'Hey, Ravi. I've got news! Peyton's moving back in. One condition, I'm not allowed to keep my food in our fridge. I don't know where I'm going to store it yet, maybe I'll get a separate fridge for my room? Hmm? D'you think it's a good idea? Anyway, I'm so happy to have her back! I missed her loads. So yeah, I've had a really good day today. What else... Uhm, everything's good at the... at the morgue. New New Hope is doing fine. Uh... I think she misses you a bit. I actually thought about bringing her in here but... well, maybe it's not such a good idea. She's not only a rat after all, but also... well, you know. A science rat. Yeah, apart from that... uhh... they're going to give me a... a new boss next week. I mean, not a new boss, just... just a substitute. Until you get better. And you will get better soon, right? Yeah. So, how was your day?' she looks at Ravi as he doesn't respond. He actually looks quite normal, for someone in his state. There are no bruises, no wounds, no saliva dripping from his mouth. He's just very... still. And there are loads of tubes going in and out of him, but they don't scare Liv as much as this lack of motion. The lady visiting an eighty-something man after a stroke on the opposite bed sniffs loudly.
'So young, isn't he? There aren't many people his age in here. We had a young girl on this bed a few weeks ago. A suicide attempt. Apart from her, everyone was elderly. What happened to him?' she has a strong southern accent. Something in her tone tells Liv that she knows all the gossip about every single person in the hospital. Liv doesn't want to look at her, doesn't want to look at Ravi either, doesn't want to look at anything, so she closes her eyes and hopes the woman will stop talking.
'Oh, sorry, was he your boyfriend?'
'He is not my boyfriend. He is my boss.'
'Oh, right,' the lady smiles sympathetically. 'The new ones here, always so touchy about tenses. Sorry, love.' She looks as if she's done talking and Liv almost sighs in relief, but the lady turns to her again. 'Don't worry. You'll get used to it' she says, with a nod towards her and a sad smile. Liv decides to ignore her.
'Ravi, I've got to go. Have to get that fridge, remember? I'll step by tomorrow, okay? And...' she leans in and lowers her voice, because the woman by the opposite bed moved closer and doesn't even pretend that she's not listening, 'Would you... maybe get better until tomorrow? I can't take being in one room with her much longer.' Liv stands up. The lady has been listening to every single word, because now she looks offended and ostentatiously opens a newspaper. 'See you, boss.'
She walks out of the neurology department with a lump in her throat.
The next day she brings flowers. She steps by the florists and she basically picks the ones that smell the strongest. She doesn't even know what kind of flowers Ravi likes, but she's read somewhere that sensory stimulation can help coma patients regain consciousness. So she brings in some smell.
'Hi, I'm putting some flowers on your shelf. They smell really strong, don't they? I don't even know if you like that smell, but I thought, if you hate it, maybe you'll wake up faster to make me throw them away?' Ravi doesn't react but the lady by the opposite bed smiles over her book. 'And I brought you some music. I took your player from your desk and I brought some headphones. I'm going to put them on you for a while, okay?' She raises his head gently. 'What have we got here... Hooked on a feeling? You like that one, don't you? You were humming it the other day.' She presses play and sits back on the chair.
'I did the same things at the beginning,' the lady accompanying the elderly man decides that it's a good time to try a conversation again. 'That's what they say in all the self-help books, isn't it?' Liv doesn't respond, so she just continues. 'I don't believe in it anymore. Didn't do my Gus any good anyway.'
Liv stares at the TV as if her life depended on it.
After two days his parents finally manage to arrive. Liv sits by the wall and listens how the head of neurology department (a year or two higher than her on the university, she didn't recognize his name until she saw him walk into the room, straight back, head high and nervous tapping on his folder) explains to them that Ravi probably intended a suicide, injecting himself with an unknown substance, possibly some fixative agent. Not a fucking suicide attempt, the thought burns in her brain, but she knows she cannot say a word, not until she knows how to explain a possibly illegal attempt to test a zombie cure on himself, that stupid man. Stupid her for not realising that he was going to do it. Stupid, stupid her for calling him the evening before crying about how she can't take it anymore.
She watches his mother shake and cry and try to hug Ravi and she watches his father helplessly try to pat her on the back. She leaves the room, feeling like she doesn't deserve to be there. She doesn't even deserve to hold Ravi's hand now, because it should be her lying on that stupid bed right now. For a glance she imagines her mother holding her like Ravi's mother did and her brother awkwardly squishing her hand. She shakes her head.
'Hi, boss. Your parents just left, they have a plane to catch. I promised them I will take good care of you. So, what do you feel like doing today? Do you want to listen to music? Or maybe I'll read you something?', she pauses, even though she is not really expecting any answer. She looks around the room. She's the only visiting person now, she heard the nurses talk about the wife of the guy on the opposite bed catching a cold or something.
'You know what... maybe let's take a break from this sensory stimulation thing today, shall we? I'm tired of this, aren't you?', she keeps asking the questions, but she doesn't even pause after them now. 'Actually... The Walking Dead is on and this chair is damn uncomfortable. I know this is against all the possible rules, but no one's here now, right?' She says as she moves closer to the bed. 'Come on, move a bit, I want a good place to sit, too.' She mumbles, shifting Ravi a bit to the left. 'If you promise you won't tell anyone I did it, I promise not to sit on any of your tubes.' Ravi's much more skinny than he was two weeks ago, she has no trouble fitting on the bed next to him. 'Well, even if you do tell everyone, I know some nurses in here, I bet they would let me in anyway. You're not getting away from me here, Ravi.' She smiles, turns on the TV and snuggles up.
It's Saturday and she doesn't have to go to work so she decides to go and have an early lunch at Ravi's. That's what she likes to call it now. She steps by a pizza place on her way and walks in with a fresh pepperoni, no anchovies. The room is empty today. Not empty, she thinks, mad at herself for using this word, Ravi's here.
'Hey. I got you a pizza. Just the way you like it.' She opens the box and puts it just under Ravi's nose. 'Here's the deal. I'm going to start eating. The sooner you wake up, the more will be left for you.' She turns on the TV, pulls a bottle of hot sauce from her backpack, pours it on the first piece and starts to eat without talking. The host of the programme talks about surprisingly low SAT scores this year.
'There's a last piece left, so you better wake up quickly,' she says after some minutes, holding the piece in her hands and moving it in front of Ravi's face. 'Oh, whatever.' She throws the piece into the box and puts the box on the floor. For a moment she sits in silence. Relative silence, not counting monotonous beeping and wheezing of the machines and an annoying voice of some expert on the TV. Finally, she reaches for Ravi's hand.
'Remember how you told me to hang in there just for a bit longer?' She looks at his face. Still like a sculpture. 'Ravi, I don't know how much longer am I able to hold on for. I need you here. And don't you give me that you can do it face,' her eyes become watery because she knows well enough he's not giving her any face, 'I miss you, Ravi. And there are times when I'm mad at myself for letting you try that shit on yourself. And there are times when I'm mad at you for your stupid heroism. But mostly, I just fucking miss you. So, please, Ravi, could you please try your best and come back to me?' She squishes his hand, not even trying to stop herself from crying now. 'Come on, Ravi. If anyone can do it, you can.'
The nurse finds her a few hours later, sleeping with her head on Ravi's chest, her cheeks still wet from crying.
The nurses give her a sad smile when she walks into the ward. They've been doing it for the past days. She knows what they're thinking. They're thinking what everyone thinks. Yesterday the head doctor of neuro stopped by. Before she had time to joke, to what do I owe this honor, he started telling her that the nurses have told him how much time she spends with Ravi. And that while her concern is admirable, it's not healthy to do such things. And that he can recommend her a counselor. In the end he added that he remembers her from the Students' Scientific Association and that as such a skilled doctor surely she understands the extend of hope she can have for a good outcome in this case.
'Prick.' Liv muttered under her breath looking at his back as he walked out of the room.
Truth is, she has been spending a lot of time at Ravi's lately. Peyton was concerned about it too. Deep down, Liv knew she should be concerned as well, especially after last week, when she forgot to eat for so long that she almost lost her control. Well, that wasn't just her fault, her new boss was making it much more difficult to obtain brains now. But she couldn't expect to keep the kind of agreement she had with Ravi, obviously. Anyway, she knew that she messed up last week, she shouldn't have let it get so bad, and she promised herself not to repeat that situation. But today, instead of staying at work after hours to get something to eat, she decided to visit Ravi again.
'We can have hope, Ravi' Liv whisper, sitting as comfortably as possible on the chair. 'They wouldn't keep you here if you couldn't come back, you know that.' She sighed. 'Please, could you stop it, now?', her eyes got teary again. It wasn't the first time this week. 'Could you stop... not being here? Clive won't work with me anymore. And Peyton is lovely, but she doesn't... understand.' She explained, sniffing after every other word. 'And getting food is a nightmare without you.' She whispered. 'I really need you, boss. I don't have anything else left. Please, please, please, I don't have anything else left.' She pulls her knees to her chest and starts shaking a little bit. After some minutes, a nurse walking by notices her and offers her a glass of water.
'Thank you, I was leaving anyway.' Liv responds, getting up. She walks out quickly and runs to the morgue, afraid that she's going to lose control and go zombie mode if she doesn't get a brain fast enough.
It's just her today. She didn't bring any food, music, flowers, not even a book to read. She doesn't even bother turning the TV on.
'I was thinking. A lot. And... I need to be reasonable.' She sits with a little slouch, holding her palms in between her knees and she feels a little bit like a kid in the principal's office. 'I know there's hope. I do. I still think that. You're not brain dead, and... everything can still be all right. But... it's a toxic brain damage you have there and... we don't even fully know what caused it. I mean... I don't know what caused it. And while it still can get resolved... I don't have that much time to wait around.' She looks at Ravi's face, still hoping deep down that he'll respond, or at least he'll move a muscle. But he's not moving. 'I've been having troubles... keeping control. And it might have something to do with... the food issue, or the work issue, or the fact that I've been emotional... The point is, this can't go on. And...' She lowers her voice, making sure that none of the nurses or the patients' family members on the corridor hear her. 'I know that it's that cure that put you in here. But you're not, you know... A zombie', she whispers. 'So I thought, maybe it'll work differently on me. Maybe damaging brain cells is the point of this cure.' She smiles, and her eyes looks almost hopeful. 'And anyway, even if it won't work, it's not like I have anyone else who will work on it. Since you... you know. So, I'm not getting anything better anytime soon. This is the best I can get. So I'm going to try it.' She straightens up and tries to look confident. And then she stops, because she remembers there's no one to see how confident she looks. 'Don't even try to stop me, boss. It's decided.' Liv manages to put on a smile, gets up and picks up her bag. 'I'm going to go now. Unless... you'd like to wake up and stop me...?' she gives Ravi a hopeful smile, but quickly she shakes her head and sighs. 'See you, boss. I hope... I really do hope that I'll see you.'
She walks out of the ward, and pushes the elevator's button. The doors close behind her and she doesn't hear the loud beeping coming from the corridor that she left a moment ago.
There's a lot a lot of noise in the bright room smelling of disinfectant. 'He's fighting the intubation tube!', the tall, skinny doctor works carefully, but efficiently and soon the atmosphere in the room gets much calmer.
'Liv...' a hoarse voice says. 'Som... Please, someone has to call Liv Moore.'