanted to lay expectations on you or take advantage of you when you were sick. I would have made sure you had the support you needed, but there wouldn't have been relationship complications," Chris admitted tiredly. "But with Dave and Aimee, he was already a cancer survivor and he was totally honest with her about it. There was always a risk it could come back. Maybe that makes things different. She knew what she was getting into. Or maybe she knew but just didn't think it would happen. How can she know for sure he is?"
Serena shrugged. "I don't know, baby. I don't. It's different for each couple, for each person. I was just thinking out loud more than anything. This might even put pressure on them both to suddenly know what they're doing when they don't want to think about it yet. It's all just guess work on our part. This just sucks for them. It really does. Of course she knew what she was getting into with Dave and the fact he was a cancer survivor, but maybe they still both just wanted to know it wouldn't happen to them yet."
"I need to talk to him. I don't want to tell him what to do, he just shouldn't be alone for this. He needs another guy around him. He's losing a part of him that... he needs a mate. I'm that mate. I'll just... I don't know, go back and forth between him and Rick tonight. I don't care if it kills me. He was there for me, and I need to be there for him." Chris stared at the blank wall opposite them, wishing his mind was working better, but it just wasn't. It felt like it was full of cotton wool. "My god, he was so sick."
Serena looked across at the wall as well, hoping that it might feed her some answers to make Chris feel better. All she could really do was just hold his hand. After a moment though, her eyes went wide. "Why can't they stay in the same room?"
"Because Rick is going through chemo. Would you want to sit and watch that if you were facing it all over again?" Chris asked in exasperation.
"No, but I also wouldn't want to risk my best friend who is still recovering from surgery hurting themselves by trying to stretch himself between two different people." Serena rubbed at her lip with her fingertips and let out a soft sigh. "I know it wouldn't be ideal for Dave, but it would help everyone. Maybe even him by giving him a roomie that's not a complete stranger."
"He's getting his ball cut off tomorrow and his stomach sliced open. Would you like to lie awake all night listening to the chemo patient next to you vomiting uncontrollably. I want them both in private rooms if they're available. This isn't summer camp, Serena. Dave and Rick have hardly spoken to each other since Rick got here," Chris reminded her. God, he was confused. Having them in the same room would be so much easier for him, and he was exhausted right now, but he wanted to put Rick and Dave first. He just didn't know what the ideal situation was.
Serena nodded. "Sure, okay. I get it. It was just an idea. You know what I'm going to tell you though, right? And your Mom's gonna say the same thing. I'm sure Rick would understand if you just stayed with Dave for now. Your brother's in good hands. I can keep an eye on him for you if you want."
Chris just shook his head a little. "Don't even... you know I couldn't agree to that even if I was dragging both arms and legs behind me in exhaustion. I don't even have any answers here. How could anyone? This is..." He swallowed when he choked up and the words got caught in his throat. "Even Proctor was shocked. I've never seen him like that before."
Serena pulled Chris into a hug and kissed the top of his head. "No, no... No crying. Please. I won't be able to hold it in if you lose it. I can't stand watching you in pain. What if you at least get a wheelchair? Surely they'd let you use a hospital one. He was? What did he do?"
"My feet work fine. I just need to take it easy." Chris rubbed his head. "He looked like it was the last thing he expected to hear, despite it being Bella giving the news. As soon as I saw her rush into the ER, though, I just knew deep in my gut. I think Proctor felt the same as me... that maybe he should have seen it, or noticed Dave was sick. Or maybe he had noticed, but didn't put enough stock into it. I'm not entirely sure, but he was lost for words. He kept asking me if I was okay, but I think that was just because he wasn't, either."
"Wow, Proctor shaken to the core. That's something I never would have thought possible," Serena replied softly. "He just seems like he'd take anything in his stride. He was even the one holding the rest of us together when Tuck got stabbed. He's the one that had the heart attack and lived. You know? Maybe he's worried this could be the first team member he's lost. I mean, you go down the sinkhole and there was a good chance you weren't gonna come back up. Dave collapses, explodes blood and all of a sudden Proctor's finding out he has cancer? He's gotta be wondering what the deal is."
Chris nodded a little. "Yeah... and, I mean, he was weird that day, too. The sinkhole thing. He told me I was his friend. I was confused about it at first, then it made me feel like he didn't actually just think I was a reckless dickhead. He might be, but he is Proctor. He's Doc Perfect, and we work in trauma. We know shit happens, and often in unbelievably large piles. I think he's maybe worried he overworked Dave."
Serena shook her head. "No, no. He hasn't. I know Dave's been working hard but it's nothing Proctor did. Dave probably also threw himself into work as a distraction. It's not like he's made a lot of time for anything else, anyone else. If he was worried about Aimee, he wouldn't even be trying to scale back the hours to make time for her."
"No. Not buying that. He's still a trauma surgeon at heart. If he was needed, he would keep showing up to the long shifts, regardless," Chris murmured and wet his lips. "And if sex was causing him pain, it would make sense he would be just accepting the work so there didn't need to be awkward encounters between him and Aimee. I'm sure she would have understood, but how would it have been if they were just getting into the new relationship sex thing and he's all 'Sorry, can't. My nut hurts when you touch it'?"
Serena raised her eyebrows a little. "It might stop her blaming herself for the fact that he's disinterested in sex. No matter how much she says she understands, she's still going to be wondering if she's just not doing it for him, or if something changed, or if she did something wrong. It's a chick thing. Just like providing sex is a guy thing. It's a chick thing to get the guilts and to get worried about this stuff no matter what."
"Which I can understand, and probably exactly the reason Dave pulled away. Sure, it's a chick thing, but think about the dude thing on the flipside. We don't exactly always want to talk about things like sore nuts and not being able to have sex. Sometimes, it's easier to just pull away than deal with the guilts... because more often than not, we know exactly how the girl will react," Chris admitted with a shrug. "Plus, if he hasn't been feeling well, too. It's not like he has been completely inaccessible. He's been at work for hours on end."
Serena raised her hand briefly. "Okay, okay. I can understand that. No one's really at fault here. It just seems like more of a mess because Dave has cancer. It really did come out of the blue. Or seem to. Man, I just can't believe it. I still feel like I should have seen something because I do work with him everyday."
"Maybe you should have," Chris said quietly. "I don't know. It's not like I noticed my own brother was sick when he showed up in Miami. Even when Dave came, I picked something was weird with him, but I just thought he had turned into a health freak. Bella knew. Today isn't the day Dave got diagnosed... so how long has he known and tried to cope with this on his own? That day he came to see me in hospital after I'd hardly see him. He was acting weird. Really weird. And I still didn't do anything about it."
Serena sat there as she chewed on her nails, and stared down at her shoes. She was still trying to play back every encounter with Dave recently to see if there were any flashing neon signs that screamed 'CANCER'. "We're gonna drive ourselves crazy trying to think of the things we should have seen. I already am. It's done, we failed. Or maybe we didn't. Maybe Dave's just that good at masking the fact he's not fine. Really weird? What's 'really weird'?"
"We wouldn't have known if he wasn't well. You're with him at work where he spends most of his time behind a surgeons mask. Your spare time was spent visiting me in hospital, so you were hardly going to be present for meal breaks. The rest of us just haven't seen him. I saw him today, he didn't look fine, and I only even realised that when he started throwing up. It's a matter of not seeing what we don't want to." Chris closed his eyes tiredly and then rested his head in his hands again. "Distant, distracted, like he couldn't get away from me quick enough. I thought it was because I had done something to upset him."
Serena pulled her mouth to the side as she rest her hand on Chris' back lightly. "Maybe he was just scared about how he was supposed to tell you given how the last time went. We're never going to really know until we talk to him. Until you talk to him. It's all just guesswork. I do agree with you, though. None of us wanted to see Dave as sick, so we just didn't. Shit. I still can't believe we're sitting here. Do you need anything?"
"They're putting him under to scope him. I just have to wait. Bella promised me he was in good hands. I don't even know if he'll feel like talking when he wakes up. I know I didn't for days. I still can't remember a lot of what I said or did for awhile there. It's just all a mash in my head. I'll just sit there quietly if that's what it takes. I should probably call his folks, too. See if Lisa knows what is going on." Chris sighed, giving his head a slight shake as he looked at his feet. "What if we don't have anymore chances left? What if we've used them all up?"
"Chances for what?" Serena prompted quietly. "If Bella says they're good hands, then you know they're good hands. She doesn't mess around, and she wouldn't let anyone near her patients without being sure of their abilities. We'll both hit the phones. I'll call Aimee, you call Dave's parents. Are they going to want to come down here? Maybe we could pay for it, or organise it, or something."
Chris shook his head. "No need. Dave's family are quite well-off, and no doubt they will come. They'll come straight away. They live about five and a half hours drive away, but they'll probably fly. They'll be here in a couple of hours. Mom's close to Dave's parents, so they can catch up... even if you couldn't get worse circumstances. Dave has two other sisters beyond Lisa, too. I don't doubt at all that they'll all come. They were always so close... I was jealous of that, as much as I hated myself for it. I just mean chances in general. Dave survived it once, Rick dodged the bullet twice, me once. What if we're all out of chances? Bella said there are optimistic chances, but what does that even mean in Oncology talk?"
"That there's still a chance surgery will help?" Serena offered with a slight shrug. "No one would blame you for being jealous. You haven't had the closest relationship with Rick. It's only just starting to happen now, but you still both need time. Maybe we get two chances? You and Dave still have one each. I don't know. I'm hoping that there are a lot more chances to be had. Dave can't die. He just can't."
Chris shook his head with a sigh. "This is my second. I nearly broke my neck skiing in Aspen a few years back," he mumbled and felt a small shiver start to creep over him. There was a big portion of him that really wanted to be curled up in his bed right now. "He's been through so much with me. I can't lose him."
Serena kissed Chris' hair as she hugged him. She was starting to recognise the signs that meant he was exhausted and had pushed himself. Maybe he hadn't physically overexerted himself, but he had emotionally overdone it. "Maybe the three of you should share a room. I'm sure they could find a third bed. And I'm sure you're not going to lose him. At least I hope you won't. I really, really hope you won't."
Chris looked at Serena helplessly. "I'll wait and speak to him if I can, but I might need to go home for awhile. I'm not feeling so great. I can... come back in the morning, I guess. I feel like I need to lie down," he admitted. "I should be here, but I don't know if I can be. I don't want to end up a patient again. I-I'll wait til his family comes. Rick has Bella and Mom. I think I just really need to be in bed."
Serena nodded as she took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "I think you're making the right choice, baby. Even if you're torn. I'll take you home, okay? I'll grab my stuff and we'll go. Then I'll bring you back whenever you want. I have tomorrow off, so just tell me when you want to go and I'll get you to Dave and Rick."
Chris nodded with another helpless frown. It was a massive thing for him to have admitted to Serena that he wasn't coping and didn't have the strength to keep going right now. "Let me just wait to hear he was okay with the scope and they didn't..." He closed his eyes briefly. "Didn't find anything else. No matter how sick you are, you don't just throw up blood for no reason. And I need to see how Rick is doing."
Serena smirked lightly as she rubbed her thumb against the back of his hand. "We'll do the rounds before we go, I promise. For now we'll just sit here quietly. Well, after all the phone calls. I don't think Dave's family, or Aimee should have to wait to hear what's going on. Then again, maybe it's better to call them after we know what the scope was like."
Chris looked over Serena's face with a small smile, even if it was tired and didn't quite come to fruition. "You're amazing. I wouldn't have gotten through any of this without you. I know I haven't said that a whole heap, but I think it every day. I just wanted you to know that."
Serena smiled back at him. "You can show me your appreciation once you've got the energy. You don't need to tell me, and you don't need to thank me. This is what I'm here for. I love you, baby."
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