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Written for the [ profile] bjd_30minfic writing challenge/prompt "shadow," after the [ profile] vita_ersatz photo challenge/prompt "underwear" resulted in the following pictures of Wren in the Procedural Care Unit at the hospital where I work.

Sodium Chloride

She wakes up, and her head aches. The light, such as it is, makes her close her eyes again – it’s too bright, too present.

She moves her arm, to bring her hand up to her face, and something pulls, stings. Opening her eyes just the littlest bit against the light, she looks down, and sees the clear rubber length of an IV tube rising from her arm, an arm wrapped in clean white gauze. The IV tube disappears into the bandages, the actual puncture site hidden from view. She follows the line up with her eyes, finds a clear plastic bag full of clear fluid. The front of the bag is labeled. NaCl. Plain fluids, then.

She pushes herself up on her elbows, and it hurts – it hurts her stomach, her chest, her arms from the elbows down. She bites back a moan, sits up all the way, reaches out with her hand and finds the IV pump, presses the button to turn it off. It dies under her fingertips, and she raises her other hand, reaching across herself to disconnect the tube in her arm from the port that attaches it to the tubing for the IV pump. No alarms sound.

She feels along the rail of the bed until she finds the release button, drops the barrier down and turns, swings her legs over the side. The movement makes her dizzy, but she doesn’t dare wait for it to pass. She stands, sways a little, catches herself on the bed, steadies. Takes a step.

There are sticky things on her chest, her shoulders, her stomach. She pulls one off, examines it. It’s one of the square white conductive tabs used to attach EKG leads to skin. It’s not connected to any machines at the moment. She drops it on the floor, takes stock of herself.

She has on nothing but her underwear and the bandages, her lower forearms and chest swathed in white. No shoes, no socks, no weapons.

She looks around, finds nothing but the blanket on the bed, and it’s too bright to be safe, has a big green logo woven into it. It will attract the eye, make it harder for her to hide.

She needs to move before someone comes to check on her. She pulls the curtain on the alcove closed behind her as she leaves it, hopes it will delay the inevitable, keep people from seeing she’s gone for a bit longer.

It takes perhaps a minute to make her way across the unit, sneaking silently along the wall and out through a pair of double doors. She hears people talking, nurses or doctors or god only knows what, but they seem to be attending to other patients, and she doesn’t see them. The unit is mostly darkened, the lights in the patient alcoves dimmed or turned out completely, curtains drawn. It must be night.

She finds elevators. Pushes the button on the wall between them.

It occurs to her that elevators are probably busier than stairs just as they chime and the doors slide open. There’s a man there, in a blue uniform with a gold badge on his chest. He’s stunned, is just a moment too slow to react, and she rushes him, slaps the “door close” button as it passes and slams him into the back wall of the elevator. His head hits the metal, hard, and he goes limp. She isn’t strong enough to hold him up, ends up on the floor tangled in his legs.

She staggers to her feet, goes over to the control panel and hits the “B4” button. The elevator begins to move, and she returns to the downed man.

He’s a security guard. There’s a gun in the duty belt around his waist. She takes it out, checks it over, watching her hands move in something like awe. She didn’t know she knew how to use a gun, and yet somehow, now that she has one, it seems the most natural thing in the world. It’s loaded. She pats him down, quickly. Radio, keys, candy bar in his pocket. The thought of food makes her ill, and the radio will have a GPS chip in it, will be traceable. She isn't sure why that's important, but it is. She takes only the keys and the gun. Considers his shoes, but they’re far too big for her.

Why would a security guard in a regular hospital go armed? It confirms her suspicion – this place, whatever it is, is not a normal medical facility. She feels her pulse speed up a few beats at the thought.

The doors open. She looks up. No one outside them – she’s in a basement level of the building, as she had hoped she would be.

She checks the hall, just to be safe, then drags the guard out of the elevator, pulls him over to a door labeled “Electrical Closet” and tries the keys on the steel ring until one of them opens the door. Shoves him inside.

After a moment of thought, she goes in with him, finds the light switch and flicks it. Strips him out of his pants, and pulls them on. They’re far too big, but she cuffs the legs and takes his belt, tightens it as far as it will go and they just barely stay on. She takes his socks, and the tank top he’s wearing underneath his uniform shirt. She pauses, then takes his badge, too. Slips it into the pocket of the pants, and opens the door, steps out into the hall.

Still no one around.

It isn’t hard to make her way out of the basement and into a parking garage, though by the time she gets up all those flights of stairs – no more elevators, too dangerous – she’s panting, and her hand on the grip of the gun is slippery with sweat. She takes a minute to rest, leaning against a cement-brick wall, eyes closed. Damn.

The sudden sound of a door slamming open hard enough that it bounces off the wall thirty yards to her left makes her jerk around in surprise, the gun rising seemingly of its own accord to point at the man coming though the opening. She squeezes the trigger and in the same moment sees the man’s face, recognizes him – black hair, black eyes, a bruise on his cheekbone that she somehow knows was put there by the butt of a rifle – and jerks the gun upward. The bullet misses him, hits the cement wall, sends shards of concrete and dust flying. He freezes, stares at her with wide eyes.

Her heart is pounding. He isn’t moving, is still half-crouched, his own hand inches from the gun she somehow knows is clipped to the back of his pants. It takes her a few moments to realize that she’s still pointing the gun at him, rock-steady, and when she does she blinks, tosses it away from her as if it just sank teeth into her hand – it hits the ground and skitters, does not go off, and only later does she think about that, and about how stupid it was to throw a loaded semiautomatic weapon without first flipping the safety on.

The man straightens up, comes toward her with quick steps, and his face is calm but she can see concern in the way he holds himself, the line of his shoulders, the jut of his jaw. “Wren?”

She isn’t sure what to say. Her head is fuzzy, clouded. She knows his face, but the why of her knowing, the how, is hidden in shadows.

His hand closes around her bicep, gently, not gripping hard like she expected, and he raises his other hand to feel her pulse, in her throat. “You scared the hell out of me,” he says then, and she knows, somehow, that he’s not happy. Is far more unhappy than his words would suggest. “You’ve got a concussion. Come with me. We need to get you back to your bed, have the nurse check to make sure you haven’t hurt yourself.”

Concussion. The pain in her head seems to sharpen at his words, and she sways. He mutters something, bends and picks her up. She blinks at him, startled. He ignores her expression, looks instead at the gun on the asphalt.

“Where did you get that?”

“ guard.” It somehow seems a bad idea not to answer him.

His head whips around so he can look at her, and his eyes are wide again. After a moment, he says, with what she can tell is forced calm, “Where is he now?”

She hesitates. He narrows his eyes.

“Electrical closet. B4. Near elevators.”

There is a moment of silence. He turns and walks over to the gun, kneels and leans down – awkwardly, with her in his arms – and manages to pick it up. Flips the safety on and heads for the door he came out of, still hanging open. It looks like he snapped the hydraulic arm on the top of it when he came out.

“I suppose those are his pants, too. And his shirt.” He sounds...almost amused, now. Still angry, but not quite as much. Not necessarily at her. That makes her feel better, though she has no idea why.
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