Summary: What's been happening to Dave since we saw him last.
Rating: Umm PG-13
Disclaimer: Let me get one thing straight from the start. If I owned the characters that appear on ER, I would not be here writing fanfiction. I would be in my lovely Tuscan villa, drinking hibiscus juice with a certain Mr Palladino as my husband. But that's neither here nor there... only the character of Julia Carter is mine.
Author's Notes: Ummmm not a lot to say really. This is my first ER fic, so if there are any flamers out there please be gentle. And if I've gotten anything wrong, please don't yell, I haven't been watching the show since the beginning. Also contains teeny tiny spoiler about season 8, but you might not notice it. It's not that consequential *Hannah waits for thousands of people to say 'It's the most important thing ever to have happened in ER'*
Dave Malucci lay on the couch in the staff room, idly throwing a juggling ball up and down in the air.
He could afford to do that, since Kerry Weaver had seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth since her confrontation with Romano. Dave was wary of Kerry and her sharp tongue, but was pretty confident that he could handle all of the other doctors on duty that day if they happened to question him.
Or at least, he thought he could.
"Malucci! RTA in 3," came a yell from the doorway. His personal nemesis, Mark Greene, was there with an extremely irritated look on his face. "Do you ever do anything to help this hospital?"
"I provide comic relief," Dave offered, heaving himself off the sofa and following Greene outside.
"Provide physical relief to the kid in cubicle 3, and get on with your job for a change," Greene replied, and strode on while Dave entered the cubicle.
Sitting on the bed to face him was a tiny girl, who couldn't have been more than 5 years old. Her eyes were the first thing that struck Dave, dark brown, yet as illuminating as a bushbaby's.
"Hey there, little tiger," Dave said, bending down so he would be at eye level with the girl. "Can you tell me where it hurts?"
The girl pointed to her foot, which was reddened and swollen.
Abby Lockhart came in, gave a smile to the girl, and said to Dave quietly, "Can I see you outside for a minute?"
"I always knew it would come to this," Dave joked, but off Abby's look he wiped the smile off his face, said to the girl, "I'll be back before you know it," and let Abby drag him back into the hallway he had just left.
"Her name's Leah, she's seven years old, suspected fracture of the anklebone."
"Mom's hurt pretty bad, but she'll make it. No mention of the father."
"Okay..."Dave contemplated, then asked, "Anything else?"
"Yeah, but not to do with this case. Have you seen Luka at all today?" Abby enquired, biting her thumbnail.
"Nuh-huh. I think he and Greene swapped shifts. Why, is there trouble in paradise?"
"Get on with your job, Malucci," Abby scolded, then took her leave and disappeared around the corner. Dave looked after here for a while, then shrugged and turned back to treat Leah.
If he had turned his head the other way, he'd have seen a familiar face which would have shocked him to his core.
It hadn't been easy for her to track him down. After he'd qualified as a doctor, he'd left Grenada, and she'd never heard from him again.
She knew why he'd left so quickly. Dave was afraid that she knew too much about him, about his life. And when he'd finally opened up, he'd fled.
All she wanted to do was help.
But she was afraid that he'd hold on.
Elizabeth stepped out of the lift, tiny baby Ella in her arms. It was one of the first times she'd been back to the ER before the birth of her daughter, and it took time to get readjusted to the atmosphere.
She took a look around the waiting room. Haleh was at the main desk, trying in vain to calm down a man who had somehow put a fish hook through one of his fingers.
No sign of her husband, though. And she was worried about him.
Ever since Ella had made her way into the world, he'd seemed to be spending more time at work, instead of less. She knew it must be hard for him, watching his daughter whom he never thought he'd see come into the world. But it didn't deny the fact that she needed help bringing Ella up.
And if he forgot his glasses, she had to bring them in. Part and parcel of the job commonly known as 'being a wife'.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dave Malucci making his way out of a cubicle, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"Dave!" she called, quickening her pace to keep up with the young doctor. When he heard his name called, he stopped and turned to face his colleague.
"It's Elizabeth and the squirt! Can I hold her?"
"No, not today," Elizabeth said distractedly, failing to pick up the crestfallen look on Dave's face. "Have you seen Mark recently?"
"Yeah, he's around somewhere. Want me to give him a message?" dave told her, but his attention was abruptly diverted from Elizabeth when he realised who was standing in the corridor behind her.
"Actually, could you make sure he gets his glasses? He left them behind this morning." She freed one hand to hold the glasses out to Dave but he ignored them, his gaze still riveted behind her. "Dave? Glasses!"
With difficulty, he roused himself from his sudden trance. "Mark. Glasses. Yes." He took the glasses and slipped them into the pocket of his trousers.
"Make sure he gets them!" Elizabeth told him, before hurrying away. Ella was starting to get crotchety, and much as though she'd like to see everyone else back at work, it was best for the both of them to be at home when the onslaught of tears began.
Dave barely noticed or registered Elizabeth's departure.
How had Julia found him? He'd come to Chicago after Grenada, where he knew nobody and nobody knew him. He'd thrown away her telephone number, even though today he could still recite it off by heart.
Basically. he'd cut off all ties to both his lives before and after college, and that included everyone who knew about it. No-one who knew him before his qualification as a doctor would recognise him immediately. The quiet, almost shy child had transformed himself into someone who didn't dwell on the past.
He wouldn't let himself.
"Have you any idea how long it's taken me to track you down?" Julia asked only half-jokingly as both walked slowly towards each other.
At first Dave couldn't speak, but haltingly he found his voice. "That was kinda the gist of the plan."
She rolled her eyes, a gesture that didn't go with her almost Polynesian looks. "I should have guessed."
There was an awkward pause between them, where they both started to realise how much the other had changed, before Dave eventually said,
"Do you want to go and get something to drink?"
"That would be good," she said. "Are you sure you can afford to take a break?"
Dave shrugged. "I make my own rules these days."
They settled into a booth at Doc's, each armed with a cup of steaming coffee. Yet neither Dave nor Julia knew quite what to say next.
_Why is she here, and now?_ Dave thought widly, his thoughts racing all over the place while his expression remained neutral. _Just when I'm finally getting used to pretending that nothing's wrong. It took me a long time, but it's happening...
_And does she still have to look so gorgeous?_
_He's changed, that much is obvious. Still handsome... but that's irrevelant. I can't stay long... just came to make sure that he's okay, talking to someone..._
"Dave..." Despite her best intentions, Julia's voice was pleading.
"Don't say it, Jules," he muttered, slipping back to using his old affectionate nickname for her. "I know I should have let you know where I was. But can you blame me for going?"
"You can't run away from your problems forever," Julia reminded him. "And I don't want to be the only one you ever opened up to."
He'd known somewhere deep insie him that she wouldn't stay. He was supposed to be glad, right? After all, why would glamorous Julia Carter want to hang around in the waiting room of Chicago County just for him? A second year resident with more problems than most of his patients?
Except his were no longer physical. Just emotional.
"If you're not even staying, then why did you show up in the first place?" Dave demanded, the spite in his voice surprising them both. "There is such a thing as a telephone call, you know." His sudden anger was shortlived, and he stared at the mottled table, taking deep breaths. It wasn't her fault...
"Maybe it would have been easier. For the both of us," Julia admitted. "But we both know it isn't exactly a prime subject for a phone call. It's been two years, and I just want to know that you're okay."
"I'm fine," Dave answered. Noticing the dubious look on his ex-girlfriend's face, he held up his hands to defend himself. "What?"
"You may look passable on the outside," Julia said, allowing herself a small smile, "but have you gotten any help?"
The pause from the opposite side of the table told her all she needed to know. "It would be so much easier if-"
"If what? If I tell some complete stranger what it took me two years to tell you?" Dave asked. "And no-one else knows. Not even anyone at work. No-one."
Julia sighed. "Dave, a fully trained counsellor would be able to help you so much more than I could. I only took one year of pyschology, remember?"
"But they wouldn't care!" Dave hissed, fearful that some of the regulars he knew in here would overheard their conversation. "At the end of the day, all they'd care about would be the money I'd give them to line their wallets with. I need someone more than that!"
And there it was, Julia's first full glimpse of the old Dave since they'd met again. The barely-veiled desperation, the all-too-evident pain that he couldn't completely hide.
She thought she'd done a good job in starting to heal him. But in returning, she might have made the worst mistake of all.
"Is there no girlfriend on the scene?" she asked softly.
He shook his head. "None since you," he admitted. "Well... no-one seious, anyway," he retracted.
"Dave, I want to help you, but I have to be back in LA tomorrow. It's non-negotiable, today is all we've got."
"I don't need your help," he mumbled, even though it was evident someone, somewhere needed to help Dave Malucci. "You might as well go now. I have to be back now anyway."
"I'm not leaving till you promise me you'll speak to someone," Julia said steadfastly, ignoring his tortured look.
"Why did you come if all you're going to do is hurt me?" dave cried anguishedly.
"Promise me. I'll come back soon, but only if you promise me," she added hoping it would sway his decision.
It took all the energy Dave had to get back to the hospital, despite the short distance. He left Dr Greene's glasses with Haleh, and returned to the staffroom. He was in a decidedly less jovial mood than when he had exited it barely half an hour ago.
It was only once he'd made completely sure that he was alone in there that Dave allowed the memories to come flooding back.
And with the memories, came the tears.
Ever since his mother had died, the house had been quiet with just dave and his father in it. Before the accident, his dad had been like any other dad. Happy to play games or read books to his son. Anything to make him happy.
But aching, unavoidable grief had made the house silent.
Dave was only seven years old. And staying quiet was a impossibility for a happy boy such as Dave.
When he made noise, his father grew more and more angry. Until one night, when Dave had an exciting story to tell about his day in school.
After the screaming had subsided, Dave resolved to keep quiet. He didn't want to make Daddy mad again.
Except now the quietness made Fred Malucci mad. And when Dave brought friends home. Or when he got anything less than an A in school.
Pretty soon Dave became an expert in lying. He used every excuse in the book for eleven years to explain away his injuries, most minor, some major. When those around him believed his lies, he took it as a sign that they didn't care.
How could they believe the same excuses over and over again?
The opportunity of college came, and Dave was gone.
His last beating was the day before he left. He barely tried to defend himself, knowing inwardly it would be his last.
Once at college, then at Grenada, Dave began to come out of his self-built shell. He was still shy, still wary of new people, trying to mask his pain behind his eyes. It was only when the alluring Julia Carter happened to be there when he was hopelessly drunk that anyone knew the truth.
And then after his training was done, he had run away. Some of the pain had gone after he'd told Julia, and in the six months that he'd dated she'd done his best to help him.
Built the foundations that kept Chicago Dave standing strong.
By the end of Dave's reminiscence, he was sobbing so hard he felt like the scared little boy he'd been of seven when he had first been beaten.
So lost in his thoughts he didn't hear the door to the staffroom swing open, and someone say in shock,