ER
Things Change

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Things Change

Abby arrives at a seedy Iowa diner and finds Eric sitting alone, looking like a stereotypical trucker but without a giant beer gut or Corn Nuts in his beard. Eric peers up at her, then jumps up and hugs her. "I wasn't sure you'd come," he says gratefully. "I wasn't sure you'd be here," she admits. Her smile is loving and frightened, and a little repelled. The beard is really pretty bushy, and the layers of dirt are not so much endearing as thick. "So what's going on?" she asks uncomfortably, trying to stay bright. "Traveling, uh, you know, here and there, visiting old friends, just trying to reconnect, keep in touch," he attempts. Abby's face is still smiling but her eyes turn sad, because she knows he's most likely not reconnecting with anything but his disease, and certainly not with a shower. Eric spies a guy in another booth and frantically whispers, "Do you know that guy? Does he look familiar to you? Because he's been looking at me like he knows me. They all have been." Abby indulges him and determines that, no, she does not know him. She's uncomfortable with Eric's paranoia. "This is a weird place, isn't it I'm glad you came I got turned around I don't know this area well this is a strange part of the country," he babbles, eschewing breaths and any normal implied punctiation. Abby gently interrupts, "I'm ready to get out of here." Eric nods that he just needs to pay for his coffee. Then he scratches his chin and pathetically confesses, "I don't have any money." Abby just looks at him.

Elizabeth catches Romano cleaning his wound. "Don't tell me your HMO doesn't cover [that]," she cracks. "If you want something done right..." he sighs. She scolds him for his maverick behavior in the ER with Mrs. Reynolds, but allows that it was a good call at the time. Still, she says the drainage wasn't complete, so she's got to go back in and fix what they couldn't reach using the ultrasound. "Damn shame you didn't catch it the first time," he sniffs. "I'd have caught it if you'd let me," Elizabeth says, not unkindly. Again, I guess the implication is that Romano was so eager to boot people that nobody ran the right tests as a precursor to Elizabeth's consult. Who knows, though. They could be talking about the SARS. "Now she's more of a mess than if you'd done nothing," Elizabeth insists. Except that she's alive. Sitting down to tend to Romano's wound, as she so often does, Elizabeth asks how long it's been this bad. "Few days," he brushes it off. "More than a few, I'd guess," she murmurs. He lets off a little steam about the sheer number of doctors he's consulted, to no avail. "What's after that? Witchcraft? Magnets?" she asks. No, silly. Leeches. "I'll try anything at this point," he says. "At some point, maybe..." she begins, and then stops and stares at him, biting back words and unable to believe what she was about to say. "Say it," he urges her quietly. "At the point when the wound becomes life-threatening because of gangrene or sepsis, maybe it's in the patient's best interests to consider a...definite surgical cure," Romano says for her. Elizabeth can't speak, hampered by the fact that no one wrote her any more lines, and she can barely meet his eyes. Romano seems defeated. And not the least bit the worse for having been shit-kicked this time last week. Whatever.

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