CHAPTER FORTY FIVE

The bugs. Crawling over him. He was killing them. They were screaming at him, as he squished them, but he didn't listen. And then something happened. His head had...exploded. Strange. But now it was back. And he was back. And the bugs...something about the bugs...

One by one. He'd destroyed them, one by one, not letting the others know, and because he hadn't shown his hand, he'd won. He'd destroyed them all. And now he was free of the bugs.

It was all clear now. Of course.

One by one. That's how he had to do it. That was the only way out of this hell. Those bugs...he hadn't realized it until now, but the bugs had shown him the way. And then he'd be free of them. Free of this place.

He smiled. It turned to a chuckle, and then a laugh. A long, hard laugh. It felt good. So good he didn't care if they heard him. They wouldn't understand anyway.

Not until it was too late...


*****

Hannibal wasn't sure what he'd heard at first. Just a low noise from the bedroom where Sam was now. It sounded like...no. That couldn't be right. But then it got louder, and wilder, and Hannibal had to admit what it was. He looked around the living room, knowing they all heard it, too. Saw BA scowl, and head for the door. Frankie had been playing solitaire; he turned pale and started slamming the cards down in furious and haphazard play, eyes never leaving the table. Daryl looked at the door, frowned, checked his watch, silently returned to his vigil at the window.

Murdock's head was up, staring at the closed door, listening intently, listening to every note of runaway laughter. When it finally quieted, after several minutes, he closed his eyes and slowly bowed his head. One hand slowly came up and covered his eyes, holding his head; the other hand clenched into a tight fist. He sat like that, not moving.

Hannibal looked at his own watch, although he'd only checked it a few moments before. It was getting towards dark, their second night here. He was starting to have serious doubts if his team could handle many more days like this one, or if Face could, but he knew there was no way it would be over soon.

He wondered what had caused that damn laughter.


*****

Kurt had been dozing. He hadn't meant to, but Sam had been sleeping so soundly, and there was no other sound in the house; it had been damn hard to stay awake. The sudden laughter coming from the direction of the bed startled him awake, and it took a moment for him to collect himself.

Sam kept laughing, and Kurt crept hurriedly over to the bed. He checked Sam's forehead; still warm, and his heart beat was a bit too fast for comfort.

"Sam? What's up, buddy?"

Sam's eyes opened slowly, and the laughter died down. He still had a smile on his face, but his eyes were glazed, and still seemed unable to settle on anything for more than a second or two. Nevertheless, Sam turned his head and tried to look at Kurt. The smile got a little wobbly, and he closed his eyes.

"Kurt?" His voice was soft, a slight tremor in it.

Kurt's body sagged in relief. Sam hadn't given a truly coherent response since they'd first spoken to him last night. Maybe he was starting to come out of it. That laughter could've just been from a strange dream.

"Yeah, Sam. You feeling better now?"

Sam chuckled again, but low this time, keeping his eyes shut.

"Sam?" Kurt's worries started returning. This wasn't really normal behavior.

"Don't worry..." Sam reached out, found and grabbed Kurt's arm, tight. He whispered, "I'll take you with me...not like them...no, not like them...one by one..."

He kept laughing, softly, for a long time, holding Kurt's arm.


*****

"He's got everything on your list and then some, Daryl. I watched, made sure he didn't switch anything, but check it anyway. Nothing goes into Sam unless you know exactly what it is."

Daryl nodded, still feeling confused. He looked over at the stranger Randy had practically dragged into the cabin. The man looked like he was ready for some medication himself. He kept glancing at Randy as if waiting to be shot.

"Okay, doc, you go with Daryl. You give him any problems, you and I will be talking. Got it?"

The man nodded and meekly followed behind Daryl. Randy watched the door close, then turned to face a very irate colonel.

"Who is that guy, Randy? I know damn well he didn't volunteer to come and help us out. What the hell are you doing? I want some answers, now!"

Randy looked calm and cool. "If you'll shut up long enough, I'll tell you." Ignoring the angry Hannibal, the even angrier BA, and a shocked Frankie, Randy went into the kitchen and pulled a can of pop from the refrigerator. He leaned insolently against the door frame and sipped slowly before continuing. "'That guy' is Dr. Garr, small town practitioner. I've known him for many, many years." Randy looked at Hannibal, daring him to say anything. Hannibal wisely kept quiet, beginning to understand. "Garr did the blood tests Daryl wanted, and I figured it would be just as well to have a doctor on hand if we're going to be giving Sam a bunch of medications. And no, he didn't volunteer to come. I had to remind him that he owes me. Big time."

"You brought a doctor that you obviously don't trust?" Murdock only mildly curious. At least he was reacting to something. He'd been staring out of the window ever since Sam's last outburst, not saying a word to anyone.

"Garr is a coward. Coward's tend to do things on impulse, rather than from really thinking things through. As long as I remind him occasionally of his obligations to me, there's no problem. I trust his common sense."

Hannibal was thinking it was more Garr's sense of self-preservation than his common sense that should be trusted, but he kept his own counsel. He didn't like this, not one bit, but considering the seizure and how Sam seemed to be going downhill, mentally, he had to accept the wisdom of having a real doctor on hand. Seeing the others weren't quite so willing to let the matter drop, he swiftly turned the conversation.

"Sam had a seizure while you were gone."

"What?" The pop can slammed to the floor. The pop fizzed and spread over the linoleum, unheeded.

"It didn't last long, but..."

"Is he all right?"

"Daryl says he is. It's not unusual. And at least he got some sleep afterward."

"But he did wake up? And you're sure he's okay?"

Hannibal knew Randy wanted to rush in to his friend, rather than following Daryl's orders, and decided it would be better, for the moment, not to tell him about Sam's laughing episode. Hannibal had already chalked it off to just one more weird reaction, nothing to worry about any more than all the rest of the shit that was happening.

"Yeah, he woke up and he's fine. Well..."

"I know what you mean."

Kurt stepped out just then, and Hannibal welcomed the interruption. He would have to take Randy aside later and 'discuss' his kidnapping of the doctor. They didn't need any more complications, and Hannibal had a feeling the doctor was going to be more trouble than he was worth.


*****

As soon as the door closed, Garr practically pounced on Daryl.

"You have to help me! That man is dangerous! He kidnapped me! He..." Garr noticed the other two men in the room just then. Kurt was rising from the chair by the bed, startled at the intrusion of this stranger. Sam sat up abruptly, trying to focus on the source of the panicky voice, head swimming at the sudden movement.

Suspicion and anger replaced Garr's fear. "Who are you people, anyway? What the hell is going on here? I demand you release me, right now!"

"Another one...another one...they got another one..." Sam was getting more and more excited, smirking as he tried to climb off the bed.

"Sam, take it easy." Kurt hurriedly reached across, grabbing Sam before he fell off the bed. Sam held on to his shoulders, trying to focus on the stranger, snickering quietly.

Daryl turned back to Garr, glaring. "Keep quiet! I don't know anything about a kidnapping, but you're a doctor and this man needs help."

Garr looked over at Sam, who was still staring at him, but the laughter was gone. He could've sworn the man was looking at him like a dog would a piece of meat. Were they all mad?

Suddenly he remembered why he was here - the blood tests, and the drugs listed on the note. So this was the guy...

"He's the drunk I'm supposed to treat?"

Daryl could've slugged him. "He's your patient. Now start acting like a doctor!"

Garr snapped to attention. No one, especially these thugs, spoke to him like that. They wanted a doctor, by God, they'd get one.

"All right. The man's blood work came back a disaster. His electrolytes are abysmal. I'm going to have to insert an IV, try and get that back in balance."

Kurt and Daryl looked at each other, dismayed. An IV? In Sam? Now?

Kurt sighed. "We can try it, I guess." He really didn't want BA involved again so soon, but wasn't at all sure they would have any success without him.

Gently extricating himself from Sam, Kurt stepped over to Daryl and Garr. Sam slid back to rest against the headboard, grinning at the doctor.

"Gotcha..." He laughed, broke off abruptly and stared intently, his eyes still unable to settle on their target. Garr swallowed hard.

"Okay, doc, this is the picture. He's going through alcohol withdrawal, but he's also got some...mental problems. You'll have to sedate him; he won't keep a line in otherwise. Guaranteed. Basically, we're going to have to take this whole thing slow and easy, try not to set him off.."

"Looks like we're already too late for that," Garr noted, wryly. "Or is he always like this?"

"It just started. He had a seizure and then..."

"He's seized? How long ago?"

"A little over three hours ago."

Garr nodded grimly, began to gather his equipment. He would have to add a little to the cocktail he'd already prepared. He wanted to stave off further fits if at all possible.

Daryl walked over to the bed, sat so he blocked Sam's view of Garr. Sam immediately lost interest, although the smile stayed on his face. He started talking, low and nearly inaudible. Daryl ignored it. He needed Sam's attention.

"Sam, we have to do something that might hurt a little, okay?"

"One by one...one after another..."

"Sam." Daryl spoke a little louder, a little firmer. Sam looked at him, startled.

"We have to give you some medicine, Sam. The doctor is going to poke a tiny hole in your arm, and give you the medicine that way. Okay?"

The bugs had tried to warn him. He hadn't listened. He'd killed them. He should have listened.

"No."

"Sam, we don't have a choice, okay?"

"NO!" Angry, Sam scrambled for the other side of the bed, fell off the side onto the floor. Awkwardly tried to climb under the bed.

"Sam, wait, please..."

"I'll get BA," Kurt whispered to Daryl, who nodded, unhappy. He could only hope the newest assault wouldn't wreak further havoc on Sam.