"I made a list of all the things I wanna buy, everything I could think of, and it only came to $56,374.63."
"If I had it, I woulda spent that much on bracelets, my Lord!"
As she looked upon Sid's tired, pale face, Jo Danville's mind filled with memories of the last three years in which she had known him and stood by him, in both happy times and sad... Maybe the happiest was when he had told her about the windfall he had received for his patent on the Hammerback Sleeper; the saddest, when he had admitted to her that he had been diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma to be precise. Then later of the fact that he would have to undergo chemotherapy after surgical removal of the non-benign cyst. Now that he was finally asleep again, she dared to let the already-brittle smile slip from her face. She tried to be there for him as much as she could, tried to keep him company in the hospital since his doctors had decided to keep him there after his last chemotherapy session. They had decided that he was too weak to go home without anyone to look after him –– something they had thought necessary in his current state.
At least she didn't have to hide it from her colleagues anymore, and that was a great relief. She had accepted his wish to keep it quiet until he thought he could no more, and to let the rest know on his own terms. She had not doubted him nor tried to convince him, but she was glad that he had finally chosen to tell the entire team when he had begun to feel ill from the chemotherapy and his hair had begun to come loose. She sometimes wondered if he ever would have told her the truth of his own accord, had Jo's perceptiveness not picked up on a change in his behavior. She had reiterated the fact that he could confide in her if he wanted to at any point, and he had watched as his assistant left the room before telling her what was going on. She had confirmed that she was going to be there for him no matter what and that she knew the rest of the team was going to be as well, assuming he would inform them. He had told her he would like to wait some more with that, until he really couldn't do his job anymore, and she had accepted, even if she had mentioned she thought it wise not to wait too long, for they cared about him as well.
Grudgingly, he had told her the date of his operation and then the chemotherapy. She had taken that into account and tried to arrange her schedule so she could be there with him, neatly deflecting any questions anyone ever had as only she could, but still, it had been hard. It had been hard to know something so important as that and to not be able to share it, to share her feelings about it, least of all with the only other person who knew, namely Sid himself. For Jo Danville had been scared, even if she was more scared now to see him lying there so weak and vulnerable, and she had known it would not be wise to let him in on that. She had been grateful that when he had begun to suffer too badly under the medication and she had been there with him to watch him go through it, feeling her heart ache, he had told her that maybe the time had come to let everyone know. He hadn't wanted pity, she knew, but she knew it had been a relief for him to tell Mac and the others, and it had been for her as well. It had been a relief for her not to have to find excuses for where she was going when she went to visit him anymore, to just know she wasn't the only one with that knowledge, not the only one worrying about him and terrified to lose him to a disease that had killed so many before him. Her worries had intensified over the weeks in which she watched him deteriorate under her gaze from the effects of the medication that were possibly even worse than the disease itself.
She only realized she had been crying when she tasted the salty wetness upon her lips. Reaching up with one hand, she wiped her palm against one cheek and then the other and pulled back, looking down to see it was really wet. She blinked her eyes rapidly to force any more tears back as just at that moment, she felt Sid's hand stir lightly within her own. Unfortunate but still, she should have known that he would not be asleep for long. Sure enough, Sid's eyes blinked open and he squirmed uncomfortably underneath the white covers. She saw a shadow pass over his face in a not-unfamiliar way and shot upright, leaning over for a kidney dish sitting on his bedside table and holding it close just in time for him to vomit into it. Having had two children, she was not particularly put off by it, even if secretly she wondered whether there was even anything in his stomach to be expulsed anymore. When he stopped retching at last, Jo felt safe in taking the kidney dish away and replacing it on the bedside table, taking the glass of water instead and offering it to him. She extended one hand for him to hold onto as he pushed himself more upright to ensure he wouldn't choke and waited patiently until he was half-sitting before she held the glass close enough. She never let go of it even when his shaking hand grasped it over her own, steadier one. He shook his head lightly to indicate that he didn't want any more, and she carefully set it down on the table again before turning to him, sitting down on the bed.
"Jo, you don't have to..." he began, his voice barely audible.
"Sid, we've been over this before. I'm here because I want to be here –– right now, there's nowhere else I would rather be."
"Your... free day..." he managed with a groan of discomfort as he couldn't quite seem to find a good position that wouldn't cause him pain anywhere. The doctors had confirmed that this, too, was a result of the chemo, like so many other things, the nausea included, since the treatment effectively tore down one's immune system. Sid had not been unaffected by that either.
"Indeed. Which means that I'm free to choose to spend it here with you," she whispered, taking his hand again and squeezing lightly. Of course, if he really wanted to be left alone, she would have given him the time and space he needed. She would never force her company on him in any way, and she was willing to follow his lead in battling the cancer. If that meant that he would rather be alone, she would go; but thus far even if he told her often enough that she should not waste her time sitting beside a sick and puking old man, the slight shimmer in his eyes when she entered the hospital room and the dimness in them when she left had not gone unnoticed by Jo. He had never said that he didn't want her to be there, just that he thought she shouldn't be. She disagreed, though. As his friend, she felt she should be there for him, even when he was throwing up nearly all throughout the day like he had today.
A weak smile pulled at the corners of his lips as she said this, but it faltered within seconds, before it had even fully appeared. His eyes closed and she knew he would soon be off for a few minutes of sleep or at least somewhere between that and consciousness. She hoped that he would manage a little longer, though, for his own sake. She watched him a few seconds before she ripped her gaze away from him and stood, reaching for the kidney dish to throw away. She would go by the nurse's station, to ask if they really didn't have anything that could make him feel less miserable.
However, there was nothing.
They never spoke about it, but as Sid's condition seemed to worsen more once he was no longer strong enough for the chemotherapy sessions, they all visited slightly more often –– as if they all wanted to spend as much time as possible with him between their professional and private lives as the time went on, especially as Sid seemed to have developed an infection while in the hospital due to his diminished immune system. His body was in no condition to fight it, and the antibiotics that would do it for him were too strong for him to handle and thus replaced by a milder and therefore unfortunately less effective type.
Jo went by religiously every day after her shift had ended and sometimes, when it seemed possible, during her lunch breaks as well. It was the most she could do, even if she still felt utterly useless being able to do only that and nothing more to ease his pain and discomfort. She knew that he was in pain and had possibly been ever since his operation, and that it had likely only gotten worse from there. She knew by how instead of saying that he was not in pain, he merely told her he would be fine. The fact that he didn't have the heart to deny it spoke louder than words, but it was in his eyes as well. Jo Danville had always thought that you could tell a lot from someone's eyes – a lot about their personality and state of mind if you wanted to see it.
The nurses and doctors all got to know her face around the hospital after a few weeks. She specifically remembered one slightly older nurse smiling at her one day and telling her she secretly thought that one of the things that made patients fight and overcome the illness was the knowledge of not being alone in it, even if as an outsider, there was very little you could do. She had smiled in return and had remembered her words, but deep down, she was not so sure if they were true. In any case, they didn't make her feel any less guilty when she saw him lying there all the time. The moment she possibly believed in them the most, though, was about a week after he had been diagnosed with the infection and she had arrived at the hospital to see him seemingly doing better than the day before. The change had not been huge, but it had been visible nonetheless, and Jo had been happily surprised. Over the course of the week prior, she had often arrived to find him being asleep and waking up for but a few seconds or minutes while she was there, and thus she had maybe been most surprised by the fact that he was awake on that particular day.
It was a day she would never forget for many reasons.
After their customary exchange of inquiries, Sid asking what happened at the lab and how she was doing, Jo asking how he was doing and him providing some sort of response, the smile on his face had become somewhat steadier than it had seemed in days. She thought she must have frowned at him for he had quickly told her to look in the bottom drawer of his night table. She thought her frown must have deepened at that, for he had told her to just do as he said. When she had uncovered a large rectangular box and held it up before him in question, he had told her to open it and as she did so, had continued telling her that he seemed to vaguely remember a conversation from long ago and that he felt it was the least he could do.
Upon propping the box open and finding a bunch of bracelets of all shapes and colors inside it, more than she dared to count, she had looked at him incredulously, telling him she couldn't possibly accept it. He had only replied that if she could choose to stay by his side, he could choose to buy her a few bracelets, and it had been settled like that. 'A few' had been quite an understatement, and yet despite the great variety of them, strangely enough she had thought they were all very like her and the sort she would have picked for herself when she ran through them at Sid's encouragement. She had wondered how and when, and grudgingly he had admitted to having had a bit of help from a kind nurse just before he had come down with the infection, ordering them online from a few different sites.
She remembered that day, too, because it had been the day before that grueling shift at work. Maybe the longest and most difficult one in years, filled with quite complicated, little-revealing evidence, which caused her to work late, well past the time she would normally arrive at the hospital for their visits. It didn't stop her from going anyway, albeit much later, once she had been comfortable leaving the case to the night shift. She had hoped that even if she wasn't sure visiting hours were still on, they would not turn her away. She had stayed there multiple times until well after visiting hours were over, but of course, it was something else entirely to actually arrive after they had ended rather than to just stay late.
She arrived a quarter hour before visiting hours would end and as such wasn't stopped by anyone on the way to his room. She remembered thinking on the way there that regardless of the visiting hours she still wouldn't be able to stay as long as she usually did. She remembered feeling guilty that no one had managed to come visit him while they were working on the case, although as they all finally left the lab, everyone had told her to please give him their love. She even had to promise Adam she would tell Sid that he was definitely coming by the next day at the hospital. She remembered smiling at this and hoping that he would feel still a little better than the day before. Maybe they could continue with the chemotherapy when he got stronger again.
By no means had she expected to come into an empty room, though. For an instant, she thought she had been mistaken, her tired mind having played tricks on her. She walked from the room and checked the room number again only to be confused by the fact that it seemed to be correct. She began to walk to the nurse's station to ask what room he had been moved to and why when she had noticed a familiar nurse leaving a room on the opposite side of the hallway. The look upon the nurse's face when their eyes met caused Jo's heart to thud in panic in her chest in a way that could only be compared to a few other moments in her life.
Panic was soon replaced by overwhelming grief like she had felt only once before in her life, when the nurse gently told her that Sid had gone into an unexpected cardiac arrest earlier that evening and that they had not been able to resuscitate him. Of course she had felt a mild sense of distant grief in her job on a daily basis, especially when children were involved, but the grief she felt when she realized that Sid had passed earlier that evening, that he was gone, that he had lost the fight, was a feeling she had not experienced ever since her sister had died, and just like then, she had not been there when it happened.
As the tears gathered in her eyes as the words permeated into her veins and spread to every bit of her being, she held her hand before her mouth to stop herself from screaming or sobbing aloud right on the spot. She stood like that for a few minutes, as the nurse explained the possible causes for the heart failure and why they couldn't resuscitate him, even if she only listened with half an ear. It wasn't necessarily that she didn't care, though. She used it mainly to gather herself, giving her the time she needed to push past the overwhelming pain she felt burning inside to think rationally again. When the nurse stopped talking, the first question that slipped from her lips as she took her hand away from before her mouth, was "When?".
As if the young, blonde nurse seemed to know how the answer would weigh upon her, she whispered, "A little past eight."
Sure enough, when those four words were spoken, she could not hold back a loud sob of agony from escaping her. While the nurse seemed to have suspected her answer would hit her hard, she had no idea about Jo's past and the fact that she had been too late once before... Every day for the last few weeks, she had religiously dropped by Sid's hospital room on the way home from work somewhere between seven and seven-thirty, her stay depending on whether other people were there as well or not. When there had not been anyone, she had often stayed until visiting hours ended at nine PM or even a little past. Every day for the last few weeks, she had been there when they came to check his vitals around eight in the evening. The one day she had not been able to make it, had been the day that he had not been able to keep fighting.
He had died alone. She had not been there, had not been able to say goodbye. For the second time in her life, Jo had not said goodbye to someone she loved dearly. After all, of all the weeks he had been in the hospital, especially the last one when he had been hit with the infection and they had even had to wear masks and wash their hands before entering, this day had seemed like the least expected of all for him to go into cardiac arrest and, and... die.
The nurse offered her condolences before apologizing and telling Jo she really had to continue her rounds for she was already far behind. Jo nodded and voiced that she understood, catching sight of an old bench standing against the wall and staggering the few steps over toward it before sinking down, hiding her head in her hands and letting her tears flow. She was in no state of mind to stop them or even consider holding them back considering where she was. It vaguely crossed her mind to inform Mac and the others somewhere in between the mantras crashing through her head. 'He had died alone.' 'I wasn't there.'
Letting one of her arms down and laying it in her lap, a soft tingle echoed around her and she looked down briefly to find where the sound had come from. She realized it had been her bracelet making contact with her belt buckle. Her sobs ceased as her eyes fastened on the brown beaded piece of jewelry, and she lowered her other hand as well. She trailed it with her finger and her eyes for a moment before she leant her head back against the wall of the white hospital corridor. "Oh, Sid," she whispered, tightening her hand on the wrist of her other hand so she felt the shape of the beads cut into the soft skin of her palm. She thought about how she should word it to Mac. She wasn't sure if she was strong enough to call him and tell him, or anyone for that matter, but then a text message was so impersonal. She briefly contemplated waiting until the morning, but the thought was quenched almost as soon as it slipped into her mind. She couldn't possibly wait until the morning to inform the others. She had to let them know. Making her decision, she reached for her cell phone in her jeans pocket and wormed it from the material, a sense of duty taking over as she began to run through her contact list for the person she needed. At least until she was home and could let the tears and sobs go freely, because for her, it was all a part of coming to terms with it, the beginning of a long, slow process.
Summary: Saying goodbye was hard, but not saying it, was worse, according to Jo Danville.