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Sterile Environment

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The hospital smelled sterile to her.

It didn't feel all that wonderful anymore. There wasn't the same kind of air to it, the kind that motivated her. The feeling of getting here at four in the morning, but inhaling that smell and being energized for work. For the next six hour operation.

Now it just smelled coppery and wrong. It twisted her stomach and gave her a headache. She sat up in her hospital bed, the sheets scratching at her skin.

Those tremors in her hands had already started. They were subtle, but they were one of the reasons she had gone to Derek in the first place. Now she was stuck in this bed while they ran more tests on her to be sure. Drew blood to try and fight this.

And that was so futile. Something entirely new, that they were detecting in every single sample they took out of her? Tissue from every part of her body? Whatever this was, it was imprinted deep in her cells now.

Naomi took a deep breath, watching as her fingers jittered and shook all of their own accord. Right now, it was just enough to be a nuisance to her everyday tasks. Except for her job. She couldn't operate like this. Something delicate, near an artery, and her finger twitched? She'd kill a patient, and she already had a bad enough rep. There would never be any sort of recovery off of that.

Would there be any recovery to this? She saw the fake smiles whenever Derek would answer her questions. The weak one when she'd ask if she could leave soon, and he would say it would he soon, but they needed a few more tests to make sure she was stable. Her condition could worsen, they had no idea.

This was all new. No one knew about her tremors, headaches, memory loss… They could only chalk it up and expect what they would out of previously identified conditions with the same symptoms.

To her, this was more Alzheimer's or something like that. Her mind would decay, she would slip out of who she was, and pass. She was only thirty. Wasn't she too young for this? This prospect of losing herself scared her. Losing all she knew, all she had ever been. Even if her past wasn't something to be proud of, she wanted it. And she wanted to build off of it for the future.

Naomi stared at her hands.

She had carried around a toolkit with her everywhere. It had proven to be useful when that reporter ran into the wall and needed an operation. No, her purse wasn't the greatest sterile environment, but they were sealed and ready for use. And her purse was on her nightstand.

Her fingers twitched.

If her understanding of anatomy was correct, the wrist was the easiest to cut into, but also could be slower than something larger. The neck would be fast, but she couldn't see it without a mirror, and it would take some hacking to get into. The jugular bled out so, so fast, though.

The last thing she could think of was the femoral artery, large enough to satisfy her. It was in an awkward spot that maybe someone who wasn't apt with anatomy would be able to get at, but her thigh also had the advantage of being more fatty, so not as receptive to pain. For now it would do.

It was kind of funny. For as shameful and embarrassing as the hospital gown was, it gave her an easy way to just spread her legs and get to her inner thighs.

She wondered, for an amusing yet brief moment, if this sort of thing was the inspiration for all the hospital pornos that her and Angie liked to mock every now and again. 'Easy access', they joked.

She hesitated.

Angie, her friend… Even with her, their relationship was purely clinical. They got along because they had to work together. It was more kindness sometimes than she was granted in Japan, but she would've been granted the same had she worked in fucking fast food. Proximity was the key to a lot of friendships, especially if they were workplace centered.

But if that was the case, why was she working so hard to try and find something to cure her? Tch… The thoughts bounced around in her head, and she tried to swallow all of them down.

She wasn't doing this purely out of the lonely feeling she had sometimes. Everyone had that. Naomi wouldn't succumb so easily to something like that. So why was that interfering with how she felt now? She was so certain before…

It was just anxiety.

Now the twitches she had before had escalated into the full tremors she'd been having issues with. She wouldn't bring to light the fact that it was anxiety fueled, as well. After all, her body didn't want to die. The billions of cells that all worked together every day, to breathe, to digest, to think, to live. They wanted to continue working. But those were the ones who had betrayed her. They were all stamped with a decay, every time they would replicate they would slip a little more… in every way, they were against her.

She shifted just a little more, her wrist resting on the flesh of her thigh, the scalpel she'd retrieved from her purse in hand now. This thing was sharp enough to cut through layers of flesh, fat, tissue, whatever need be. She was sure it would be good enough for her purpose now.

As she pushed down, her skin pressed and enveloped the blade, displacing into a valley in response to the pressure. Her arm moved downwards, and a half a second later the pain registered. The wound hadn't separated immediately, it felt more like an itch, and then as it exposed to the open air, it burned.

"Shit!" She snarled out, fumbling with the scalpel to grab at her leg. The cut was maybe two centimeters deep. It wouldn't do anything to kill her fast, but damn it hurt. She grit her teeth, fueled with the pain, and tried to dig back into the same wound.

No luck.

The second that the cool steel parted the wound, she was gripped with another pain. Another curse, and she ripped her hand away. God dammit!

"It can't be this hard…" She laughed bitterly. "It's all mental. You can do it… Come on, Naomi."

Blood dribbled down her leg, pulsing with her heartbeat, which was thick and fast. It was like her body wasn't already aware of its doom, that either way it was going to end up dying, one way was quick and the other way was atrophy. It wanted to fight to protect itself and it was stupid. It was stupid and cruel to keep this playing out.

Again, all she could manage was to dig a little deeper. Just a little. It looked the same as when she'd tear a patient open, so why wasn't it that easy?!

It kept going on like that. Dig in a little, curse and cry, and keep going. Naomi wasn't sure if tears were brought to her eyes from pain of frustration, but she couldn't take much more of it.

It was so funny. Suicide was so cowardly but she couldn't even find the courage to do it. She mocked herself as she cut, breath hitching in sobs. Frustration boiled into desperation, then into anger.

"You can't even do this much?!" Her voice sounded uncharacteristically tired. Tired with herself, this, angry she couldn't do more.

"GOD DAMMIT!"

Her muscles tensed all at once as that rage gripped her harder than her depression ever had, driving the scalpel farther into her leg than she ever would've been able to cut with one swoop of a clenched fist.

For maybe a split second, she was satisfied. The pure, raw emotion running through her stopped the pain from registering at all. Now there was crimson licking at her legs more passionately than any man had ever dared, pooling between them, staining the bed.

She breathed in ragged, greedy gasps, chest shuddering as it tried to keep the sobs numbness didn't last as long as she wanted.

The pain was so piercing she couldn't even tell how deep she had launched the damned thing. Her hands splayed out, shaking hard as they hovered over the plastic handle.

Rip it rip it out rip it out get it out GET IT OUT

No, no no no no no. For one, this is what she wanted. Two, she knew taking it out would make it worse. Three, taking it out would make it worse?! If she wanted to die, why wasn't she taking it out?! She cried out through clenched teeth, curling in on herself.

Her wounded leg spasmed in agony, unsure of what to do with itself. Her howls of pain weren't unheard through the corridors now. They echoed loudly, her monitors were wild as her blood drained and her heart raced (She thought she finally nicked the artery, in retrospect), and gave her away quite well.

She didn't even hear the nurse race in at first. Naomi was lucky enough for the friend that wanted nothing more than to save her to find her like this. Curled up in the fetal position, smeared with blood, hysterical and in tears. No one had expected anything like this from her. She'd taken the news well. Calmly.

"Naomi, oh my God!" Angie cried out, immediately pressing on her pager to call for any other attending nurses. This warranted as an emergency enough, especially when she wasn't sure what she was capable of.

Angie looked up to Naomi in a strange sense, but she wasn't ignorant enough to think that just because she was her friend, she wouldn't lapse into a mental episode and take the scalpel out to stab those who helped her. That was how you got hurt, and if her disease was bloodborne after all, that was how you died.

Naomi was very dimly aware of being restrained. She felt some sort of shame by it, and for being caught. She didn't put up any sort of a fight, she wished no harm on anyone but herself. That didn't stop protocol, though.

There was no way that anyone would chance extracting that scalpel with her still awake, either. A local anesthetic wouldn't cut it when she was mental. As she was wheeled down the hallway, they sedated her, the world just… blurring out eventually. She already couldn't register what was happening with the exhaustion that followed the episode and the pain that gripped her every time she moved, so everything fading to black was welcomed.

Maybe now Derek could feel as if he had repaid her in full for saving his life one he pulled this scalpel out and stitched it back up. Then he could stop obsessively worrying about the cure he had to create for her, because the debt was still paid.

Naomi wasn't aware of whole story with his father and his pledge to save anyone labeled a hopeless case, incurable. It wasn't like that in the least, but when she came to, she wouldn't believe it.

"I don't know why she–!" Angie whimpered out, holding a hand up to her mouth, eyebrows knit together in worry. "She could've said something!" Anyone would've listened. Angie would've gladly. Anyone. God.

"Let's…" Derek sighed, jarred by the sight of his colleague on the table. He knew, and he was trained, to push feelings aside for coworkers, but this was self inflicted. This sort of thing, he felt, was somehow something he could've stopped and didn't.

"Let's just focus on the task at hand." Derek tried to sound steady, but his voice wavered. Angie nodded slowly, blinking away tears. Dammit…!

"We have one objective: to remove the scalpel. It looks like it might be in there deep, so we need to watch for bleeding. I want you to get a transfusion ready, in case. Once we remove it, we'll cauterize what we can, and then stitch the area back into place."

She didn't even look peaceful in her drug induced sleep. She just looked pained.

"Let's start the operation."

…Waking up from surgery didn't feel much better, either. Her leg was red and sore, stitches now pulling the flesh together. Naomi stared at it in a confused fashion, pulling her gown up to get a better look at the site.

"Don't pick at your sutures." A nurse's voice rung out. She jolted, eyes wide, and looked to the doorway. A nurse in scrub colors she didn't know to recognize had spoke, and was now staring at her with an irritated expression.

Oh…kay… She figured it probably wasn't a good idea to continue to gawk, so she pulled the gown back down, and looked about the room. It was so barren. She had a night stand with nothing in it and no drawers. A bathroom with a curtain in place of a door… She was in a unit, wasn't she?

God, fuck. The painkillers and residue of the sedatives dragged at her tired mind and pulled her back into sleep once more.

When she woke up for a second time, the room was darker than before, but that grouchy nurse was still sitting there, gazing from her phone to her every now and again, then scribbled something down on a clipboard. Okay, she definitely hated this.

"Is Dr. Kimishima awake yet?"

Oh! Oh, she knew that voice at least, but what was Angie doing in here?

"Looks like she's just getting up again."

"I can handle her for twenty minutes if you want to take a break."

That woman got up from her chair and walked off, but Angie didn't replace her in her chair. No, she just walked right on in.

"You okay with a visitor?" She asked softly, standing over the end of her bed. Naomi hesitated, and then nodded weakly. "We had to put you on the suicide watch. You haven't had an eval yet, so you're not really in any of those groups. I don't think you will be, with your injury. It's just a 72 hour watch… To make sure you won't do it again."

Of course I won't. I don't have anything to do it with in here.

"Naomi…" She took a hesitant step forward, and then sat on the edge of the bed. The professional side of her wanted to stay the hell away from her, but she… Well, she was Naomi. Even after she did something like this.

"Why exactly did you do this?"

Oh, there it was, the million dollar question. Naomi laughed bitterly, but didn't respond before the nurse spoke up again.

"You have friends, you have us…" She pleaded.

"That's not the issue."

"What's the issue then?" Angie prompted, tensing a little. This was kind of a common thing with patients, attempted suicide. She was just doing the routine that she knew, hoping that would be enough.

Naomi remained silent. Her fingers jittered on the blanket.

"You know how many patients there are here, struggling to just get another breath out." She didn't sound angry, like she used to get over this. Just… disappointed. Maybe that was worse.

"I know."

"You know what a gift life can be, why did you do it?"

Yet again, the older woman gave silence as her response.

"Naomi!"

Her eyes were a little distant, someone that anyone would just want to pin on her painkillers. But they weren't that strong, and her eyes had some hints of turmoil if you looked hard enough. Angie knew she was in the right mind to talk, meaning she just wasn't inhibited by the drugs.

"I'll end up like one of those patients, Angie." The words fell out of her like a cat from a tree, trying to cling to a branch but not being able to do so any longer.

"What?"

"This, whatever this is." She lifted her hand up from the bed to show her how bad these tremors could get, and how they didn't know how far into progression they were and things were already this bad.

Angie shook her head.

"We're working on some, any kind of treatment for you. Hopefully it'll be enough to inhibit its progress, and then we can have extra time to cure it…"

"And what if that doesn't work?!" She growled. "What if you can't find anything in time, before I turn into a hospice patient that needs a nurse to feed her? Or bathe, or anything! I don't want that, Angie! That's where this is going, we both know it is!"

"You can't give up hope like that. They said GUILT was untreatable, but look where we are now! We might get a single patient in with it every six months, now. Otherwise? It's gone."

"GUILT is a centralized parasite, easy to extract or kill. This is imprinted on every single one of my cells. The only thing I can think of is chemo, and you know they banned that once they found something for cancer, because of how badly it would effect patients. Sometimes the chemo was worse." And she certainly didn't want something like that. Maybe she wouldn't just die mentally first. If she had a chemo treatment, maybe she'd just starve and die.

"…" Angie sighed, tapping her fingers on her leg. She didn't want to yell at the other, this was still a topic she hardly liked to dance with, but…

"Look, Angie, I appreciate what you're doing for me. But I'm not meant to be a hopeless patient. And maybe? Maybe this is karma." She laughed. "Maybe this is just one of those things that I deserve."

"You contracting this was bad luck. Not karma."

"If this truly was the result of Z-cell exposure, I don't think so. Brought down by GUILT… Greed and desperation landed me in a bad situation. But no matter what, I said yes. I was so caught in my own wants after I lost my license, so busy with my own head, I just blocked out all the people I was hurting. I wasn't doing anything wrong. Someone needed a kidney transplant? I'm saving his life. Immature savato retrieval? Those are less that can attack him later. It was a fantasy world, most of the time." Naomi just shook her head now. There wasn't much else for her to do. She was tired.

"Yeah? And you know what, you've done a lot of good here, too. If you hadn't done that to get your license here, you would've never been able to save Dr. Stiles. It was already so close to his heart, we didn't have time to find another surgeon. Don't tell me anyone else could have done it, because you were the only one who could have saved him." Angie countered, her eyebrows knitted together in frustration.

"You wouldn't have been able to save Dr. Hoffman, either. In the end, he needed three healing touches to save him. I'm pretty sure Derek would've had a stroke had he attempted a third one." She tried to laugh, but it wasn't all that funny.

"You… You being in there, you managed to retrieve some Savato samples. That's more than anyone at all had managed to do. We knew part of what to expect with it before we even had to treat it. That information saved more than a few lives."

Naomi sat on the bed, tense. She wanted to block this all out, not let it swim in her head with all the awful thoughts she had already. They'd poison the view that Angie had of her. She opened her mouth, but Angie stopped her once again.

"If you still feel like you've done too much bad to outweigh the good, then do something about it, instead of doing this! People end up in bad situations for a lot of reasons, but I don't think you did this just because you're wicked. You can atone, you have a passion for saving lives, don't you?!"

Her eyes widened, fixed on the nurse. Is that what she thought? That she could atone? She…

Naomi moved from her stiff position to draw in on herself a little, clasping a hand to her cheek to shove away a tear or two that had dared to spill out.

"I'm sorry," She gasped out, her voice trembling a lot more than she had anticipated. "I…"

It had been a long, long time since someone respected her like that. Or saw anything good out of her. It was a long time since someone saw a friend in front of them instead of competition or a fancy healing touch.

Maybe… maybe that was why Derek and Angie got along so well. She was wrong earlier, she knew now, that these weren't just office formalities. Angie had no obligation to come into the mental ward and just talk with her. Their friendship didn't have to be proximity.

Angie moved on the bed to be able to open her arms out as an invitation. Naomi stared at her for a moment, her exhausted mind unsure of what to do immediately. It was just slow at processing, now. She'd have a hell of a headache later.

But for now, she had her face buried into Angie's chest, arms wrapped around the small of her back. She had comfort.

Her scrubs smelled sterile and soothing. She closed her eyes as Angie rubbed her back, relaxing into her. Maybe she still had something after all.