Slowly Steveís mind swam from dark oblivion to consciousness, and he braced himself for the pain that was sure to follow. Head still pounding and stomach churning, he wished he could have stayed asleep. The first thing he noticed other than his own physical condition was a steady beeping coming from behind him, and upon moving his arm, he discovered an IV. Okay, Iím in a hospitalÖWhy?
"Steve, wake up," a young manís voice coaxed. "Mark will be here any minuteÖJust open your eyes."
He wasnít in here the first time, Steve decided. Wonder where the others wentÖOr who they wereÖOr who this guy is. Curiosity overcame his desire to go back to sleep, and Steve ventured to open his eyes. This time prepared for the lights, he did not receive such a shock as before.
"There you go!" The voice cheered quietly.
Turning his head slowly, Steve examined the young man beside the bed, but found his features foreign in comparison to his familiar voice.
"Welcome back," the man said with a boyish grin.
Before Steve could reply, his stomach lurched as a wave of nausea rolled through his body. He swallowed hard, but the sensation did not lessen. Struggling to sit up, Steve said, "Iím not feeling too great."
"Well, of course youíre not," came the chuckling reply. "You got pretty banged up. Why donít you lie back down?"
"Iím gonna be sick," Steve managed, his voice strangled.
* * *
Jesse held the basin calmly as Steve heaved, but secretly he wondered if he might do the same; this was different from watching a practically nameless patient get sick. He had learned to handle that early on in his residency, but seeing Steve this way gave Jesse sympathy pains. Professionalism is the key here, Jesse counseled himself.
Moments later, Steve lay weakly against his pillows as Jesse cleaned up and continued to wish he had not been the one with Steve when it happened. Youíre a doctor, Jesse! Thatís what youíre here for, for heavenís sake, Jesse thought, returning to Steveís side. "Are you going to be all right now?"
"Yeah. Thanks," Steve replied, his eyes closing again.
"You canít go back to sleep yet," Jesse said urgently, suddenly forgetting about himself. "You dad will beó"
Just then, the door opened as Mark and Amanda walked in.
"Is he awake?" Mark asked, trying to see Steveís face around Jesse.
Jesse stepped aside in response, and Mark grasped his sonís hand speechlessly. Heart in his eyes, Mark finally said, "Steve, I was so worriedÖSo worried."
Jesse and Amanda exchanged glances beside him, relieved not only for Steve, but for Mark as well. Another such devoted father either had yet to see.
"How are you feeling?" Amanda questioned gently.
"Iím okay," Steve returned quietly. "But it feels like I have a marching band in my head. Uh, this may sound like a stupid question, but who are all of you?"
* * *
A chill ran down Markís spine at his sonís question, but Jesse laughed. "Yeah, youíre going to wish you never knew us once we repay you for that chicken stunt you tried to pull last night!"
"I knew you couldnít cook, Steve," Amanda chimed in with a mock scowl.
"Iím sorryÖI must have missed something," Steve admitted, turning to Mark in confusion.
Heís serious, Mark realized, not wanting to believe what was becoming quickly obvious. Oh, dear Lord, help me! "I think maybe we all have," Mark said aloud, his voice hushed.
Simultaneously, Jesse and Amanda looked at Mark and back at one another. Maybe Steve had not been teasing them after all; Mark was taking it too seriously, especially considering the situation.
"Steve, whatís the last thing you remember?" Mark questioned.
"I thinkÖsomething aboutÖ" Closing his eyes in concentration, Steve sat silently while his father and friends held their breath. "I donít. I donít remember anything except my first name," he sighed at last, defeat in his tired green eyes.
This canít be happening, Mark thought, even as he knew it was. I need time. Room to think. With a hand on Steveís shoulder, he forced his voice to remain calm. "Thatís a start," he said, trying to be an encouragement. "As for your first question about us, would you mind if we were to come back later and answer that?"
Steve looked at each of them again as if trying to understand. "No, I guess notÖYou will be back though?" he clarified, a rare insecurity in his expression.
"Weíll be back," Mark promised as his voice caught in his throat.
* * *
"What do you mean Ďcome back later and answer thatí?" Amanda demanded once the three of them were a respectable distance from Steveís room. "He doesnít know any more than his first name, and we just leave him in there all alone?"
"We should be in there with him," Jesse backed her, obviously upset as well.
"Iím sorry," Mark said. "Youíre both welcome to go back. I just couldnít stay any longer. I have to figure out what to do from here."
"Well, Mark, we donít even know how bad it is yet," Amanda pointed out, more gently now.
"True, but we do know that weíre dealing with amnesia, and even that much is difficult for me to accept."
"Arenít there different kinds of amnesia though?" Jesse questioned hopefully.
"Amnesia ranges in severity like almost any human illness," Mark agreed. "It can be as simple as a few missing memories that return within hours, or as extensive as complete memory loss that never fully returns."
"Steve must be somewhere in between then," Jesse decided, almost to himself. "I mean, he knows his name, and he seems to understand where he is."
Mark nodded as they boarded the elevator. "Weíll have to let this play out a little more before we make too many judgements one way or the other, but you do have a point, Jesse. Steve is certainly not in as bad condition as he could be."
"And heíll get better," Jesse said, usual optimism returning. If for no other reason than the fact that heís Steve, he added silently.
"Iíll be on soundstage ten today," he told her as he donned a tie and worked with his collar. "Come join me for lunch on the set and weíll make some plans for a more suitable dinner."
"And after dinner?" she asked with a knowing smile.
"Need you ask?" he said, pecking her on the cheek.
"Well, if thatís the way you kiss me good-bye, maybe I should."
With a laugh, he made amends and handed her a green bill. "The keys to the Viper are in my downstairs study. Keep yourself busy."
"Iím sure Iíll manage," she said, pocketing the money.
"You seem thoughtful this morning," he noted a few moments later as he finished the last of his grooming habits.
"Well, I was just wonderingÖ"
"What is it?" he asked in concern.
"Well, um, what about your wife?"
"Donít worry about that," he said, quick to reassure her. "Nothing has happened yet, has it?"
"No, but it hasnít been that long yet. The tabloids havenít even found out about us yet."
His tone darkened a bit. "They wonít, if I can help it."
With swift comprehension, she nodded. "No one will know. Ever."
"Thatís my girl!" he exclaimed, lighter mood returning. Then, with another kiss, he bid her good morning and promised to be looking for her at lunchtime. Life is good, and everything is under control.
* * *
Jesse stared unseeingly at the newspaper in his hands. His TV was on, but he did not hear it as he sat on the couch in his living room. Minutes ticked by as he sat, seemingly unable to move, and only his wristwatch took note of the time. The article staring at him from a page of the Los Angeles Times reported Steveís condition and a few sparse details surrounding the incident, but to Steveís family and friends, the story went much deeper. For Jesse personally, the concept of Steve having amnesia made his heart ache. This has to be a dream; Steve doesnít have amnesia. He canít! But even as he denied, it Jesse knew the days to follow would be a long struggle.
* * *
Amanda went through her usual morning routine, but her mind was elsewhere. With Steve and Mark, to be specific. Although worried about Steve, Amandaís greater concern was with Mark; an excellent doctor, Mark always exhibited a very real care and commitment toward his patients. No concern was too small, no precaution too large when it came to insuring their safety and well-being. However, when it came to his own body, Marksí characteristic carefulness left something to be desired.
Amanda knew that, despite Markís apparent vitality, he was not as young as he had once been, and abnormal strain could be detrimental. Grabbing her purse and C.J.ís
diaper bag, she determined to keep a close eye on Mark until everything returned to normalÖAssuming everything would.
* * *
With a moan, Steve opened his eyes to find yet another nurse in his room. It was the eighth one since he had been left alone the night before, and although he knew they were just doing as they had been told, Steve was ready to scream. How could he be expected to recover when he could not even sleep for more than and hour at a time?
"Your breakfast will be delivered soon," the nurse promised just before leaving the room.
Well, at least thatís one good thing. The food here is really pretty good. "Thanks," he replied, and left to his own company again, Steve wondered what time it must be. Maybe after breakfast, the people who were with me yesterday will come back, he thought hopefully. They had promised, after all. Well, the older man had, but somehow, Steve knew that the man had spoken for each of the three.
I donít even know who they are, and Iím hoping theyíll come back, Steve realized with a half-smile. They could all be murderers plotting to kill me, or terrorists, orÖor they could be anything! They could tell me whatever they want, and I would believe them simply because I have no reason not to. After all, what do I know? Nothing. Literally! Somehow I know my nameólast name too since the nurses have used it so much--, but Iím out of luck otherwise. Maybe I shouldnít be so quick to take those people at their word. It might be best until I'm able to check into it myself.
Just then, someone knocked on his door.
"Come in," he called, turning his head to see who would enter.
The older man from the day before appeared with a smile. "Hope I didnít wake you," he said in greeting.
"No, the nurses beat you to it. Must be what they do best."
Chuckling, the man agreed, "Itís one of their many talents."
"Yeah, if thatís what you want to call it," Steve replied, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. As the man settled into a chair, Steve wondered for the millionth time who his guest of two days was. Or, at least, who he would claim to be.
* * *
Grateful to find Steve seeming stronger than the night before, Mark smiled at his sonís tone. Despite his injury, Steve sounded almost normal. In fact, if Mark had closed his eyes as Steve spoke, he might have thought they were having a normal conversation in the living room at home.
"How do you feel today?" Mark questioned.
"Better so far as my head and stomach go, but tired. They had a nurse in here every hour last night."
Mark nodded in understanding. Almost afraid to ask, Mark wondered, "How about your memory?"
Steve shook his head. "Nothing more than my name."
"All right, then would you like to work on that today?"
"The sooner, the better. Starting with you," Steve decided with both authority and request.
"Okay." Mark hesitated, not knowing how to approach the whole situation. This was not something he had learned in medical school. "Well, my name is MarkÖSloan." He let the name sink in for a second, hoping Steve would catch the significance.
"Uh, yes. Iím your father." The words hurt, for Mark had never dreamed that Steve would not always know him.
"Since when?" Steve asked, suddenly suspicious again.
With a startled blink, Mark questioned his sonís mental state briefly. What kind of a question is that? "Well, since you were conceived," he replied calmly, as though he answered that question every day. Why would you even ask that question?
"Okay," Steve said. "When is my birthday?"
"June 17th," Mark returned, still wondering at Steveís choice of questions; he was asking about his birthday over his friends or past.
"How old were you when I was born?"
"Who is my mom?"
The questions came more quickly now, as if Steve were interrogating a criminal. Mark was beginning to feel flustered, but he masked it. "Margaret Elizabeth Sloan."
"McKaffrey. Now, Steveó"
"Where is she now?" Steveís inquiries, so blunt and rapid-fire, held no hint of curiosity.
"Sheís dead, Steve," Mark said, more quietly now. Something about his tone stopped Steveís questions for the moment. "Would you mind explaining what all that was about?" Mark asked, just a bit sternly.
"What?" Steve sounded innocent.
"That whole interrogation there. You donít even care about anything I just told you. Donít you want to know about yourself, or me, or Jesse, or Amanda?"
"Iím sorry," Steve said sincerely, realizing what he had done. "I didnít mean toÖdo that."
Seeing the honesty in Steveís eyes, Mark calmed back down. "Itís okay. I just didnít expect to be answering those questions just yet."
"I didnít expect to be asking them. Before you came, I was wondering who the other two people with you yesterday are, and who I am. Maybe you could tell me about that."
"I would love to."
Chapters 8&9 coming soon!