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Not Alone

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Steve trudges up the path back to the house. Today had been an unbearably long day, between work, therapy, Frankie running away, and back to work again. He stops at the front door, taking a deep breath before he opens it.

“I’m back!” Steve calls out, turning on the light in the entryway. Weird, he thinks to himself. Normally MJ would have left that on for him.

There’s no answer. This normally didn’t unnerve him much, but right now, it felt as though the hairs on his skin were standing on end. He has a weird, sinking feeling something is wrong.

He puts his coat on the hooks by the door, dumps his briefcase on the side table, and tosses his keys into the bowl next to it. Peering up the stairs, he sees a light on in Nick’s room, but the door is closed. Nick’s probably doing homework. He doesn’t see a light on in Frankie’s room. He rubs his face. Hopefully she’s just... at Joanne’s or something. Hopefully she’d come back so they could sort out whatever was happening... He texts her his 10th ‘Where are you?’ text of the day and sets off in search of MJ.

He wanted to apologize to her. He’d thought about calling her, or even texting her, but he thought it was better to do it in person. He’d said some pretty awful things, and... well, he truly didn’t mean it. He knows Frankie doesn’t hate her, and he knows he also doesn’t hate her. He loves her more than anything in the world, and would give her the moon if he could. He wants to go back to what they were like before, where she responded to his affection, talked to him about her day, and didn’t bite his head off every time he said something.

“MJ?” He walks into the kitchen, where she’d normally be at this time of day. The light is on, and there’s a mixing bowl on the table with some partially made quiche. It’s not like MJ to leave something unfinished, so she must be in the house somewhere.

“MJ?” He calls again. He peeks into the dining room, before flipping the light on. Nothing.

He walks back through the kitchen, peering up the stairs again - there’s no light on in their room, or the guest room.

The living room is dark. Even the Christmas tree lights are off - this is it, this is what unnerved him. MJ normally left the tree lights on all day and all night long, so the fact that they were off did not bode well for his uneasy feelings. It’s eerily quiet.

He looks around for any sign of MJ, before a slight movement on the floor catches his eye. There was something there. No, not something. Someone.

The moment he registers it's MJ—unmoving, unconscious, body completely limp—he snaps into action. He rushes towards her, trying to shake her awake. Her face is completely white, beginning to turn blue, and her skin feels clammy and cold as he attempts to rouse her. “MJ, wake up. Please. MJ- Mary Jane...” He checks her pulse; it’s slow. “Nick!” He screams. “Nick, come here!”

Steve’s hands can’t stop shaking as he tries to wake her up. He elevates her head, moving it to his lap, and begins gently patting her face in an attempt to get her conscious. “Nick!” He screams again.

Nick comes in and flips on the light, before dry heaving at the sight in front of him. “What happen-"

“CALL 911.” Steve demands, still trying to get MJ conscious.

Nick does, and Steve can distantly hear him speaking the operator as he stares at his unconscious wife intently, looking for any signs that she’s responding to him. Nothing.

He can feel his own panic rising from his belly, but swallows it down; that won’t help right now. He attempts to listen for her breathing, hushing Nick. What seems like an eternity passes, but he hears her exhale. A small relief. He holds her hand, squeezing it, at his wits end for what else he could possibly try to get her awake.

The paramedics arrive but he doesn’t move from MJ’s side, refusing to let go of her hand, still trying to wake her up. Immediately, they recognize the signs of an overdose, and prepare to administer naloxone. “Overdose? That can’t be-“ He stammers, but the paramedics insist.

A few minutes after the naloxone, she starts breathing again, color starting to return to her cheeks. Steve barely registers any other sounds, entirely fixating on MJ, so relieved to see her chest rise and fall.

“She has to stay awake.” One of the paramedics says. Steve nods. “We have to keep her awake for as long as we can.”

“C’mon MJ...” He whispers, kissing her forehead, hand shaking as he moves some hair out of her eyes. “Stay with me...” Her eyes open for a brief moment, but flutter closed again. He keeps squeezing her hand, patting the side of her face. Another paramedic hands him a water bottle, instructing him to pour a bit down her throat. He helps Steve keep her mouth open; she gags and opens her eyes.

MJ’s eyes grow wide as she registers that she’s on the ground with everyone looking at her, and Steve can see her start to panic. He helps her sit up, gently supporting her back. “What’s going on?” She says, her voice sounding so small and scared. He’d never heard her sound like that before, and he wants nothing more than to protect her.

“You overdosed.” A paramedic replies, preparing an oxygen mask for her. “Here, let’s get this on you...”

“What? No, no, no, can’t be-“ Her breathing gets shorter as her heart starts to race, and Steve can see the color start to leave her face again. The paramedic places an oxygen mask on her, walking her through the process calmly and gently, but MJ starts to shake, panic and shock clear in her eyes.

She can’t stop shaking, her breathing incredibly shallow. The paramedic attempts to calm her down, but she isn’t listening, and Steve knows her own inner monologue has taken over. He’s vaguely aware of one of them asking him quietly if they can sedate her, and explaining why. He nods. “Do whatever you need to do.”

Within a few minutes, MJ has relaxed and is breathing normally, eyes closed in what appears to be a peaceful slumber.

“We need to get her to the hospital.” They prepare to transfer her to a stretcher.

“Will she be okay?” Nick asks. Steve suddenly remembers that he’s there too.

“We need to run some tests to evaluate the severity of her overdose, we’ll have more information once we’re at the hospital.” The paramedic says matter of factly.

They move her onto the stretcher, and Steve follows them as they take her into the ambulance. He hears Nick say he’s following in the car behind, and that he’s texted Frankie, but Steve doesn’t take his eyes off of MJ.

The ambulance ride feels like an eternity. MJ lays there, unmoving, pale, as Steve sits by her side, holding her hand, rubbing her shoulder, listening to her even breathing. He bites his lip to keep from crying.

“I’m sorry.” He whispers. “I’m sorry I said what I said earlier.”

“She can’t hear you.” A paramedic says gently.

Steve nods, wiping tears from his face. But he continues to apologize silently, pressing his lips to her fingers.

He almost lost her. Mary Jane, the absolute love of his life, his soulmate, the woman he wanted to grow old with. He didn’t think he would ever be one to fall head over feet in love with someone, but there he was, hopelessly in love with her. Their first date went disastrously wrong because his car broke down and he had to call his brother to help him change the tire, and then by the time they’d fixed it the movie was almost over, but she gave him a second chance and he redeemed himself with a dinner at a nice Greek restaurant and then a walk through a park. And then there was another date, maybe it was the sixth or seventh, where he suggested they go ice skating together but he didn’t realize that she actually knew how, and had spent most of the time coaxing him away from the wall. Maybe a year into dating, they took a trip to Paris and visited a small museum but they ran out of English language guides, so they spent an afternoon making up random backstories about the art and cracking each other up so much that they were escorted out of the museum. He remembers psyching himself up to ask her dad permission to marry her, and then MJ laughing in his face when he told her he did. The first time he saw MJ in her wedding dress...

He’s startled out of his reverie by the ambulance jolting to a stop. MJ is quickly moved out of the ambulance into the ER, where Steve is stuck behind closed doors, unable to see what’s happening. He peers through the round windows, seeing the top of her head underneath a mass of tubes and machines and nurses tending to her. It crushes him, seeing her so incredibly small like that. She gets wheeled further in, out of view, and Steve begins to pace rapidly, unable to keep still, not knowing what’s going on with her.

Nick finds Steve pacing. “Dad, Frankie’s on her way, Jo’s taking her.” Steve nods, pausing to put his hand on Nick’s shoulder, before continuing. Nick stands still, watching his dad walk back and forth.

At any sign of movement from the closed doors, Steve stops and immediately turns to look. He still can’t see anything. He becomes increasingly stressed, wracking his brain for some kind of explanation of how this possibly could have happened, but he can’t get past the first part: he almost lost her. That part echoes over and over and over, ringing in his ears. The image of her, lifeless on the living room floor, won’t leave his mind.

Finally, a doctor walks past.

“Are you Dr Woodson?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Steve Healy. Can you please give me an update on my wife.” Steve braces himself, not knowing what kind of news to expect.

“In addition to oxycodone, she also had fentanyl in her system.” While he knew that the paramedics thought she overdosed, this is not the news Steve is expecting.

“What?”

“It’s a very powerful opiate, stronger than heroin.”

“That’s… that’s not possible.” Steve shakes his head.

“Oxycodone is often contaminated with fentanyl. She might have gotten counterfeit pills off the street.”

“No. She had a prescription. She got in a car accident, she was still having trouble with her back.” Steve shakes his head again. MJ? Drugs off the street? It didn’t make any sense.

“Actually she doesn’t have a current prescription with either of the doctors that you wrote down.”

“Could this be a mistake? She- she- she’s an amazing mother, she’s obsessed with her health, does she look like a drug addict to you?!” Steve can feel himself getting increasingly annoyed with this doctor.

“What do you think a drug addict looks like?” Steve hesitates. The doctor continues. “Did you notice any erratic behavior?”

Erratic behavior. He thinks back to earlier today. Oh… yes. He did. “Yes.”

“Is she gonna be okay?” Nick asks timidly.

The doctor looks at Nick, before speaking to Steve. “We have a lot to discuss.”

“Nick, why don’t you go wait for Frankie.” Nick walks off, and Steve is alone with the doctor.

Steve follows the doctor into MJ’s room, and almost passes out at seeing his wife, small and vulnerable, in the hospital bed. It’s a weird sight, because MJ is normally so… strong, sturdy, infallible. “We have her on Buprenorphine to help with withdrawals but there could be serious long term consequences from an overdose like this. Once she’s discharged I would suggest she go to in-patient recovery.”

“She won’t do that.” Steve says, trying to imagine his wife at a rehab center.

“We strongly recommend it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The doctor leaves.

Steve stares at MJ, quietly sleeping. Her expression would be serene if it weren’t for the slight frown on her face, and him knowing what had happened hours earlier, and him now knowing about the drugs in her system. He’s on the verge of tears, at a complete loss for words. Who is this woman lying in front of him?

“Remember when we were younger, before the kids, we would party and drink too much and joke about going to rehab someday?” He sniffs, trying to lighten the mood ever so slightly. “You did it!” He raises his arms in mock excitement. But it falls flat. “That’s not funny.”

His tears get caught in his throat, as he comes closer to the bed. “I thought after all this time we were done surprising each other.” He stares at MJ, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest.

He strokes her head with his hand affectionately, his tears finally falling. His perfect, unflappable, superhuman Mary Jane Healy is suddenly the most real, human person he knew. And she is hurting, and he wants more than anything to take that away and help her be okay again. There is so much work to be done. “What’s the matter, Mary Jane? You had a hard day?”