Author: Sonja Jade
Word Count: 1568
Character(s): Dr. Knox, Maes Hughes
Summary: Dr. Knox gets a surprise one morning when he comes into work…
Warnings: Description of an autopsy being performed. Could squick people.
Author's Notes: Couldn’t get it out of my head, I have no excuse for it, sad as it is. I guess blame Discovery Health Channel, Dr. G and her influence…
***I don’t own the series Fullmetal Alchemist or the characters within***
The air outside was sweet, cool with the promise of sunshine a little later on, and as Dr. Knox stubbed his cigarette out he lamented that he’d have to be inside again on such a pretty day. He was always punctual, and by the time he’d put away his coat and brief case in his office, it was 8 a.m. on the dot, and he donned the backwards white coat, rubber gloves, and paper mask of his profession and began his day.
The morgue was generally a peaceful place for Knox: quiet, sterile, predictable (most times anyway), and nothing to trigger the memories of Ishval for the most part. Three bodies were in cold storage, the first one an easy suicide. Though the signs of death were obvious (purple and black bruising at the neck, evidence of rope fibers in the man’s skin, eyes bulging…), the police had asked for a full autopsy. The coroner picked up the gleaming stainless steel scalpel from a nearby tray and made the standard Y incision, flaying the deceased man’s skin open, then opening the chest cavity with bone snips and harvesting and weighing the organs. He wrote his findings out on a clipboard as the orderly stitched the body back up and phoned the funeral home that the poor man’s family had designated. After labeling some blood samples for toxicology, he went back to the bank of refrigerated compartments and hauled out the next body.
Dr. Knox tugged the sheet back and his jaw went slack. He blinked in disbelief and then checked the toe tag to be sure…
‘Hughes, Maes DOB 10-22-1885’
Knox sighed and slumped a little. He knew Maes very well; the man came by all the time to check on victims of cases he was working. They’d even gone to lunch a couple of times together at the bar on the corner. Despite the man’s annoyingly boisterous attitude about his wife and kid, he was an all around good guy, and a true professional when it came to his career in the Amestrian Military Investigations Department. Though they’d been in the same deployment in Ishval, they hadn’t really met until after they’d both returned to Central, and Knox would consider Hughes a friend, tough they had admittedly not socialized much outside of work. Knox gently pulled the sheet back over his friend’s face and called for Max to help get him onto the gurney.
As if he were wheeling the Führer himself to the autopsy room, Knox walked slowly and deliberately. Once he had the gurney positioned properly at the sink, he locked the wheels and pulled the sheet completely off. The clean hole in the Lt. Colonel’s left pectoral was clearly the cause of death, but there were other wounds too... The most obvious one was a devastating puncture wound at the right shoulder. It went clean through, as if he’d been impaled by an ice pick or something. No indication that the stab wound was made by a blade; serrated edge or otherwise. He almost thought it was a bullet wound from behind until he got a good look at the direction the muscle had been severed in. He rolled the body (dammit! This is Hughes!! Not just a body!!!) a little to the right so he could get a view of the exit wound, and was a little surprised when he didn’t find one. That meant the casing was still inside, likely lodged in the spine. Routine as it was, he hesitated to open him up… For the first time in a long time, Knox felt sick at having to open up the chest cavity.
He wiped nervous sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, and then covered the body quickly with the sheet. “Max!? I’m goin’ out for a smoke!” The bright sunshine and crisp autumn breeze did nothing to relieve the tension in the old doctor’s shoulders. Sure, he’d seen dozens of people he knew come through here. All of them were just acquaintances, people he’d met at some military function or just in everyday living, like the guy who ran the bait shop he frequented or the woman from whom he used to buy doughnuts. But Maes… He wasn’t an old man, he wasn’t involved in any shady business (the military would’ve known immediately about that), and he’d been blatantly murdered at close range. The man had a beautiful wife and a darling young daughter… This was his friend, and his life was not supposed to end like that. Nearly half a pack of cigarettes and thirty minutes later, Knox came back inside, unable to put off the examination any longer.
His heavy heart thudded achingly when the first cut of the incision was made, and heavy hands gently tugged the skin away. The intestines were removed, healthy and pale pink. The ribcage was snipped open, and the bullet hole was visible in the left lung. It, and its unharmed twin, were removed and weighed. The liver was removed and weighed, the stomach removed, dissected (ham and cheese on rye with lettuce and mustard, a dill pickle spear, and what smelled like coffee was found partially digested), emptied and weighed, as were the spleen and kidneys. All that was left inside was the heart, and upon visual observation, it appeared to have been neatly missed. However the left subclavian artery had been severed completely in two; Maes had bled to death. What blood was left had pooled in the bottoms of his thighs and buttocks, leaving the blue discoloration of hypostasis there. Knox followed the bullet’s trajectory to the spine, where the casing was gleaming between the T5 and T6 vertebrae. Both bones had been chipped and it took quite an effort to remove it from its place. The jostling caused Maes’ green eyes to slowly open.
“C’mon now, Hughes,” Knox said as he grabbed a folded sheet from the closet beside him and laid is gently over his friend’s face. “Don’t go scarin’ the piss out of an old man.” He finally removed the bullet, and placed it, unwashed, into an evidence baggie and laid it on the counter. He dissected the heart and found his arteries to have minimal plaque (everybody’s got a little) and in otherwise good condition… It was very apparent that the wounds consistent with the gunshot were what ended Maes’ life. If the bullet had missed that artery, Knox thought as he began to personally replace the sternum and “baseball” stitch the man up, Hughes might have lived, though his attacker might’ve simply shot him a second time… Come to think of it, did anyone know who shot him? Why he was shot? He lined up sample vials for various fluids and excised parts of organs for toxicology, packed and sutured the stab wound…
He pushed his glasses up his nose with the back of his hand and his assistant asked, “Do you want me to finish that for you? You look like you need a break.” Knox shook his head and concentrated on making the stitches look extra good, as if by giving him a proper sewing-up he could pay his respects in a way no one else could. When he was finished, he wiped the skin around the stitches clean and removed the sheet from Maes’ face. His eyes were half lidded, as if he was as worn out from the procedure as Knox was. The doctor took his glasses off, somehow thinking he should since Hughes didn’t have his on.
“I’m probably not far behind you, Hughes. Save me a barstool at the Pearly Gates Pub, I’ll bring the cigars.” The man on the slab didn’t laugh, didn’t blink, just laid there. An old wrinkled hand covered his cold face and slid his lids back down, and it was almost as if he gave a quiet sigh of appreciation. Max sauntered up beside him and gently touched his elbow.
“Dr. Knox? Why don’t you take a long lunch. I’ll take care of Mr. Hughes.” Knox gave a single nod and then slunk away, his hand instantly reaching for the smokes in his breast pocket. Such a shame. Such a crime. Another soldier gone, and there wasn’t anything that could be done about it.
He swung the back door open and sat down heavily on the ledge of a large, stone flowerbed full of orange and yellow mums. He lit his cigarette and sat quietly for a moment, lost in his thoughts and the flavor of a Buffalo Full Flavor. “If there’s a God listening…” Knox said as he took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. “If there’s a God out there, please let me get back to saving lives. Let me save a life instead of being the one to simply clean out their bodies.” The smoke from his half finished cigarette floated away on a fall wind, the promise of colder temperatures going with it. Knox took a deep breath and finished the smoke in a single drag and lit another as he walked slowly to the corner bar, where he knew a scraggly faced bartender would have an ice cold beer for him and the pretty girl in back would make him an open faced roast beef sandwich, just like they had the last time he’d been there… with Hughes.