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Fic: Intuition (Part 2 of 2)

February 2nd, 2012 (12:53 am)

where i am: still with Flurry
how i am: tired
accompanied by: Silence

Part 2 of 2

Crane was out of the Jeep and through the gate in no time, his long legs permitting him to take two steps at a time as he made his way to the front door. He tried to deny the relief he'd felt pulling up in front of the gate. Déjà vu was playing havoc with him and the memory of a barely conscious and hemorrhaging Hannah lying curled up on the porch was haunting him. He forced himself to calm down, nothing seemed amiss after all, and opened the door.

When Daniel wasn't where he'd left him on the couch, Crane felt a surge of panic in his chest even as his brain was telling him the kid had probably just crawled off to bed. And then he felt like a complete fool when he heard the words, "You're an idiot, you know that?" coming from the staircase.

Shoulders slumping in embarrassment as much as relief, Crane turned to his left to face his accuser. Daniel was perched on the stairs, about halfway up, a blanket draped around his shoulders and an all-too-familiar bucket sitting beside him. He looked just awful and Crane would've been willing to bet the ranch on two things: that Daniel's fever was back and that the bucket next to him wasn't empty.

Tossing the keys to the Jeep onto the nearest table, he climbed the stairs until he was level with Daniel. Reaching across him, Crane picked up the bucket one-handed and wrapped his other arm around the ailing kid's waist. By the looks of things, his poor brother hadn't been able to make it all the way up the stairs without getting sick again. He should have taken Crane up on his offer to help him up to their room before the family had left.

"Takes one to know one," Crane replied, realizing he sounded like a petulant ten year-old. Truthfully, he was pretty irritated. At himself for living up to his reputation as the family's worrywart and probably making Evan late. And at Daniel for calling him on it. Not to mention the kid getting himself into this predicament in the first place. Letting out his frustrations, with only a little warning, Crane hauled Daniel up to his feet. "What were you thinking anyway? Eating a crap-load of hot wings on an already upset stomach?"

Daniel didn't answer, unless you counted the grunt he made as he tried and failed to straighten up entirely. At the top of the stairs, Crane set the bucket down and aimed them toward their room, needing both hands to support the kid walking essential blind since he was curled over his own arms and the ones Crane had wrapped around him. When Daniel suddenly froze before breaking free and lurching toward the bathroom, Crane decided not to second guess his decision to come home any longer. Daniel might not be dying but he was presently sacrificing his soul at the altar of the porcelain god. And despite the kid's earlier protests, Crane knew full well that he didn't really want to suffer like this all alone.

By the time Daniel finished throwing up, he was spent, and the only resistance he offered came from gravity as Crane helped him to their room and into bed. After curling up on his side, Crane drew the quilt up over his brother, resisting the urge to tuck it around him. Daniel was probably too miserable to even notice his big brother treating him like Guthrie but Crane had a more practical reason too. Given the way he was still holding it, the kid's stomach wasn't done with him yet and, if he needed to make a dash for the john, Crane didn't want Daniel getting tangled up in his bedding.

Smoothing the quilt over his shoulder instead, Crane lifted the back of his hand to the kid's forehead. And didn't like what he found. "Damn," he sighed. Daniel was beyond warm. Deciding he needed a thermometer and remembering he still had to take care of the bucket he'd abandoned at the top of the stairs, Crane reluctantly headed out the door.

At the sound of his name scraping out of Daniel's raw throat, he looked back over his shoulder at the lump underneath the covers. "Yeah, kiddo?"

"I didn't," he said softly.

Crane wasn't sure what he was talking about and hoped like hell Daniel wasn't becoming delirious. Returning to his brother, Crane sat down on the edge of the bed and asked him, "Didn't what?"

"Have any wings," he answered, his eyes shining too bright. "Tried to but couldn't." What the kid was saying didn't make any sense. Until Crane replayed the morning's events in his head and realized that Daniel had only mentioned a couple of wings. It had been Brian and Evan who'd brought up the "dozens" idea. Daniel just hadn't bothered to deny it. Crane sat back, not entirely sure what to make of the admission.

Coming to the conclusion that whether he'd had only one or a bunch of wings didn't really change the kid's current predicament, Crane decided he'd carry on with his plan to take Daniel's temperature and then do some cleanup while the kid slept.

"It's okay," he said gently, lightly running his fingers through Daniel's sweat-soaked bangs. "Try to get some sleep. I'll be right back."


"Yeah, he's been back in bed for a while," Crane said into the phone. "But it's been rough on him. Poor kid."

"On both of you," Adam replied, understanding in his tone.

"Yeah," Crane admitted, his own voice shakier than he'd like. When he hadn't been sleeping, Daniel had spent much of the morning throwing up. And as many fluids as Crane had tried to get him to take in, they'd come back up with a vengeance. His fever, last time Crane had checked, still hovered around 101, same as it had been the first time Crane had taken his brother's temperature. High but not dangerously so. Aspirin might've helped, if the kid could've kept the damn pills down.

At one point, about two hours before Adam's call, Daniel's nausea had been so bad; he'd camped out in the washroom. When it had looked like that last bout had finally ended and Daniel had fallen asleep hunched up against the vanity, Crane had picked him up and carried him back to bed. The eighteen year-old either too tired or too sick to register that he was being carted around like a toddler. Crane had sat with him then, debating whether or not to call Dr. Mayer's office until remembering it was Saturday and that no one would be there anyway. The only alternative would've been a trip into town to the county hospital but, despite his reputation, even Crane recognized overkill when he saw it. Not to mention the fact that he was damn sure Daniel would've objected. Besides, the kid had been sleeping soundly ever since. Or at least Crane hoped he still was and that Adam's call hadn't awoken him. With that thought, Crane decided to cut it short. "Listen--" he started.

"You better go check on him."

"Yeah, I should," Crane sighed before adding, "Tell Evan to hang in there." Apparently, according to Adam, Coop's reconciliation with his daughter hadn't exactly brought out a warm, cuddly side in the man at all.

"You too," Adam said, support and sympathy reaching through the phone line.

"We will."

"And, Crane?"

"Hmm?" Crane's thoughts were already elsewhere, specifically in the room he shared with his younger brother.

"Good call, kid."

They said their goodbyes and, heartened by his big brother's approval, Crane made his way back up the stairs.

Daniel hadn't budged. Though out like a light, he didn't exactly look comfortable either, that one arm pressed tightly against his side and his knees pulled up again. Still.

His color was better, Crane thought as he approached the bed. Not nearly as pale. Damn, though. Did Daniel feel hotter? Reluctant to wake him, Crane decided not to retake his temperature until the kid showed the inevitable signs of life again. Silently promising to be right back, Crane went back downstairs, put on another pot of coffee and slapped some peanut-butter and jelly between two slices of bread. Though he knew he wasn't sick, he hadn't had much of an appetite either. Cleaning up after his bile barfing little brother had a way of killing his desire to eat.

While he waited for the coffee to finish percolating, he put in a quick call to Mike, one of the guys in Daniel's band, letting him know that their lead singer wouldn't be in any shape to be on stage tonight. That task accomplished, he made his way back to the kitchen. Mechanically eating his sandwich as he leaned against the counter, he was startled by the shrill ring of the phone once again. He knew it wouldn't be Mike and, since he'd just spoken with Adam, he had no idea who it could be. Contemplating ignoring it Crane ultimately decided not to risk worrying Adam if it was him calling back.


"Hey, babe."

It was Molly and, at the sound of her melodic voice, Crane's heart felt infinitely lighter. She'd called him on a whim, knowing that Crane was supposed to be away with the rest of the family but deciding to try the house anyway. It was after four o'clock back east and she was on a break between speakers at the conference.

Though he told her why he was home, Crane let her do most of the talking, chattering on about the interesting speakers and topics covered already since the day before. Besides, her weekend was proving to be a lot more interesting and definitely more palatable than Crane's. He could hear her excitement across the line and he was genuinely happy for her. Though, if Crane was honest with himself, the fear that Molly was never coming back home to northern California was always present in his mind. And heart.

She'd hinted a few times about him joining her in New York and, though he would love to check out Cornell and visit her there, his home was Calaveras County. Period. And never was that more evident than on a day like today.

Speaking of which… "God, I hate to do this," he interrupted as Molly started to switch subjects from one speaker to another. He'd just checked his watch though and realized it had been about forty minutes since he'd last looked in on Daniel. "I really should go take Daniel's temperature. Last time I checked, he felt hotter."

"He has a fever?" She asked and then suddenly it was Dr. McGraw on the other end of the line and not Crane's long-distance girlfriend. Crane proceeded to answer the questions she rattled off, feeling more and more uneasy as he did so. Daniel's ongoing lack of appetite, the upset stomach that started at one end and shifted to the other. His elevated temperature and the duration he'd had all of those symptoms. The stomach pain had her most concerned, that it was bad enough that Daniel always seemed to have an arm pressed against it. "Babe, I don't want to alarm you but have you considered this might be appendicitis?"

"What? No," Crane answered, his own guts beginning to churn at the suggestion. "But, it's his belly hurting," he argued. "Not the right side."

Crane heard her take a deep breath before she responded. "Oh, Honey. Typically the pain starts out generalized, mid-abdomen, before it localizes to the right iliac fossa."

Crane was in denial, fear making him doubt the girl's knowledge. "Since when does an equine vet know so much about appendicitis?" He asked, knowing the words were coming out too harsh.

One of the things he loved most about Molly McGraw was her ability to take everything in stride. That, and her patience and kindness toward the anxious families of her patients. Apparently her jackass of a boyfriend was exempt from that practice though since she snapped back with, "Since my roommate sophomore year presented with the same symptoms and ended up rupturing hers."

Her words blindsided him and Crane stood there holding onto the receiver, frozen in place. He knew he needed to apologize. But he needed to get to Daniel first. "Moll," he started but she abruptly cut him off.

"Go," she said. The tenderness was back, thankfully, just in that single word. "Go check on him. I'll give you a call tonight." He didn't need to be told twice.


Heeding Molly's words, his just made coffee all but forgotten, Crane headed straight for the stairs. Rushing up them, an ominous thud from somewhere above quickened his pace. His heart in his throat, he barely scraped out Daniel's name, managing to shout it the second time when his brother didn't answer.

Aiming for their room, Crane almost missed seeing his brother lying on the floor of the bathroom as he passed it. God, it was like Hannah's collapse all over again. "Danny?" Kneeling behind the curled up form, Crane reached for him, drawing his hand back in shock when he made contact. Daniel was burning up.

Seeing that Daniel's eyes were open but glassy, Crane gently worked his arms around him, dragging the kid away from the vomit pooling in front of him, and pulling him up against his shoulder.

Daniel cried out and Crane almost let go, afraid he'd hurt him somehow. He held fast though, knowing Daniel was going to need his help anyway to get out of the room. His face just inches above Daniel's, Crane stroked the drenched hair from the kid's blood-shot eyes, trying to get him to focus. "Danny? What happened, kid?"

"I-- Crane?" His confusion was painful to witness, made even more so when Daniel breathlessly asked, "Where?"

"It's okay, you're okay," Crane whispered, drawing his disoriented little brother in closer. "We've gotta get you out of here, all right?"

Still out of it, Daniel was at least registering Crane's words. Nodding his head determinedly, the kid worked one arm around Crane's back and hung on.

"Atta, boy," Crane said, knowing he was rambling. Crane didn't waste any time, his grip on Daniel tightening as he planted his feet. "Okay, let me do all the work," he told him and then, hugging the kid even closer to take on the bulk of Daniel's weight, he straightened to stand.

Daniel outright screamed this time, the sound so horrific, Crane knew it was going to haunt his dreams. "No, stop," Daniel begged, "Stop it, please," and despite his better judgment, Crane gave in.

Lowering them both, careful to avoid the cooling pool of bile, Daniel melted against him, sliding down against Crane's chest onto the cold vinyl tiles and curling up once more into a ball. But this time Daniel's forearm was clearly pressed up against his right side.

This couldn't be happening.

Reaching around Daniel's hip, Crane gripped Daniel's hand, intending to pull it away. "No, don't," Daniel gasped and Crane felt an irrational surge of anger.

"Damn it, Daniel. Why didn't you tell me the pain moved?" He snapped anyway. Excruciating pain was excruciating pain and Daniel probably wasn't even consciously aware of the shift from one part of his abdomen to another. But logic didn't matter right now. Crane was acting on fear. He abruptly released the kid's hand and Daniel recoiled, crying out once again and writhing in place and Crane cried out too before murmuring, "Sorry, sorry, I'm sorry," and curling over his little brother protectively even as he knew that last surge of pain was his own fault. He didn't know how he knew it or where the recollection came from, hell, it might've even been high-school anatomy but, as soon as Daniel screamed like that, Crane knew he was the cause.

That one of the sure signs of appendicitis was extreme pain after a sudden release of pressure on the abdomen. He even knew that it was called "rebound tenderness".

This really was happening.

He needed to call an ambulance.

Daniel was out of his head in agony and, after what had just happened, Crane was afraid to touch him. Still, when the kid started banging his head against the floor in what Crane knew was to combat the rhythm of the throbbing pain in his side, Crane reached out and cupped both sides of Daniel's flushed face, holding him steady and praying he'd be able to get through to him.

"Daniel, I need you to look at me. Look at me, kid," he insisted, hating that he'd raised his voice but knowing he needed to in order to break through the haze of pain. As much as it sickened him to even consider it, Crane was going to have leave his little brother long enough to call for an ambulance. But first he had to make sure Daniel understood that he wasn't being abandoned and that he better not try to follow Crane down those treacherous stairs. Those dark blue eyes weren't even acknowledging Crane though and he was beginning to fear that he'd have to leave him anyway. "Danny, please," he whispered, lowering his forehead to Daniel's. "Please. Come on."

He held his breath as he felt the shift beneath him. Felt Daniel curling further into him. Still supporting Daniel's head, Crane pulled back slightly. The clarity he saw allowed Crane to breathe again, even as the fear reflected in the kid's tear-filled eyes nearly broke him. He didn't have the luxury of dwelling on either though, gently informing Daniel what his suspicions were and that he had to go downstairs and call 9-1-1. Crane felt his brother's reflexive grab for his shirt even as Daniel nodded in understanding, the word, "Okay," scratching its way out of his tender throat.

Promising he'd be right back, it suddenly occurred to him that the 9-1-1 operator might ask him how long the pain had been in Daniel's side. As he carefully lowered Daniel back to the floor, he grabbed a towel to pillow his head then asked him the question. Crane wasn't really surprised when Daniel said he didn't know.

"Daniel, they're gonna ask," Crane was sure of it. "Try to remember, kiddo," he said patiently.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Daniel panted out, "What. Time. Is. It?" And Crane died a little inside realizing how hard the kid was working; trying to get past the pain, just to help him with this.

He almost dropped the subject but realized he was being the coward here and Daniel deserved better for his effort. Crane answered, looking at his watch and telling him, "It's almost two o' clock."

Daniel's lashes fluttered a few times before he opened them fully, his watery gaze focused on Crane. "Two. Maybe three hours."

Oh, fuck.

They didn't have time to wait for an ambulance. Daniel needed a hospital now.


Crane should've been numb to Daniel's screams by now. Picking him up off of the bathroom floor and carrying him down their steep staircase had been torture for the kid. Getting him into the Jeep hadn't been much better. Never mind the drive. He was only remotely comfortable curled up like a ball and the open Jeep didn't accommodate that well at all.

Crane had driven at a crawl to begin with, until they'd hit pavement. Even being careful, the potholes on the gravel roads had been agony and, with Daniel's hands clutching his abdomen, Crane had been genuinely afraid that his brother might actually fall out of the vehicle.

By the time they pulled up in front of the hospital, Daniel was practically coiled in Crane's lap. He was still conscious but only barely and, knowing that he'd have to move him again, Crane found himself guiltily wishing his little brother would pass out.

Cradling Daniel's head in his hands, Crane managed to ease his thigh out from under him. Settling Daniel across both seats, he climbed out and around to the passenger side. He leaned on the horn first, praying someone would hear it and come to their aid. "We're here, kiddo. The hospital," he told him, hoping the news would bring his brother at least a modicum of relief. Daniel didn't answer and Crane didn't wait for one, going ahead and working his arms around the kid's back and under his knees before picking him up once again. The sound that came out of Daniel's throat was so raw and so spent, Crane almost would've preferred another scream. Almost.

Trying his best to keep Daniel's waist bent, Crane cradled him against his chest and headed for the doors. Two men and a woman, all dressed in white, met him there and with them they had a blessed gurney.

"I think it's his appendix," Crane declared as the men helped ease Daniel onto his back. Before Crane could stop him, one of them tried to push Daniel's legs down and, dear God, did Daniel shriek again. Shredding Crane's soul as the writhing kid abruptly rolled onto his side and promptly threw up, nearly falling off the gurney if the woman hadn't already been raising its rails.

"Daniel, it's okay. They'll help you, you're gonna be okay," Crane promised as the medical staff raced him into the Emergency department. A doctor was waiting for them and all four continued through a set of swinging doors Crane knew forbade his entry. He pushed through them anyway.

Voices were talking all at once as Crane approached, staying out of the way but desperate to go to Daniel. Even as they were readying to shift the kid onto the waiting bed, monitors and leads were being attached to him. Words like elevated temperature, emesis, rapid pulse and abdominal pain were being rhymed off to another doctor who'd joined them. One dressed in surgical scrubs. And one Crane was sure he recognized.

While the woman, a nurse Crane realized, rambled off readings from the monitors, the men were relaying what Crane had told them as they'd rushed into the hospital. All well and good but no one was doing a damn thing to relieve Daniel's pain.

When he heard the words, "On three", Crane stepped forward; knowing that yet another move would be sheer hell for his little brother. Daniel's scream sounded more like a ragged sob this time and Crane couldn't take it anymore. Slipping in amongst the white uniforms and clutching his struggling brother's hand, Crane again promised Daniel that everything was going to be okay. Soon. That the pain would stop. Soon. Though the vow was meant to comfort Daniel, Crane glared at the man obviously in charge as he spoke it, willing the words to be true.

"Sir, you can't be in here. You have to--" The other doctor started to say but, before Crane could protest or beg, the older man, the familiar one, stepped in.

"No, let him stay," he said and it came out very much like a command. Dismissing the two men who'd helped with the gurney, he addressed Crane next, asking, "Son, have you been with him since the symptoms started?"

"I think so, yes," Crane said a little hesitantly, not really sure. But, at that affirmative, the doctor continued to question him. And, despite how stressed and terrified Crane was, all that time he'd spent with Doctor Molly McGraw must've rubbed off on him. He answered everything in detail… times, temperatures, frequency of the nausea. Everything was there, imprinted in his brain and, by the time Crane was done, the doctor told him that Molly's suspicions were quite likely right.

"Then why aren't you helping him?" Crane asked, trying not to sound disrespectful. But as Daniel desperately tried to twist away from another surge of pain, Crane broke. "Please. You have to give him something. He's in agony for God's sake," he insisted, his voice cracking with the weight of his words.

"And we will," the doctor assured him. "Just a few more tests and we'll be able to administer some morphine."

Crane could've cried out with relief. Until the doctor moved in between him and his brother and began addressing Daniel directly. As he introduced himself to his patient, Crane felt his knees buckle. God. It was Hannah's surgeon. The man who'd saved her life.

He must've faded out a little at the realization, the continuing déjà vu of this day simply too much to fathom. He was shocked back into reality though by Daniel's sudden iron grip and the surgeon's compassionate words. "This'll likely hurt a great deal, son. But it'll help me confirm what's going on."

His little brother was beyond speech but not comprehension. Nodding his head, Daniel wrapped his fingers tighter around Crane's and squeezed his eyes closed, insistent tears still leaking through. It only took a split second for the surgeon to press his fingers into Daniel's abdomen and let go, but the anguished cry from Daniel's wrecked throat had to have aged both brothers twenty years. He rolled onto his side again, the awkward position and vice-like grip nearly breaking Crane's hand. Crane didn't care. Whatever it took to give the kid some relief.

"All right," the doctor said, almost to himself. Adding, "Sorry, son," and lightly patting Daniel's shoulder. "We'll have you fixed up soon."

"Doctor." The nurse slipped in next to him, holding out a clipboard for him to read. He took a step back to take a look, though seemed to only scan what was there before handing the clipboard over to the other doctor. Whatever information it provided spurred them into action.

"Okay, folks, let's prep him. We're going in." He was using that authoritative voice again and, even as Crane's mind caught up to the daunting realization of what was about to happen, he took comfort in the surgeon's cool and confident bearing.

The doctor approached Daniel's bedside again, meeting Crane's eyes with what was a clear invitation for Crane to stick close. That wasn't in question anyway. It was going to take a pry bar or the promised morphine to separate the brothers' hands.

"Daniel," the doctor said, using his name for the first time. "We're going to give you something now for the pain, all right?"

Gritting his teeth, Daniel still wasn't speaking but he nodded his head vigorously against the pillow beneath him, his gratitude spilling from his eyes as the nurse moved in and injected his IV line with the drug.

"Good," the man continued. "Then how about we get rid of that troublesome appendix?"

Crane saw the flash of fear in Daniel's eyes but there was no need for big brother to step in and coax him into the surgery. Nodding again, this time Daniel did open his mouth to speak. "Please," scraping past his parched lips and threatening to help spill the tears brimming in Crane's eyes.

The surgeon smiled warmly before assuring his patient, "You'll be feeling better in no time." Catching Crane's eye, he said regretfully, "I can only give you a minute." Then, referring to the other doctor who'd taken a back seat since the surgeon's arrival, he added, "Dr. Elliot will brief you outside on what we're dealing with here."

Crane swallowed hard, barely squeaking out his thanks.

The surgeon nodded abruptly then left the room, presumably to scrub for the surgery. Dr. Elliot excused himself too, informing Crane he'd be right outside and leaving Crane alone with his little brother. Alone, but for the nurse respectfully fading into the background but keeping an eye on the monitors.

Attempting to take in a calming breath before schooling his features to hide his heartache, Crane turned back to Daniel. The morphine was already starting to kick in, thank God. The kid still looked like he'd been through hell but the excruciating agony was beginning to fade from his features, most notably those expressive eyes.

Bending low over the bed, Crane adjusted their grip, lacing his long fingers through Daniel's. Drawing their entwined hands to his chest, desperate to impart strength with them and not the fear and guilt eating away at his soul. "They're kicking me out of here," he said, the words thick on his tongue.

"I know. 'S okay." Daniel answered roughly. Crane smiled sadly, lightly carding the fingers of his free hand through Daniel's bangs. The act was soothing them both and Crane watched in relief as the dark lashes began to blink rapidly, releasing a few remnant tears as the kid valiantly fought sleep.

He sounded so very young and scared and Crane could feel a sob working its way up his own throat. He held it in check though failed dismally at preventing his tears. Letting his head lightly rest against Daniel's temple, he hoped it would hide his traitorous eyes. And offer the comfort of a big brother Daniel wasn't yet too old to need.

God, how Crane wished Adam was here. Right now Daniel needed the unwavering strength their stoic eldest could always offer. He sure didn't need the big brother who was just one set of swinging doors away from being a sobbing basket-case.

But, there was no way Adam was going to be here before the surgery. Hell, he didn't even know they were at the hospital. All Crane could do was promise Daniel the next best thing. Collecting himself, Crane drew back just enough so that he could whisper into Daniel's ear. "Go to sleep," he gently ordered, lips brushing lightly against Daniel's hair before adding, "Adam'll be here when you wake up, I promise."

He felt Daniel's nod beneath him, took it as his signal to leave. Only, as he began to straighten up, apparently his kid brother had other plans. That iron grip was back.


"You too," he breathed. It wasn't really a question, though Daniel was looking at him so imploringly Crane could've taken it that way. Crane understood it for the demand it was though. And that gave him the strength to walk away.

The little brother that Crane had let suffer for hours on end through the agony of appendicitis; that he'd almost abandoned, still wanted him there when he woke up after surgery. There was only one answer.

"Try and keep me away."


"Hey, stop that," Adam whispered harshly as he gave Crane's shoulder a shove.

Startled, Crane jerked in his seat, relieved that neither the noise of the chair-legs scraping along the floor or the action had disturbed the steady rise and fall beneath his palm.

"Stop what?" Crane tried to sound innocent but it was useless, the head of their family was wearing his "I don't buy it" look. Adam had gone out to the waiting area to check in with the rest of the family and just now walked back in to Daniel's room while Crane was lost in the bottomless well of his thoughts.

"Playing the "if only" game you're such an expert at," Adam replied knowingly. Pulling out the chair he'd vacated earlier and flipping it around, he straddled its seat and rested his forearms on its back. Looking pointedly at Crane beside him, he softly added, "It's a game you can't win."

There was no point in Crane denying where his thoughts had been dwelling, once again his big brother knew him too well. Though Daniel was right there in front of them, soundly asleep in a hospital bed and blessedly free of pain and infection, Crane still couldn't shut off his brain. His brief conversation with Dr. Elliot before Daniel had the surgery was playing in a continuous loop in his head. The man's solemn "We'll do everything we can" in response to Crane's "What if it's ruptured?" repeating over and over to the point where Crane was hard-pressed to choke anything down other than the coffee he'd been drinking.

Daniel could've died.

"You're doing it again."

And Adam was scolding him again. The strong arm resting across his shoulders lessened the impact though, as did the warmth in his voice.

Crane dropped his head and tried to shake off his runaway thoughts, knowing Adam would not tolerate them.

"Hey." Adam squeezed his neck. "C'mon. Look at me."

Crane did. Finding no condemnation, only affection and understanding reflected in his brother's dark brown eyes.

"You saved his life. Got him here with time to spare, remember?"

It didn't matter how resolute Adam sounded, or that he was repeating what the surgeon had told them after the operation, Crane's guilty conscience wasn't willing to accept anyone's praise. "I let him suffer all day through an appendicitis attack," he snapped.

"And I walked out the door and left him alone without giving it a second thought," Adam replied, his own regret ringing loud and clear. "You really want to do this? I told you already you're not gonna win."

"But that was different," Crane tried to argue, unwilling to relinquish any blame. "Before it got so bad," he explained. "You don't get it, Adam. You didn't see him… curled up on the floor in the bathroom, hurling his guts up." Or hear his screams, Crane thought as a shudder overtook his spine. He looked at Daniel then, his ordeal over, free of sickness and fever and free of pain. Smoothing down the light blanket beneath his hand, he closed his eyes. "And all I did was haul him back to bed," the self-loathing choking his words. "Let him suffer some more."

Even though he'd told himself he wasn't going to cry, Crane could've broken down right then and there. He'd managed to keep his head together when Daniel had been wheeled away from him. Long enough to call the sheriff's department and beg someone to track down the family at the fairgrounds. But when Adam had arrived in Ed Sykes' cruiser, he'd damn near lost it, falling into Adam's arms like he was twelve years old again and the world had just come crashing down.

"Hey, that's enough," Adam said, the grip he had on Crane's neck demanding his attention. "You couldn't have known it was his appendix," he insisted. "And neither could I."

Crane shook his head, still unable to exonerate himself.

"I sure didn't."

It was Daniel. Awake. Barely. His voice rough and sounding too damn weak but, to Crane's ears, as beautiful as one of the kid's melodies.

"Hey, you," Crane said through a shaky smile. It came from his heart but was barely staying afloat atop the churning emotions beneath it. Like grief and guilt.

"Hey," Daniel whispered, clumsily lifting his hand in search of Crane's. Crane met him half way and threaded his fingers through Daniel's, squeezing them together.

Adam had risen and quickly moved opposite Crane. Smoothing his hand through Daniel's hair, he spoke softly, using a familiar tone reserved mostly for Guthrie these days. "How are you doing, kiddo?"

"'M tired," Daniel sighed, dark lashes fluttering closed adding testimony to that fact.

"I bet," Adam said gently, throwing a wink Crane's way as their little brother sunk more deeply into his pillow.

It looked like Daniel was headed back into oblivion but, blinking rapidly, he fought the pull. Sleepy eyes suddenly intent on Crane, he breathed, "Pain's gone."

Crane laughed softly. It was either that or cry. "Good, good. That's good," he rambled, returning in kind when Daniel squeezed his hand this time. It was no use. The tears were starting to come, clogging his throat and ready to make their escape. And what made that all so much worse was knowing that he hadn't been able to hide them from the sick kid lying in front of him. Those exhausted eyes were scrutinizing him and Crane knew he was falling short, knew he couldn't measure up to Adam's gentle strength.


"Yeah, Danny-boy?"

Oh, no. No, no, no. Crane watched the subtle body-language. Saw those intense blue eyes meet brown. Recognized the kid's head-tilt toward the door for what it was. Knew the instant Daniel was kicking out their oldest brother. And that was just plain wrong.

"Okay," Adam said and Crane could hear the reluctance in his voice. Bending closer to Daniel, he easily planted a kiss in his hair then straightened and announced he was going to check in with the family, let them know Daniel was awake.

That widened Daniel's eyes and he promptly asked, "How did it go with Coop?"

"Real good," Adam replied, obvious pride in Evan's success shining through. His expression shifted then, eyes sparkling with humor even as their corners crinkled into a wince. "The waiting room's a good place for him… close to the nurses' station and a steady supply of ice packs for his ass."

Daniel winced too then broke out into a genuine, albeit tired, grin. It was the sign Crane figured Adam was waiting for before being truly willing to leave the room. Lightly patting Daniel's cheek and promising he'd be back soon, Adam left. But not before pausing next to Crane, drawing him in close and whispering, "Stop beating yourself up," into his ear.

"He's right, you know," Daniel said quietly, as Crane watched their eldest leave.

The kid's eyes were barely at half-mast again and Crane wasn't about to argue with him. So instead he admonished him, "Don't fight it, Daniel. Get some sleep before Adam comes back in here with all the animals."

Daniel smiled at that and Crane knew, no matter how beat Daniel was, he was looking forward to being surrounded by his entire family. Even the big brother that had let him down so spectacularly, he sighed.

"Hey. It was just an upset stomach," the stubborn kid persisted.

"No it wasn't." Mule-headedness ran in the family after all.

"But it was to me," Daniel said, getting too worked up for Crane's liking. "I didn't know it was anything worse." He swallowed hard; his now welling eyes boring into Crane's. "Until it hurt too bad to know anything at all."

"I'm so sorry, Danny." The grief and guilt were eating Crane up inside. But that was okay too. He deserved this.

"Shut up, you idiot," Daniel snapped, abruptly releasing Crane's hand. His tone softened though at what Crane knew was the shocked expression he was wearing. "I'm trying to thank-you for coming home; for sticking it out with me." Crane tried to interrupt him then but the weary kid wasn't quite finished yet. "And for being such a neurotic, overprotective big brother."

Chuckling lightly at that, Crane reached out and thumbed away Daniel's exhausted tears before swiping away one of his own. Smiling warmly, feeling the weight of his guilt lift from his shoulders, he said, "You're welcome… I think."

"And stubborn. I forgot stubborn," Daniel murmured, his eyes completely shut now.

"Looked in a mirror lately?"

Daniel's only answer was the smile lingering on his lips as his breaths settled into a deep, easy rhythm. One more familiar to Crane than his own.

Sleep seemed like an awfully good idea. Folding his arms on the edge of Daniel's bed, Crane laid his head down upon them and closed his eyes, waiting for it to come.

It wouldn't. He still couldn't shut off his damn brain. Not until he reached over and slipped his little brother's hand into his. Being neurotic and overprotective wasn't always such a bad thing.

-- Fin --

Additional Notes:
- The mortality rate in nonperforated appendicitis is less than 1 percent, but it may be as high as 5 percent in patients in whom diagnosis may often be delayed, thus making perforation more likely. (Liu CD, McFadden DW. Acute abdomen and appendix. In: Greenfield LJ, et al., eds. Surgery: scientific principles and practice. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven, 1997:1246–61.).
- I'm going to jump to the assumption that back in 1982, the above quoted rate from 1997 might've been slightly higher. 

- DW McFadden is not related to the TV McFaddens and the quote above was found purely by coincidence with the help of Bing.
Thanks for reading!

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Posted by: morganslady (morganslady)
Posted at: February 2nd, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the great story.. It's funny I always see Crane in the roll of caretaker,even with Hannah in the family..

Posted by: May Robinson (may7fic)
Posted at: February 2nd, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
7B-Daniel Crane Hug

I always see Crane in the roll of caretaker, even with Hannah in the family

Clearly great minds think alike ;). He was just so *there* for Daniel in The Election and then in Winter Roses, so watchful and concerned about Hannah up to and including her miscarriage. Oh how I wish the series had more than the one season!

Thanks for reading and reviewing. I greatly appreciate it :)