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The End As We Know It

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The waiting room is a riot of sounds around them; children crying, adults arguing, people talking on phones, to family members, to harried looking nurses. The padding of the chair has long since melded to the shape of his numb ass but he’s not about to take the attention away from someone who actually needs it. Despite what Lauretta had said, and he would listen to her advice any other time , going to the hospital was over kill. Head wounds always bleed a lot, and aside from the throbbing from the hit he took, he’s pretty sure that it isn’t a concussion. Try telling that to King though; the man could make a rock feel guilty for ignoring his concern. And while King isn’t one to make him sleep on the couch, Christopher doesn’t really want to sit through the heavy disapproving silence that would inevitably come from heading back to work instead of getting checked out.

Sonja reaches out and pushes his hand back up to press the gauze against his temple without looking up from her magazine.

“I told you to keep pressure.”

“I think it’s stopped bleeding.”

She lets her hand drop and Christopher pulls the gauze away, wincing when it tries to stick to his skin. A moment later he can feel it sliding down his cheek. Together they watch as a few droplets escape to the floor.

She gives him an arched look.

“Alright, fine.” He sighs, pressing the gauze back to his head. His arm has long since gone numb from keeping it in the same position. He’s not looking forwards to the pins and needles to follow.

Two paramedics roll a gurney with an elderly man on it by them. They leave him by the nurses station as they go to check in. He’s groaning, shifting restlessly under the shock blanket they’ve tucked around him.

“I hate hospitals.” Sonja mutters and Christopher has to agree. At least in the ER’s. He’s used to the rest of the hospital, visiting witnesses, visiting children when he can on the weekends. The ER is something he’s never been able to get used to.

She glances at her watch. His stomach rumbles, loud even over the sounds around them. He’d skipped lunch because they’d caught a case, and it was pretty clear they’d missed dinner waiting around when the Doc could’ve probably just stitched him up and been done with it.

“We could find the cafeteria.” Sonja suggests. She frowns, glancing at him. “Or I could, you’re getting pretty pale.”

“My heads leaking.” He points out. “And we probably won’t have to wait much longer.”

There’s a pretty nurse headed their way, clipboard in hand, so hopefully this will get them through to see someone .

She’s passing by the gurney when the old man reaches out, his moaning reaching a crescendo. He grips her arm and she pauses by him, leaning over him to see what’s wrong.

And then his teeth are in her neck.

Blood spurts as he rips and a chunk of her neck goes with him. She doesn’t even get the chance to scream, collapsing against the gurney as he pulls her closer and sinks his teeth into the soft flesh of her cheek.

“What the fuck .” Sonja jerks out of her chair, magazine falling forgotten to the floor.

The paramedics that brought him in rush over try to pull the nurse back. She falls to the floor, blood still spurting from the huge gaping hole in her neck, eyes wide and sightless. And the elderly man manages to get his teeth into one of the paramedics, taking a chunk of skin from his arm. He howls, jerks out of the man’s reach. The other one has managed to strap the old man’s left arm and leg in even as he snaps and bares his teeth at him, mouth bloody, chunks of flesh stuck to his chin as he struggles against the restraints.

The gauze is forgotten as Christopher and Sonja hurry over to see if they can help. The three of them manage to get him buckled in. The old man's neck strains as he lunges at them. His mouth is foaming, pink and red and it’s even more gruesome up close. His eyes roll, bloodshot and crazed.

The smell of copper fills the air and Christopher nearly chokes on it, even after years working around bloody scenes. He’s never seen anything like this.

People are screaming, crying, panicked. Nurses, doctors, security, they’re all trying to regain control over the chaos quickly spreading. People are running from the ER, out into the streets, shoving one another to get through.

A nurse is sobbing quietly, next to the fallen woman, checking for a pulse on her wrist because there’s barely enough of her neck left to try there. The paramedic is helping his partner press a pressure bandage to the chunk missing from his arm, ashen looking, probably going into shock.

Sonja has her phone in one hand, but she grabs Christopher with her other, dragging him further away from the gurney where the man is fighting ruthlessly to get himself free. He watches, numb, nauseous, at the lack of the recognition in the man’s eyes, the lack of anything except hunger like he’s never seen before.

“Christopher.” He realizes Sonja’s been calling his name for a minute now, her expression pinched with worry and fear. But even as he watches the fear in her gaze is shoved aside. He tries to do the same. His head is swimming, he thinks he should sit down.

A moment later he’s being shoved into a chair.

“Stay here.” She says. “I’m going to call King and get security together.”

He thinks he nods. He feels shaky, his chest tight. He hasn’t felt like this since Katrina, he thinks.

He leans down, puts his head between his knees and tries to breathe. Droplets of blood collect on the floor underneath him but it looks like at the very least his head wound has decided to slow.

He doesn’t know how much time has past when suddenly someone is crouching before him, a hand gently squeezing his shoulder.

He startles, glances up. The world spins a little then resolves itself as King. He’s worried, Christopher can tell, the down turn of his lips, tight lines around his eyes. He wants to smooth the expression away. Wants to watch the frown melt into a smile that makes his knees weak.

“You alright?”

He nods. Pauses. Shakes his head.

“Okay,” King says softly, squeezing his shoulder, sliding his hand up to cup Christopher’s neck. He shudders at the touch, unable to help himself, and King pulls his hand away, realizing what it’s done. He can’t help himself, can’t help but to compare it. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He manages, voice wrecked. He wonders how long he’s been sitting here. He glances over, reluctantly, but the nurses dead body has been moved and the gurney with the old man strapped to it has been tucked away somewhere out of sight.

The puddle of blood on the floor is the only real sign that something ever happened.

“I’m gonna take you home.” King promises. “We’ll drop Sonja off first.”

“What about the man?” He finds himself asking even though he’s not sure he wants to know.

“Not our jurisdiction. Let NO: PD take care of it.”

He’s not sure how he feels leaving this in someone else’s hands, not when he was right there. But the alternative doesn’t sound any better.

The responding officers take their statements and a nurse manages to get him stitched up pretty quickly once things have calmed down a little. With the body and the man out of sight they’re left in the mess of the ER. A lot of people fled and haven’t come back, people that needed actual help, but there’s nothing they can do for them. His nurse is ashen, hair falling around her face, gaze haunted and he wonders how well she knew the victim. Her hands are steady though as she gives him ten stitches.

They drop Sonja off at Gregorio’s, watching to make sure she gets in before heading home. King takes them back to Christopher's on the outskirts of the city, using his key to get them in, turning on the lights as they pass. He drags Christopher into the bathroom, strips him patiently and helps him under the hot spray of the shower.

The adrenaline is starting to fade from his system leaving him wrung out and scarred, numb in a way that the hot water can’t help. But King’s hands are gentle on him, soothing him, holding him up when he can’t quite manage it on his own.

They dry off and stumble into the bedroom. King helps him into a pair of boxers and a tshirt, then into the bed, bundling him up as he starts to shiver and shake. He keeps the bedside lamps on, casting a soft glow over the room as he curls up against Christopher, pulling him tight against him. Christopher tucks his head against King’s chest and breathes him in, fighting to get the coppery smell of blood from his nose, replacing it with all the scents of home.

He falls into an exhausted sleep, wakes a few times, screaming out a warning as the old man sinks his teeth into King and then Sonja and then Sebastian. When he closes his eyes he sees the spray of blood, the chunks of flesh in the man's teeth and feels his stomach turn.

King is there though, whispering soothing words through it all, holding him close, shielding him from his nightmares.

Eventually they give up on sleep and end up on the couch. King sprawls out and Christopher curls up between his legs, a blanket thrown over them. He falls asleep to reruns of Star Trek, the sound on low, and wakes to the news. The weather forecast finishes and he yawns, rubbing his tired and gritty eyes as King presses a kiss to the side of his head.

Breaking news flashes across the scene and even though he knows he’s off work until he can get a psych eval he still tenses wondering if it’s going to be a call in for King.

It’s not.

The scene they show is from the hospital. Quarantine signs are up in the background as the reporter fills them in on an outbreak that happened in the early hours of the morning. The police and SWAT are both there and even as the reporter speculates what kind of outbreak would require such heavy police presence someone comes through the hospital doors and the police open fire.

Christopher jerks and King swears, both fully awake now.

The reporter ducks and the feed wavers for a moment but they keep filming. The person keeps coming, stumbling forwards as more and more bullets are pumped into them until finally they fall into a heap on the ground.

Christopher thinks he recognizes it as the paramedic from the night before.

King’s cellphone on the table starts to ring, shrill in the quiet of the room. Christopher grabs it, checking the caller ID before handing it to the other man and turning up the volume on the television.

Another person comes through the hospital door and then another. The reporter has taken cover behind the news van but the camera catches it all as a hoard of people stumble out into the morning light. There’s something not quite right about them, their shambling uneven gaits, the way their limbs move like they’re marionettes controlled by a puppet master. But even through the news feed, Christopher can see the hunger on their faces.

The police fire.

The camera feed goes blank.