Home > Beyond Just Us (Remington Medical #4)(8)

Beyond Just Us (Remington Medical #4)(8)
Author: Kimberly Kincaid

“Why don’t we take this one step at a time?” his buddy asked, intervening smoothly. Declan shouldn’t be shocked, really. Connor had always been laid back to the point that Leo and Elvis and Jonesy used to joke about checking to make sure he still had a pulse from time to time.

Declan’s own pulse jumped at the reminder of their unit-mates—the ones he’d been forced to leave behind without so much as a goodbye, thanks—and he slammed down on his unease, along with his expression, as he shrugged.

Connor must have heard the assent in both his and the doc’s silence, because he said, “We have to wait for Declan’s labs to come back to know exactly what we’re dealing with in this moment, right?”

“We do,” Tess said slowly.

“And he’s stable right now, so that’s another good thing. If it’s okay with you”—this, he aimed at Tess, and Declan could tell it wasn’t because he was trying to ease the situation. There was clearly trust there. Not to mention respect—“I can monitor him while we wait for the labs and Dr. Rosenthal’s consult. It’ll give Declan a chance to rest while his blood sugar continues to stabilize, and then we can go into this armed with more knowledge as we decide the next steps. Sound good?”

Tess’s look said Connor had pulled exactly nothing over on her, and yet, to Declan’s surprise, she lifted her hands. “Rest never hurts anything. I’ll have Young page Rosenthal for the consult and keep her eyes wide for the labs. But if anything changes, and I do mean anything, and the first thing you do isn’t to page me…”

“Understood,” Connor said. “If anything changes, you’ll be the first to know.”

“I’d better be.” Returning her gaze back to Declan’s, she lifted a brow and gave up a smile that was all promise.

“We’ll talk more later, Irish.”

Damn it, he was going to feel that smile for a month. “I’ve no doubt.”

He waited until Tess had exited the room and pulled the exam room door shut behind her before sliding a glance at Connor. “Is she always like this?”

“Nope,” he replied brightly, the big, goofy-ass grin that Declan knew so well and had missed just as hard flashing over his face. “She’s usually much worse.”

Why, why, why was that fierceness such a turn-on? “Good to know.”

“It’s also not really the point.” Connor’s grin disappeared as if it had never existed, emotion sticking between Declan’s ribs by way of his friend’s stare. “I know we don’t talk as much as we used to when we were active duty, but still. Two years, Dec? I can’t believe you didn’t say anything about this.”

Declan let a breath escape on a slow huff. He’d known the time would come for this conversation. That it was, in truth, overdue. He just hadn’t thought he’d be tethered to a fecking hospital bed when he and Connor got down to it.

“I know, and I didn’t mean to keep it from you on purpose, like a secret. But you were here across the country, livin’ yer own life. And for the first year and a half, things were manageable, y’know? Not really so bad. Not once I got a routine down, anyway.”

“Still serious enough that you were discharged from active duty early.”

Hell. Connor always did get right to the point. “A chronic medical condition makes you a weak link,” Declan said, the words somehow grinding past the knot in his throat. They were true, of course, and as desperate as he’d been to stay with the only family he’d known since his Ma had passed, he’d never, ever endanger his unit.

“It’s not your fault that you’re diabetic.” Connor straightened against his chair. “And it doesn’t make you weak.”

“Got me booted from the Air Force,” Declan returned, more bitterly than he’d intended. But really, what did it matter? The past was over. Done. He’d moved on, because he’d had to. “Anyway, I was okay for a while. Went back to LA, got in good with the VA there. My doc and my trainer got me into a good routine to stay as healthy as I could.”

“Wait.” Connor’s brows V’ed inward with thought. “The same trainer who hooked you up with the photographer who offered you your first modeling gig?”

Finally, a smile Declan didn’t have to work for. “Yeah.” Nic was a pit bull parading as a pussycat, but she’d been a good friend. At least, as much as he’d let her be. “The photographer’s another client of hers. Turns out, modeling’s great work once you build a knack for it. The shooting schedule’s pretty flexible, and I had to keep fit anyway. Might as well put it to good use.”

He was glossing over how hard it had been to get in front of the camera those first few times. How patient the photographer, Chris, had been, showing him how to pose and taking a billion shots just to get a precious few that worked. Most importantly, how he’d had to learn to make it all an act, so the camera never, ever exposed anything real.

Declan bit down on the thought and continued. “I started feeling off about six months ago. Thought maybe I was trainin’ too hard, but Nic shoveled my arse to Dr. Trufant’s. My endocrinologist at the VA,” he added. “She ran all the tests, and my right kidney functions were way lower than they’d been six months prior. She put me on different meds, those ACE inhibitors? Said they might help manage things for now, but…”

“Your left kidney can only carry you for so long,” Connor added on a curse. “Have you been on the transplant list since then?”

“Five months,” Declan said in agreement. “But Trufant told me that between trying to find a match and the fact that I’m young and healthier than most patients on the list—for now, anyway—I should expect to wait years.”

Years he wouldn’t have without dialysis. He might not be at risk of dying any time soon—at least, not from this, if the meds did what they could, for as long as they could—but the kidney disease was going to make him worse, day by day. By the time a kidney appeared, who knew if he’d even be healthy enough for a transplant.

If a kidney ever appeared at all.

All things Connor knew and was thinking, if the hard press of his mouth was anything to go by. “It’s not an ideal situation.”

“It’s a shite situation.” Declan’s laugh brooked zero joy, but it was better than the alternative.

Hope. Ha. What a fucking joke.

One his friend was apparently in on. “Yes, but it’s not an impossible situation. We just need a better solution, that’s all.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, my options are pretty limited,” Declan pointed out. Dr. Trufant was as good as they came, but even she’d had to admit that the meds and an eventual transplant were the best (read: only) shot he really had at living a normal life.

“Not necessarily.” Connor leaned forward, propping his forearms over his thighs as he speared Declan with an all-too-knowing look. “I think you should consider Dr. Michaelson’s suggestion to look into a trial. There are tons of new drugs and therapies being tested every year, and—”

“No.” The machine next to his gurney flashed with all sorts of numbers and upward lines, and damn it, Declan hated every ounce of this. “I just…it feels like an experiment,” he lied lamely.

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