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13 April 2012 @ 11:03 am
Killing Me Softly: Killing Me Softly With His Song (Chapter 11)  

Three thousand years was a long time to live, but for Leana Sheehan it suddenly wasn’t near long enough.



Killing Me Softly

Chapter Eleven



Killing Me Softly With His Song

**O**


Three thousand years was a long time to live, but for Leana Sheehan it suddenly wasn’t near long enough. Then again, she felt like she’d just been born. Well, reborn, at least. This was an opportunity that she did not want to waste. It was a gift. She certainly didn’t want her new life to be the dark stain that her past life had been. Hope was a foreign concept to her, but she figured that this must be exactly what it feels like. And she felt alive—a little sapling shrugging off the grains of earth and reaching for the goddamned sun—alive. She’d never shone with her own luster, but as she looked at her hands on the steering wheel she could see them teeming with light, a living kaleidoscope that twisted, pulsed and vibrated in time to her every thought. Each fractal was a perfect gem coruscating and quivering with hope and expectation. She was looking forward to what life might hold for her now. She would find a way to save Dean and make him whole again without undoing what he’d made of her, and they’d both walk away from this better for the experience. The prospect of living life this way, being this person, made her as giddy as a child hopping into bed in winter with visions of sugar plums. Maybe she could inspire people for real. Maybe she could help them. Save them. If given enough time she could maybe wash clean everything she’d done wrong by saving people, hunting things. What kind of hunter would she make? Hello—a fucking awesome one! Fuckin’—A rights, sister, she thought as she drove.

The possibilities were endless, and she wanted so desperately to be that force of good in the world, to kill as many evil sons of bitches as she could. She just needed some time to think about it. Everything was happening so fast, though, it was hard to center herself. The doctor was sitting in the back seat, bleating away at her a mile a minute. Leana’s head had begun to swim with the constant nagging. The only reason she hadn’t stopped on a corner and booted Rania from the car was that she knew Dean needed help that she would not be able to provide for him in time. The doctor needed to stay for now. Once she could get Dean back home and get him resting, she’d be able to think up a brilliant plan to save both of them. She glanced in the rearview mirror and watched him as he lay with his eyes half-open, looking at nothing and taking quick, shallow breaths. He was so pale and drawn. Paint splashed up and down his arms and gobbed in his hair. The sight of him made her heart ache. She’d done this to him. She was responsible. But she’d fix it one way or another. Fear bubbled up, but she forced herself to swallow it as she focused her eyes back on the road, driving as quickly as she could. Time. She’d idled away more than three thousand years of it and could not, for the life of her, seem to get the few hours she needed to collect her thoughts and find a better way out of this mess.

**O**

Hello?” Sam repeated. He was just about to hang up and chalk the call up to Rania pocket-dialing him on accident, when he heard some background talk.

Rania tried to settle Dean so that he could breathe easier, but at the same time she was trying to be careful not to jostle the phone in her pocket. “Leana, you need to think about what you’re doing,” she said, praying that Sam could hear and that the call had not simply been forwarded to voicemail. “If you really want to help Dean, you need to drive us back to the hospital. Please.” She tried to talk as loudly as she could without being completely transparent. “Leana, are you listening?”

Sam held his breath. He heard her say the name twice now. Rania was talking to Leana. Cleo was standing right next to him and she took a breath like she was going to say something, but he held up his hand and shushed her, focusing all of his attention on the phone and trying to make out each word.

“Yeah, I hear you,” Leana said. “But you’re wrong. The hospital can’t help him.” Leana looked at her in the rearview mirror. “How’s he doing?” she asked.

Rania looked at Dean. His eyes were open, but he wasn’t responsive yet. “Dean,” she shook his shoulder a little “Can you hear me?” He blinked but he didn’t look at her.  His pulse had never recovered from the seizure.  His heart was galloping wildly, and his breath was labored. “He’s not doing well, Leana. Please let me help him.”

Sam felt his heart plummet hearing Rania’s words. He began racing toward the car, even though he had no idea yet where they were. He just had to get on the move. Rania had dialed him on purpose, he was sure, and he knew she was feeding him whatever information she could. He trusted that she would continue as long as she was able to. Cleo ran as fast as her flaccid body would allow. She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew it was big, and she knew she wouldn’t leave Sam alone with no help.

Leana pulled the car into the parking lot of the concert hall. She took a long cleansing breath. Finally, she would be able to let Dean get some rest while she made plans. There had to be a way to fix this. She’d make sure that Dean recovered and then maybe she and Dean could team up and do some hunts together in the future. She’d learned a lot in her three thousand years, she would teach him everything she knew. There were ways and means to bring down creatures that no hunter had yet discovered. Leana would make sure to teach him all of the neat tricks she knew. Dean had to be all right. She didn’t want to think of the alternative. Leana sighed and tried to put it out of her head. It was going to be OK. Getting Dean safe and well was her focus, then she’d handle everything else. She’d look after him. That was her job.

Rania glared at Leana in disbelief. “Abramson Hall? You’re bringing Dean here? What do you think you’re going to accomplish here?” she said as loudly as she could, partly because she was truly outraged and partly to make sure that Sam could hear her.

Sam peeled out into traffic. “They’re at the concert hall. Fuck! I knew I had heard something there. Fuck!” he said disparaging himself.

We’re not too far away, Sam, just drive safe, please!” Cleo said, wincing as he nearly side-swiped a car while passing illegally.

Leana pulled the car parallel to the backstage door and away from the view of the street. She turned off the ignition and opened the stage door with a wave of her hand. Opening the back door by Dean’s feet, she addressed the doctor. “Help me get him inside.”

“Dean, can you hear me?” Rania tried to rouse him. His eyes were closed again and his chest rose and fell rapidly with each breath. Rania examined his fingers. They were covered in paint, but she could still see that the nail beds were dusky. Something wasn’t right, his heart rate was far too fast. “Leana, please. Listen to me. Something’s wrong. I told you he was too weak for this.”

“Help me get him inside or I’ll mute you and leave you stuck to this seat, I swear I will,” Leana warned. She’d had all she could take of the doctor, but at the same time, she felt the bite of fear as she watched Dean’s chest heaving rapidly. She just had to get him inside and clear her head long enough to be able to think of what to do.

“All right,” Rania said. “Just be careful with him.” Leana gently pulled Dean’s legs while Rania slid along supporting his head and back. She looked at Leana bitterly but complied for Dean’s sake. He’d be without any viable assistance if she were glued to the seat of a car.

Together the two struggled to get Dean inside. Rania was a very slight woman and she was trying to keep Dean’s torso off the floor. As they worked their way over the stage toward the stairs by the proscenium, Dean started to wake up and struggle against them.

“Put him down. Put him down!” Rania said losing her grip on him. As she struggled to get Dean on the floor without hurting him, she felt her cell phone in her pocket snap shut, breaking whatever connection she had achieved with Sam. She just hoped that he had picked up and that he had been able to hear where they were. She couldn’t spare anymore thought for it, though. “Dean,” she said as he looked around in complete confusion. He looked from Rania to Leana trying to catch his breath. “Dean, look at me,” she said reaching for his wrist to check his pulse. Disoriented and fearful, he tried to pull away. He didn’t appear to recognize the doctor at all. “It’s OK, Dean. You’re safe,” she assured him and went to take his pulse again, but he cried out and tried to scramble away.

“Dean,” Leana said. “I’ve got you.” She caught him as he started to crab away, and held him firm against her breast. “Come on, Dean, now breathe with me, nice and slow, OK?” she said again soothingly.

Rania listened as Leana began to sing strangely in his ear, a bizarre combination of soft, sensual musical fluctuations. He relaxed into her and shut his eyes, but his breathing continued in triple time. “What are you doing to him?” she asked.

Leana didn’t answer. All of her attention was on Dean. She was able to tangibly perceive his physical distress, feeling it without being directly affected by it. She didn’t need the doctor to tell her that his condition was grave. This couldn’t be happening. She needed more time. Dean kept gasping as she tried to sing it away. She knew that helping him this way would take far more time than she felt Dean had. It took over a day to fix him last time and he hadn’t been hurt nearly as badly as he was now. Leana could feel him dying in her arms. He didn’t have enough life left to combat whatever complication he’d developed. This was her fault—her responsibility. She’d taken too much from him. She squeezed her eyes tight as she continued singing to him. Everything was unraveling, and if she could just make this go away they’d both be able to enjoy their lives. It wasn’t fair. She didn’t want to lose what she had found in him. They’d come so far together.

“Leana,” Rania said slow and deliberately. “Listen to me, I’m begging you. Dean’s in serious trouble right now. If we can’t get his heart-rate under control, he’s going to go into cardiac arrest. Do you understand what I’m saying?” She reached for Dean but he shrunk away from her touch and continued to clutch his Muse. “I need you to tell him to listen to me and let me help him.” Leana continued to sing softly. Rania watched the two rocking together to see if Leana could have any affect at all, but Dean continued to wheeze in distress, and she could see his pulse fluttering in his neck. Rania looked at Leana and tried a different approach. “Leana, you came all the way to the hospital to try and get him some help. I know you care about him. I know you don’t want him to die. But if we don’t get his heart beating properly again, that’s what’s going to happen. Tell him to let me help him.”

Leana looked at Rania with agony in her eyes and then bent down to Dean and whispered in his ear for a moment. “The doctor wants to help you, Dean. It’s all right,” she said aloud.

Rania came close again.  “Dean, can you hear me?” she asked taking his hand.  He nodded a little as he struggled for each breath.  Rania shook her head after taking his pulse, not liking what she found.  She bent down and placed her ear right over his heart and grimaced.  “Oh, fuck me,” she said in horror.  She sat back up and regarded Dean.  “Dean, OK, now I want you to cough for me. A big cough, from right down here,” she said pressing his diaphragm. She demonstrated by coughing harshly. “Like that,” she said. He produced a weak and feeble version. Rania challenged him. “Come on, Dean, you can do better than that. A big cough, now.” He tried again with better success. “Good. Keep doing that for a moment or two.” Dean kept coughing. Rania kept her hand on his wrist, monitoring his pulse as he coughed.

“What’s wrong with him?” Leana asked.

“He was in no condition to undergo ECT.  The shock affected his heart’s rhythm and it’s caused a complication called ventricular tachycardia.”  Rania stopped short at Leana’s vacant stare.  “An irregular heartbeat,” she explained.  “If it’s not treated, which, by the way, we could have done at the hospital,” she said eying daggers at Leana.  “If it’s not treated, it is a life threatening condition.  I’m trying to get his heart back into its proper rhythm, but if he goes into V-FIB he’s not going to make it without defibrillation.”  She turned to Dean who was still breathing rapidly. “Dean, now I want you to try something else. Dean, look at me.” Dean’s eyes wandered slowly from Leana to Rania. “I’m going to sit you up a bit and I want you to bear down, like you are going to the bathroom.” Dean, despite his confusion and physical distress, still managed to give her a classic WTF?-look. “I know,” Rania said. “It’s weird, just do it anyway. Here we go.” She supported Dean and got him into a sitting position. She demonstrated again by holding her diaphragm and squeezing. She had Dean mimic her. “Good, again,” Rania prompted. “Keep doing…” She didn’t get a chance to finish, because they were suddenly flooded in bright light. Someone had turned on the stage lights. Rania glanced around, but the light shining directly on her made it too difficult to see anything beyond the apron of the stage.

Leana, however, didn’t need her eyes to perceive who the intruder was. She looked up and sighed. “Sammy.”

Sam slowly approached the stage. “Get away from him, bitch,” Sam said from darkness that edged the orchestra pit.

“Sammy, you got this all wrong,” she said. With a wave of her hand the house lights came up to full and Sam was revealed standing firm, legs slightly parted. His expression was set and lethal. A dagger glinted in his hand.

“Don’t be stupid, Sam,” Leana said. “You can’t hurt me.” Without warning the dagger flew out of Sam’s grasp and into Leana’s upraised hand.” She studied the blade. “Silver? Nice,” she said. She turned to Cleo who had seen Dean on the stage floor and had come barreling to the rescue. “Stay put,” she said to her. Cleo stopped cold, unable to move her feet from the floor. “Sorry,” Leana said. “I need some time to think for fuck’s sake.” She held her hand out toward Sam who had come up the other stairway and was now just a few paces away. “Easy tiger,” she warned. “You stay put, too, Sammy.”

“Don’t fucking call me that,” he spat as he fought against the force that held him firmly to the floor. “What did you do to Dean?” he asked looking at his brother who had tipped over onto his side and was moaning lightly with each gasp of air he tried to suck in. Rania put her attention back on him and tried to lay him flat so that his airway was unobstructed.

Rania looked at Sam helplessly. “We need a hospital right now. He’s not going to make it if we don’t have a defibrillator. Leana had me perform ECT without any anesthetic or relaxant. He was dehydrated, weak and in no condition to be put through it. I tried to tell her. He’s in VTAC, and we’re running out of time,” she said as Sam’s face went from horrified to outrage as Rania spoke. “Sam, we don’t have much time,” she said again with a tremor to her voice.

Before Sam could react, Leana threw her hands up. “Everyone shut up!” she screamed. “Just shut up,” she practically sobbed. No one made a sound. No one could. Cleo put her hand to her mouth in surprise. There was something she was desperately trying to say, but nothing was coming out. She started motioning with her arms, waving them at Dean and then up toward the exit.

“None of you understand. I had to do it. He’d have died without it. I’m trying to save him,” she sighed and her shoulders fell. “I’m trying to save us both.” She quieted and went to Dean. Rania was bent down with her ear to his chest trying to listen to his heartbeat. Rania grabbed Leana’s hand and pointed to his chest trying to tell her that it wasn’t good. She knew that, though. Dean’s heart was breaking. Three thousand years and it was all coming down to this moment, every artist she’d ever touched, every life she’d maimed and brutalized, every soul she’d tortured into being her thrall. She was beyond redemption, she knew that. She wasn’t seeking it, she was just seeking one pinprick of light to unsully the complete blackness of her life. He would not die because of her. He was her responsibility. She would look out for him, watch over him. She would take care of this. Period. She stole one more quiet moment as she softly stroked Dean’s head.

“Well…shit,” she said with rueful resignation. “I’m sorry. I know we should have stayed at the hospital. I thought it would be like last time. I thought that I would have time to fix you, that you would be all right. I was just trying to get you to stop bleeding into me.” She looked at Dean for a moment and then softly shrugged, making some internal decision. She began shivering slightly. A tear fell from her eye and she knelt over Dean and put her head to his heart, listening. He had only minutes left, she could feel it. She pulled him away from Rania, leaving her stuck to the floor several paces away. She wanted to get away from everyone and spend just a few last moments with him. “I’m sorry, Dean. I didn’t mean for this to happen to you. I guess I make a shitty protagonist, huh?” she smiled grimly. “I wanted to be a big goddamned hero or something, but three thousand years can’t be undone all in a day, I guess, right?”

It was utterly silent in the hall except for Dean’s gasps. He looked at her sadly through heavy lids. His chest continued to heave in its struggle and his lips were a dusty blue. She sat up but remained poised over him. “I really did want to save us both. I wish I had been given the time to try and think everything through. I’m sorry, Dean,” her voice hitched and more tears fell.

Dean weakly reached up and touched her cheek, trying to tell her it was all right. He couldn’t get any words out but his face spoke his compassion and understanding and acceptance. Sam was completely horrified by what he saw. Dean was trying to comfort the very person who was killing him. He’d never felt so violated in his entire life, seeing Dean’s look at her like that. Sam struggled against the force holding him to the floor, his own chest rising and falling rapidly in terror and in loathing.

Leana couldn’t hold back her sobs. “Don’t do that, Dean. Don’t tell me goodbye like that. Don’t tell me you forgive me. Don’t tell me it’s all right. What I did was horrible. I know that, now. But I’m going to make this right. I promise.” She wiped the tears off her face and sighed. “Thank you, Dean. Thank you so much for what you’ve given me.” She buried her face in his chest and sobbed. He put his hand on her head and tried to say something. He tried a couple of times, but his breath was coming in quicker hitches and all he could do was shake his head back and forth negatively. Leana sat up and laughed despite her tears and pulled him close against her heart. He looked at her with pleading eyes. “You’re just saying that because I compelled you,” she ran her fingers through his hair. “I don’t want it to end this way, either,” she said. “Believe me. This is the only way,” she said. “I don’t regret it,” she assured him. She picked up Sam’s knife and put it in Dean’s hands. His eyes went wide, finally understanding her intent. He shook his head again. “Yes,” she said and helped him hold the dagger, guiding his hands up to her heart. “We’ll take it slow. I’m going to need just enough time to give back your gift. I want you to know that it meant the world to me.”

She looked at Sam. “I’m going to free you, but you cannot touch us until the transfer is complete, Sammy. I need you to promise me. This is to protect him, not me. Do you understand?” Sam was beginning to get the picture, as unbelievable as it was. He nodded. Leana released him. “And Sammy, after the transfer, if there is anything left, it won’t be good. You’re going to have to do whatever necessary in order to hold it back until this is finished. You got that?”

He cleared his throat and coughed. “Yes,” he said quietly.

“OK,” Leana said. She looked at Dean, her face serene and peaceful. Pure devotion filled her eyes as they swept over him. “If I change, please remember me like this forever, OK? This is who I wanted to be. I was happiest like this. Truly.” She leaned into the dagger, allowing it to penetrate. She winced and shuddered but pressed closer and closer toward Dean, using the force of her own bodyweight to slide down the blade. She had to hold his hands steady because he tried to break free. When her chest met the hilt, she kissed Dean and let out a wet gasp of pain and sorrow. Dean’s struggle for breath became even greater the more agitated and distressed he became. He tried to break free in order to pull the knife away, but there was no strength to his limbs. “It’s OK,” she gasped. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” Blood started flowing around the hilt. She looked at the wound and watched her blood flow, trying to time things just right. She held onto Dean, gripping him tightly. Pulling him up close to her until his head rested against her shoulder, she turned into his ear and started to sing.

The song began as a haunting murmur but slowly grew in volume. Sam watched as a glowing blue aura began to flicker around Leana. It seemed alive, pulsing and rippling as if with independent thought. Rainbow colored vortices stirred and convoluted themselves into patterns so intricate that they bewildered the eye. The vibrancy and intensity of the aura grew along with the volume of the Muse’s melody. Suddenly the song changed in tempo and tone and both the aura and Dean started to react. He jerked as the blue aura collected in a kind of bottleneck between Leana and Dean and then quite abruptly it spilled forth, becoming a river of oscillating light that poured over him like liquid stained glass. Fractal after fractal, theme after theme, gushed into him. His back arched and his chest continued to heave. The blue light surrounded him, lapped against him, shrouded him entirely. Dean started to glow brightly while the light around Leana began to diminish. Yet she kept on singing clear and strong, holding Dean as he bucked and quaked with the onslaught of his own life flowing back into him.

Leana also began to shiver and seethe with spasms as his force and influence left her. As the last of the blue fractals fell from her, the light in her died entirely. Only a tinge of pulsing blue could be seen as her skin caught the reflection of Dean’s aureole. She released a blood curdling scream and fell to the floor, taking Dean along with her. The magic that held the other two women to the floor faltered and Rania and Cleo were both released from where they were being held, but both stayed rooted in shock and awe as they watched Dean’s blue life-force fuse with its owner and seemingly dissipate as it melted into him.

Leana moaned and felt for the hilt of the dagger that was sticking out of her chest. She laid there blinking slowly for a few seconds and then reaching up she pulled the dagger from her chest with a guttural growl of pain and hatred. She rose to her knees and balanced herself as she bled profusely. She dabbed at blood that was dripping from her mouth and looked down at her chest as though to assess the damage. Sam started to approach her, but Leana grasped Dean by the hair and, with a sudden snarl, she pulled him up and held the knife against his throat. Dean was completely pliant in her arms and she turned him to face her. His lids were slightly open, but the eyes were completely vacant. They looked right through her, unseeing. She regarded him with unfathomable hatred, and when she spat her blood in his face, there was no reflexive movement from him at all.

“Oh Dean,” the succubus seethed with a bloody smile. “I don’t know how you ever made it this far in life with that attitude.” She adjusted him in her arms and pulled him against her and spoke in his ear. “Shall we make this a proper dramatic tragedy?” she mocked and pretended to wait for his answer. “How about we see who bleeds out first,” she hissed. Her eyes were baleful and completely devoid of humanity. The Dark Muse poised the knife over his heart and raised it to plunge it deep when three shots rang out. The first bullet hit the hand holding the knife, and she dropped both the dagger and Dean in surprise. The other two struck her in the chest, propelling her backwards. She sprawled on her back several feet away. Sam lowered his weapon and swept up the knife as he ran to her.

It took her a moment to get enough energy to speak. She winced as Sam bore down on her with the knife, but she remained all bravado as she grabbed his wrist and fended off his attack. “Bullets kind of tickled, there, Sammy,” the Dark Muse said as blood oozed from her mouth. A ghastly smile split her face and she reached up with her other hand and gripped Sam by the throat. “Your precious brother,” she rolled her eyes. “He loves you so, so much.” She gripped his neck tighter. “Do you see what he did to me? Three thousand years on this earth and he ruined me.” Sam struggled and grabbed at her hand that was squeezing him. “That was all him, Sam, and the only comfort I take is the knowledge that he will poison himself the same way he did me. He’s toxic. He’ll ruin himself. Mark my words.” Her eyes gleamed with sadistic pleasure as she watched her words sink in. She squeezed his neck fiercely even as she began to choke on her own blood. Sam started to gasp for breath, trying to drive the dagger downward. “Oh Sammy,” she said looking him over and fawning as she gurgled and coughed. “You’re so shiny with your gold.  Let’s make beautiful music together,” she released a chaotic, blood splattered laugh and gripped him tighter.

At first Sam thought he was losing consciousness when halos and auras began to surround everything. He strove to break her grip on his neck. Looking wildly around, he saw Rania and Cleo behind him suddenly swathed in effervescent turquoise and blinding white as they bent over Dean’s royal blue. He looked at Leana who gave him a perverted smile and twitched as she tried to reach her other hand up to draw him closer to her. There was a swell of sudden music that caused all the lights to shimmer and ripple. He could see the sunrise gold of his own aura pulsate and swirl with sparkling drops of pure crystal light as he reached up and desperately grabbed the dagger in her hand.

“You belong to me, now,” the Dark Muse gurgled with a blood speckled smile.

Sam tightened his grip on her wrist. “Good. Then that means I can do this,” he wrenched out. Combining all of his strength and bodyweight, he forced the knife downward, breaking her elbow as it descended and struck her in the heart. Her eyes shot wide and her body flailed as he twisted the knife repeatedly. He continued until she stilled entirely and her eyes dimmed. As he retrieved the blade, the music and lights began to fade and his perceptions returned to normal. Sam watched as her body turned gray and all three thousand years were suddenly revealed. Her eyes fell into her skull and her jaw unhinged and collapsed against her neck. The muse’s skin clung precariously to her desiccated body. Sam shook his head as the music subsided completely.

The sound was gone. The only thing that he could hear was Rania intoning a strange chant just behind him. Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty—breathe! Sam spun around and watched Rania as she resumed chest compressions on his brother’s lifeless body.

“Dean!” he shouted and fell in a skid by his brother’s head.  “No!  Don’t you dare leave me, Dean!  Don’t you dare do this!

“Sam, dial 911,” Rania said between counts. “We need a defibrillator. Goddamn it,” she said shaking her head in helpless frustration. She continued her count.

Cleo sprung to life. “That’s what I was trying to say earlier, but Leana stopped me,” she panted. She got up and started down the stairs. “This is a County owned building. There’s an automated defibrillator located at the box-office.” She started to head up the aisle, but Sam was already sprinting past. She heard some glass break as Sam got into the box-office the quickest way he could. Before Cleo could get up there, Sam was already sprinting back with the machine. He barreled onto the stage and started fumbling with the equipment.

“I’ve got this,” Rania said taking the defibrillator from him. “Take over a moment, Sam,” Rania said as she checked the battery in the machine and opened it up, taking out the pads. A recorded voice began speaking, giving instructions on what to do, but Rania was two steps ahead the whole way, pulling Dean’s shirt off and applying the pads to his upper and lower chest.

“Do you need me to do anything?” Sam asked breathlessly.

“No, the machine will read his heart-rate and apply any necessary charge based upon the reading.” Rania moved clear and pulled Sam away. “Stay clear,” she warned. The machine’s voice gave the same warning and applied the charge. Dean’s body jerked. The voice of the machine advised them to begin CPR. Rania watched the machine and began the compressions again, and Sam remained at Dean’s head to give the two breaths. Again the machine warned them to stand clear as it analyzed his heart rhythm and again it warned of an impending shock. Sam held his breath and willed it to work. There was a split second of hope as the machine analyzed, but it merely told them to continue CPR.

“How many times can we do this?” Sam said horrified as his brother jerked from the shock and they resumed CPR. Sam kept his brother’s ashen face tilted to keep the airway open and blew two breaths.

“As many times as he needs. We’re working against the clock, though. It’s already been a few minutes that he’s been in VFIB. He’s had two shocks already, we’re coming up on our third,” she said, her face and lips set with determination. “Come on, Dean,” she said. The machine whirred and a sterile, uncaring woman’s voice told them: Do not touch the patient. Analyzing heart rhythm. Do not touch the patient. Shock advised. Stand clear. Shock will be delivered in 3…2…1. Shock delivered. Sam watched his brother jerk with the third charge, and the voice went back to her monotone instructions: Analyzing heart rhythm. It is safe to touch the patient. Begin CPR now. Rania and Sam changed positions and Sam started compressions.

Cleo had the cell phone to her ear. “They’re on their way,” she said as she watched them, her face pale and devastated. Tears glittered in her eyes.

The click of another reading came from the machine as an anguished silence descended on the three onlookers. The monotone voice of the machine announced the fourth incoming charge: Do not touch the patient. Shock advised. Stand clear. Shock will be delivered in 3…2…1…

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