The usual disclaimers apply. Not making money from this. Wish we were ... characters do not belong to us!


by Kaz

Missing scenes for Murder Can Be Contagious - Jesse gave Mark the idea that the backpack Eddie had been carrying might hold more of a clue to the mystery than its contents. Mark has just phoned Steve to ask for photos of the RZ1765 development team…

Mark set the phone's handset back in its cradle and began to pace up and down in front of the fireplace like the caged animal he currently was. Grim determination that they could figure out Lyndstrom's partner in this, the most heinous of crimes, and retrieve the stolen vials was set on his face, but fear was gripping his heart. Every second that ticked by was one they could ill-afford to lose in this particular quest. The aging doctor, who, for once, was feeling the ravages of every year, glanced down at Jesse where he was stretched out along the old, leather couch. Despite the icy claw raking his insides at the dire situation Mark couldn't help but grin at the sight. Jesse's tousled head rested against one arm-pillow, but his feet didn't quite make it to the other end. Steve must have been all of about twelve when he'd occupied the same space, Mark thought, and he found it odd how he never really regarded Jesse as small, although on some level he must have noticed it. The young doctor's boundless enthusiasm and energy more than made up for his lack of height.

Jesse's eyes were closed but Mark didn't think that slumber had encompassed him. The rapid panting of the fever-riddled form was far too forced to be any likely breathing associated with sleep. He should probably have insisted on Jesse being in bed, but that would have been tantamount to an admission of defeat - all the while he was in the lounge they could play-down the seriousness and progression of his illness by keeping him involved in the investigation, and hadn't he just come up trumps by pointing Mark in the direction of the backpack itself being instrumental in identifying the culprit?

Tenderly, he reached out a hand and gently cupped the young man's too-hot cheek. 'I'm not giving up yet, Jess. Don't you, either,' he thought, willing telepathy to pass the sentiment between them, because it was getting harder to actually keep saying those words, or similar, without showing just how scared he really was. Jesse leaned into his palm, accepting the small gesture of comfort. The almost-childlike response made Mark simultaneously smile with fond amusement and grieve at what the young man's parents had deprived him of, and he suddenly understood why Jesse was always so eager to please those around him - subconsciously he was seeking attention. There was no doubt in Mark's mind that, given the chance, Jesse would forgive his parents for their respective selfish life-choices. But if Jesse's comments were anything to go by, such a day was a long way off. It was their loss. Meanwhile, Mark would gladly soak up the advantages of having Jesse's compassionate soul as a surrogate son, while Steve would continue regarding him as the younger brother he'd never had. He hoped he had not dented the younger doctor's faith in his seemingly idyllic family-life by his confession of having a daughter he had never before mentioned. Although her choice in partners left a lot to be desired, there was no doubt in Mark's mind that Carol would have liked Jesse. But then, didn't everyone?

Telling the other man about Carol had been the lesser revelation of two brought to mind by Jesse's obvious heartache at his dad's remote behavior. Mark had kept a similar secret of his own for many years, but the wound of his own father's abrupt departure from his life was as raw now as the day Sloan senior had driven off to New York, and he didn't think he could bear the burden of opening it up, particularly when things were getting so tense.

Stretching the kinks from his back, he wandered out to the kitchen where he hoped he could pretend, even if just for a few moments, that he was simply fixing a couple of drinks for himself and his friend while enjoying an afternoon of amiable companionship. But the hoarse groan emanating from the seating area was enough to rob him of his fantasy. It seemed Jesse had waited until he was pretty much out of earshot before giving voice to his discomfort. Mark wished Jesse wouldn't try to hide how much he was hurting. He had noticed the tremors, the winces as each swallow pained his blistered throat, and how Jesse was trying to keep as still as possible so as not to give away the dreadful ache of every muscle. He checked his watch. It would normally be a little too soon for another dose of the highest strength of painkillers Mark kept in the house, but in the circumstances he felt the benefit of easing Jesse's febricity and obvious suffering outweighed any risk, especially given what he was facing. He would leave the decision up to Jesse, though. If he declined, Mark wouldn't force the medication upon him. Leastways, not yet…

Amanda's earlier call had knocked the stuffing from him. He had managed to convince himself that his long-distant vaccination against the original smallpox would somehow counter this new, synthetically generated strain, and that if nothing else, the injection of Jesse's infected blood into his own vein would buy his friend enough time while another batch of antigen was produced in record speed. It wasn't to be. He was as prone to the disease as Jesse, and he could only wonder why he had not yet succumbed to any of the symptoms, which had so quickly manifested in the younger man's body.

Listening to Jesse's increasingly labored breathing Mark poured some cranberry juice into two glasses, having rejected the orange as he felt it would further irritate his young friend's sore throat. He paused for a minute to look out of the window at the view he loved so much. The sun was glinting tantalizingly off the high waves, which were still curling into surfer's-dream rollers. That was where Jesse should be - riding the tide, toes gripped around the edge of his board, perfectly balanced in the battled with nature - not lying listlessly in the lounge with his immune system surrendering under the onslaught of a biological weapon.

There was no way to escape the awful truth - Jesse was dying. The Lyndscience biochemists had modified the smallpox virus into a one hundred percent effective lethal organism, and if the antigen couldn't be found soon it would be too late to administer it with any prospect of recovery from the fatal disease. Mark could only find a few things to regret as he too faced certain demise… that he wouldn't have more time with Steve - see him get married or provide him with grand-kids, that he had never reconciled his relationship with Carol, but perhaps the worst was that he couldn't save the young doctor who had brought so much life and vitality to the beach-house and Community General and whose effervescent personality seemingly touched everyone he came into contact with.

Mark steeled himself for what might lie ahead, picked up the glasses and headed back into the den. He managed to plaster another smile on his face, trying to hide his concern, and yet, he considered, perhaps it wasn't the right thing to do anymore. Jesse had revealed more of his family-life, or rather the absence of it, in the last couple of hours than he had in the year or so that they'd known him, and Mark was upset to realize that the young man had missed out on so much of the kind of love that he and Steve had always enjoyed. He was sure Jesse was aware of the affection Mark had for him, but up till now he wouldn't let his positive thinking and usual optimism be dented. He had been trying to convince Jesse not to give up on Amanda and Steve finding the cure, but maybe now they were past the time for the stiff-upper-lip style of dealing with such a dire situation. Maybe now, above all else, he should be showing his young friend exactly how much a part of his family he had become in their relatively short acquaintance. It wasn't going to be easy, though. Mark had comforted the sick and dying before, but rarely had he been called upon to do so with someone he cared about so deeply.

The fax machine was still idle and he glared at it accusatorially. What was taking Steve? Surely it didn't take that long to rustle up the personnel files of those involved with engineering murder on a massive scale at Lyndscience and feed them in? If he was capable of any selfishness, at that moment Mark wanted nothing more than for a pile of pictures to sort through, if he was to retain his sanity he desperately needed to be able to focus on solving this mystery, rather than the one simple, chilling fact... Jesse was running out of time.

As Mark sank onto the couch once more, Jesse stirred, his eyes opening a fraction. Perspiration beaded his face and the exposed part of his chest where the nasty rash was darkening menacingly and the pustules, which should have taken weeks to form, were already visible.

"I brought us some juice," Mark told him, once again conjuring up a brighter demeanor than he felt.

Jesse nodded and shifted weakly, trying to raise himself up a little, but his attempts were thwarted by his ailing body. He could barely lift his hand to take the drink and a sudden bout of shivering meant that any semblance of control over his movements was callously stripped away.

Gently, Mark eased one hand beneath the damp, blond head; lifting it just enough to connect the glass with Jesse's parched lips. The young man sipped the much-needed liquid slowly, but even so his breath hitched and a paroxysm of harsh coughs made the older man slam the drink down on the table and he drew Jesse up into a careful hug, supporting the debilitated frame as it rode out the convulsions. But even when the coughing abated, neither he nor Jesse released their hold. It didn't take much of Mark's incredible deductive reasoning to realize how much they both needed this familial embrace. Jesse was distraught with apologies, but Mark would not let him take the blame for their predicament. He desperately wanted to believe they could still win, but he couldn't let this precious life slip from him without letting Jesse know how much he cared. He tried to blink away the tears threatening to undo him completely, but one made a bid for freedom and rolled down his cheek only to be lost in Jesse's sweat-soaked hair.

It was at that moment the fax machine beeped into life and the first of a set of black and white photographs began to spew from it jaws. The answer had to be among them… for Mark did not know how he was going to cope with the utter desolation Jesse's untimely death would bestow upon him, even if it would only be for a few short hours until his own body submitted to a similar fate.


Jesse couldn't hold back the expression of his torment any longer, but he still tried to keep the groan as quiet as possible because he didn't want to alarm Mark. He'd caused his mentor enough grief already. His whole body ached. The fact that he could recite the latin names of each and every one of the muscles in his body was not something he could currently revel in given that they were all in conspiracy to persistently torture him. Even his hair hurt.

The young doctor was used to functioning on the edge of exhaustion, but he had never felt so ill, so completely wasted. His temperature was dangerously high and the accompanying chills and sweats were alternately plaguing him, while his head throbbed worse than any fraternity hangover he could recall.

Only sleep might spare him his discomfort, but it wouldn't come. Jesse wasn't surprised however, because he doubted anyone would find it easy to doze off when there was the distinct possibility they might never wake up again.

There was another reason for his anxiety… Mark. He still couldn't believe the older man had injected the infected blood into himself. It was an act of pure selflessness and he felt humbled to be the cause of it. Jesse had determined there and then to hang on as long as he could to prove he was worth that deed. And if the worst happened, and Mark also fell victim to the disease, he hoped he might be of some help, assuming he lived to see it. Although a part of him didn't want to, especially knowing it was his fault. He had brought Eddie to the beach house in the first place. But he couldn't have left the ill man on the shore and not once had Mark blamed him for that compassion, as irresponsible as it now seemed.

Another shiver raced down his spine sending shock waves coursing through his beleaguered limbs, and he wondered how much time he might have left. Jesse was certain Steve and Amanda would be doing everything they could to track down the missing antigen, or manufacture a new batch in double-quick time, but he was beginning to lose faith in Mark's conviction that they would beat this crisis. His mentor was always unfailingly optimistic, and usually Jesse followed that lead without question, but his body was weakening and taking his spirit with it.

He didn't know why he had hit Mark with the story of his family ineptitudes. Maybe it was the prospect of being so close to death, for he usually kept his emotions to himself. Jesse wanted Mark to respect him for his abilities, not pity him for the sorry excuse of an upbringing. And it wasn't as if he'd had it particularly tough. He'd never wanted for anything, there had just never been anyone around to enjoy it with, unless you counted the paid help, and that wasn't exactly the same thing. It was the main reason he valued being accepted into Mark's home. He was there because they wanted it, but it had taken a while for him to truly accept that they really liked having him around. He had, at first, believed he was merely a convenient substitute for Mark's previous protégé, Jack Stewart. Now though, he seemed to have carved his own niche in the Sloan's extended family and he couldn't have been happier.

It had been such a shock when Mark had revealed the photo of his estranged daughter. While his friend had not elucidated on the details of their alienation, Jesse had already reached a conclusion - rightly or wrongly - that it must be entirely the woman's fault. The Mark Sloan he knew would not discard his offspring, no matter what the problem.

When Mark returned shortly with some drinks, Jesse tried to lever himself up to take it, but he had no strength and his hands were trembling too hard to risk taking the glass. Not wanting to display the extent of his deterioration, he considered declining the juice, but he was desperately thirsty. Quelling his embarrassment, he let the older man hold it for him. The cool liquid ran into his mouth, but swallowing turned out to be a huge mistake. He thought the coughs would tear his throat apart. And then there were arms around him, holding tight, one strong hand massaging his back, expertly soothing the spasms of his ribcage. Jesse virtually collapsed into the embrace as the fit subsided. "I'm sorry," he sobbed into Mark's shoulder. "I'm so sorry."

"Now stop that right now, young man," his friend said, the voice firm but kind.

"But I brought Eddie here, and you… my blood… knowing…" Jesse couldn't say it all. Every word hammered home the death-sentence he'd inflicted upon Mark.

"If you'd called an ambulance and taken Eddie to hospital, there would be a whole lot more people in danger right now. I would have done exactly the same thing. As for the blood, Jess, I had to take that chance, and like I said if it turned out my previous vaccination was ineffective the only difference that injection might make is a few hours. I'd already been in contact with Eddie."

Rallying a little at Mark's acceptance of the situation, Jesse allowed himself to savor the warmth of the hug Mark still held him in. For the first time in years he felt loved, the kind of unconditional love only parents have for their children. Perhaps the day hadn't turned out so bad after all.

The fax machine started to print pictures, and as Mark pulled away to retrieve them Jesse thought he saw the older man surreptitiously wipe his eyes. He attempted to conjure up some enthusiasm as he flicked through the pages Mark handed him, but there were too many that could be suspects. They would never figure out which one it was in time. As what he thought was his last chance faded away, he could feel his fever beginning to spike again. The aches were getting worse. It felt like someone was drilling into him with a blunt bit. He shifted uncomfortably on the couch and tried to concentrate on what Mark was saying. He managed to follow his friend's reasoning, but it was getting harder to think.

Lyndstrom's partner was Peter? The guy had the audacity to come into Mark's home, knowing what he had done, knowing he'd condemned innocent people to death because of his greed. Mark was excited to have reached a logical conclusion, but all Jesse could think of was whether he could remember how to breathe. His heart was fluttering unhealthily, and his temperature had to be off the scale by now but he couldn't stop shivering. Darkness was closing in from around the edges of his vision, and no effort on his part could push it back. Mark's voice became a distant echo, the words becoming incomprehensible.

This was it, Jesse thought hardly amused at the irony - he was going to die, just when there was a glimmer of salvation. Jesse gasped, his head lolling back on the cushion. His last conscious thought was to hope Steve and Amanda could get Peter to lead them to the antigen in time to save Mark.


Amanda ran through the plan in her mind for the umpteenth time. This had to work. She had to make it work. Mark and Jesse's lives were at stake. Meeting up with Peter at the gates leading to the beach house's front door, it took much of her resolve not to simply strangle the man on the spot. He hadn't given the slightest clue as to his real involvement in all this, and she hated herself for not having spotted his subterfuge.

Mark let them in and a dagger of dread speared through her when he told them Jesse was unconscious. Her dear, sweet Jesse. The young man infuriated her at times and she was sure he often did it on purpose, just to get her to let off steam. But she loved him. She wouldn't have believed anyone could fill the gaping hole Jack Stewart had left in their crime-busting team when he'd moved to Colorado. Jesse had, and then some, and of course there would always be an extra special place for him in her heart as he had delivered her baby. She couldn't fail him now.

At the back of her mind she was worried about Mark, too. But he was showing no symptoms yet, and therefore they would probably have another few hours to try and do something for him if this, god forbid, didn't work. Jesse, on the other hand…

The beautiful pathologist had performed the autopsy on Eddie. She'd seen the devastation done to his internal organs, and calculated it must have taken some time for the damage to incur death. Was Jesse entering that phase of the disease? Even if they got the antigen into him soon it would be a while before the cure began to knock back the attack by the bio-weapon, and if the virus had progressed too far a complete recovery could not be assured. They might well have to face the fact that even if Jesse survived, he would not be able to work. She couldn't imagine Community General without the young doctor dashing around the ER. At first glance he gave the impression of a fresh-out-of-college med-student, well-meaning albeit a little clumsy; but when those life-or-death cases came crashing through the doors, you couldn't be in better hands. He was cool, calm and professional to a fault, knew every routine in the book and had made up a few of his own. He would stop at nothing to ensure his patients had the very best of care.

But it wasn't just the hospital that would suffer his loss. Amanda missed Jesse's dazzling smile already, and he'd only been unconscious for fifteen minutes. She couldn't bear to think of how dull her life would seem if he were not a part of it. She loved Colin of course, adored CJ - even if she hadn't had more than four hours sleep in a row since he'd come into the world, and regarded Mark and Steve as her own family, but Jesse was special in an indescribable kind of way.

Amanda approached the couch with trepidation, fighting back the tears again, and with a little more success than her earlier visit. She was on a mission and it gave her somewhere to focus her attention other than how frail and vulnerable Jesse appeared, his light tan marred by fever reddened cheeks and the ominous rash. She gently untangled his arm from the sheet and pretended to draw blood, hoping Peter wouldn't spot her deception. It was now or never…


Steve jumped when the phone rang again. He was beginning to hate that sound, fearing the news it might bring - that his dad was showing the first signs of illness, or that Jesse was nearing the last. Mark wasn't certain what Jesse's lapse into unconsciousness meant just yet, his priority had been to initiate the acquisition of the antigen. He said he would let Steve know what further examination revealed if their plot didn't work.

For the moment, Steve was just grateful to have something else to do. All the while Mark was alert and seemingly well, the detective could justify not being at the beach house. He really didn't want to see Jesse lying unconscious on the couch where they usually shared investigations, beers and laughs. Neither could he face the prospect that Mark would undoubtedly be the next victim. There was no way he could entrust this job to anyone else. His father's life depended on getting this right, and he could only hope Jesse could hang on long enough for his life to depend on it, too.

Once Amanda had successfully carried out her part in the proceedings, he followed Peter for the first few blocks to be sure of the direction he was heading and then flaunted his police-siren to take a quicker, if unorthodox route to the man's house. The detective drove like a demon, angry at everyone and everything. Well, almost. He wanted to feel angry with Jesse for putting his dad in this position, but he couldn't. Helping people was what Jesse did. The young doctor could no more have kept his nose out of this trouble than Steve had any hope of stopping the Earth from spinning. Besides, how could he blame Jesse when he knew for sure that his dad would have done exactly the same?

Peter careened into his garage and went straight for the stashed vials. It was what Mark had counted on when he'd hatched his plan, and Steve was relieved it had worked.

"Jesse gets it first. Then my father. Then… we'll see…" he told Peter, before the man could draw the syringe of antigen for himself.

If the choice was Steve's he wouldn't let him have it at all, or at least he'd make him sweat - waiting until the very last minute. Just like Jesse had been forced to endure. It was touch and go whether they would be in time to cure the young doctor at all. Steve had read the chapter on smallpox in that medical manual. He had digested how it wrecked internal organs and killed a fair percentage of those who caught it, but from what the engineers at Lyndscience had told him, many of the original disease's inefficiencies had been eradicated. Their manufactured virus was not designed to leave much leeway for survival.

Steve snapped the handcuffs on Peter while reluctantly reading him his rights. In Steve's mind the man didn't deserve any, but he had sworn to uphold the laws of the nation, and to treat him like the scum he was would have made Steve no better. Instead, he had to satisfy his rage by shoving Peter roughly into the back of his car. With far more respect than he'd shown for the sorry excuse of a human being, Steve carefully set the metal case with its vital contents down in the foot-well which was the safest place he could think of for the speedy drive back to his home. Then stamping his foot on the gas pedal, he willed his friend to hear his silent, heartfelt plea from across town, "Hang on, Jess, I'm coming! You can raid the fridge any time you like. Just hold on!"


The End

Return to Diagnosis Murder page

Return to Main page