He bolted down the hall after her, nearly bowling over a tall, stunning woman with a mass of wavy, brown hair tied in a sky blue scarf. She stepped back, flattening her shoulders against the wall as he gripped the doorjamb of the first exam room and used it to propel him into the room as a barely muffled scream reached him. For half a second, his heart dropped into his gut.

 

Jacqueline was on the exam table, her knuckles white as she gripped the edge. Lacerations -- old ones rimmed red with infection -- crossed her bare arms and her clothes were dirty and torn. A more recent wound on her arm seeped dark red through the white bandage. Her neck arched off the pillow, her body shaking as she clenched her teeth, hissing sharply.

 

"Oh, God, Doc... please!" she screamed.

 

Michael moved to Jacqueline's side, hunching over her to hold her face in his hands. Her eyes were closed, her skin glistening with a fine sheen of perspiration. The tension in her body was enough to snap her in two.

 

"Jacqueline," he said softly but firmly. "Jacqueline, look at me."

 

Her eyes snapped open, her gaze immediately on him. Unshed tears made her eyes glisten and she sucked in another sharp breath. A tight groan forced its way through her teeth.

 

"I'm giving her a massive dose of Morphezine, Benzapriline and a fast acting NSAID," Lilly said softly as she loaded the infusion syringe in her hand.

 

"Jacqueline," he said again, not looking away even to acknowledge Lilly's words. "Jacqueline, hear me. You need to let the medication help you."

 

A choked gasp vibrated in her throat as she rapidly sucked in air, her eyes still locked hard on him. A drop of moisture escaped the corner of her eye and Michael brushed it away with his fingers.

 

"Look just at me."

 

Her hand snapped free from the edge of the bed nearest him and she curled her fingers into his shirtsleeve. The grip was hard and desperate, but he didn't look away from her eyes. He stroked back her matted hair, running his thumb over her cheeks. His own pulse pounded viciously at his temples. Michael wanted to know what they had done to her, where she had been, and how she had escaped, but none of the questions were as important as helping her.

 

The click and hiss of the infusion syringe reached him over the pounding in his ears and Jacqueline's sharp breathing.

 

"Deep breaths. Let it work."

 

Her eyes fluttered and her gaze shifted to the ceiling past him.

 

"No, Jacqueline," he said, repeating her name again to keep her with him. "Look at me. Look at me."

 

She pressed her trembling lips together, another tear rolling free. "M-Michael," she whispered. "Oh, god, it hurts."

 

"I'm right here."

 

Jacqueline released a deep, shuddered breath and he felt the tension rush out of her like water dumped from a bucket. The grip on his sleeve loosened and her lips parted, her eyelids sliding heavily over her dark eyes.

 

"The Morphezine is taking hold," Lilly said just outside his peripheral.

 

He stroked her hair, staring into her face. She blinked slowly, struggling to open her eyes again.

 

"I'll be here when you wake up," he said softly. 

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