Summary/Disclaimer/Rating: Same as before.
Author's Notes: Thank you to all reviewers.
Just another day at County.
Just another day.
Except Dave hadn't turned up for work, and Jing-Mei was more than a little worried.
"Has Malucci rung in yet?" she asked Frank, who was pretending to do some work while Weaver was around.
"Hmm? Malucci? No," he replied distractedly. "I've tried ringing his house on Dr Weaver's request, but nothing."
Chen raised her eyebrows. If Kerry was worried about Malucci as well, then maybe she wasn't worrying unnecessarily. "Thanks," she said, and grabbed a chart for yet another patient.
She turned from the admittance desk, and ran straight into John Carter.
"Hey hey, what's the rush?" he asked with his permanent smile.
She sighed. "Don't ask. And where have you been for the past two days? So much has been happening-" she didn't finish the sentence, realising that no-one apart from her knew about the traumatic events of the past two days. "Nothing. Never mind."
"You sure?" Carter asked, not liking the look in his friend's eyes.
"Yes. I'd better see this patient..." With that, Jing-Mei swept past Carter and into the curtained-off cubicle, leaving him staring after her.
Why did everything at the hospital seem to turn into a love triangle?
The phone had rung.
It had rung more than a hundred times that day, almost annoying enough to finally persuade Dave that an answering machine would be a good investment.
Before, it had been missing to avoid various girlfriends running into the knowledge of each other's existence. Now, it was to shut out the tatters of his life.
However, it had provided great entertainment for the sleepy Dave, guessing who was behind each phone call.
The calls every fifteen minutes, those must be Kerry. He'd been on the receiving end of her militant-style phone calls once too often, and even though he knew he was in the wrong, he never liked to admit it.
The calls at haphazard times of the day, ranging from 7.11am to 2.57pm could only be the ever-reliable telesales employees who never ceased to leave him alone. No matter how many times Dave told them he didn't want a combined spaghetti maker/CD player, they always rang him when he had a day off.
Or when he was hiding. Which just so happened to be the case today.
"I'm not clinically depressed..." he mumbled to himself as the phone rang yet again. He knew the signs too well, despite everyone's assumptions to the contrary he had a genuine interest in medicine. Maybe because he'd always been too weak to protect himself.
Although he had more excuse than anyone to suffer from depression, dave wasn't succumbing. He was just having a Very Bad Day.
He hadn't meant to miss work that day, but the alarm clock hadn't woken him from his deep slumber. And by the time he had awoken, it wasn't worth the hassle to go into work.
Wasn't worth the potential pain...
The phone finally stopped ringing after at least thirty rings. Dave looked at the handset and grinned ruefully.
"Jing-Mei," was all he said.
Jing-Mei hung up the phone in the corridor, deeply troubled and doing her best not to show it. Despite her best efforts to hide it, they were not enough to fool Dr Weaver, who just happened to be passing.
"Jing-Mei, what's wrong?" she asked, if not sympathetically then at least with added sprinkles of concern.
_There's no point in hiding it,_ she reflected. _I won't tell her what he told me, but if she's heard from him yet today..._ "Have you heard from Dave- I mean, Doctor Malucci today at all?"
Kerry's expression changed subtly. "I've been ringing his apartment as often as I can, but no response. Have you got any idea where he could be?"
Jing-Mei shook her head. "I was kind of hoping you would," she admitted. "I'm... I'm kind of worried."
"Dave's a big boy, he can take care of himself," Kerry reassured her. "I'm sure he'll have enough fight in him to question whatever punishment I decide to give him when he decides to show his face again."
Jing-Mei was about to defend Dave when she thought better of it. There was no point in starting rumours, even when she was sure that something was wrong with the young doctor. She had been sworn to secrecy, and that was something she didn't break lightly. "If that's what you think," was all she said, and then walked away, ready to treat yet another patient.
Kerry watched the young doctor walk away, and knew that something was bubbling underneath the surface. Whether it would ever come to anything, she didn't know.
The day passed in much the same way as any other day at the hospital did, lines and lines of patients, some seriously injured, some.. not so seriously. For Jing-Mei, the end of the day could not come quickly enough. Back in the staffroom after the end of her shift, she quickly grabbed her belongings from her locker, and slammed the metal door quickly, planning to find where Dave lived.
Just to make sure that he was okay. Nothing more... nothing less.
"Deb, what's the rush?"
John Carter was the only person who was still allowed to call her Deb. So there was no venom or sarcasm in her tone as she turned to face him and said hastily,
"There's somewhere... somewhere I have to be."
"This wouldn't have anything to do with your sudden distraction all through today, would it?" he asked, worried for his friend. "There's nothing wrong with you?"
She forced a smile, not sure where the desperation to check on Dave was coming from, but knowing that it must be acted upon. "No John, there's nothing wrong with me. I'm just in a hurry to get home, that's all."
"No stopping for coffee at Doc's?" he asked hopefully. But then Abby walked into the room, looking a little the worse for wear, and he shrugged. "Tomorrow, maybe?"
"Yeah, maybe. See you tomorrow, Abby," Jing-Mei said, and hastily made her exit. She didn't want to be in the middle of the crossfire between those two.
Only someone who was completely blind could have avoided the tensions between the hospital's love triangle.
"Now, why don't they put Wheel of Fortune on straight after Jeopardy?" Dave wondered, as he continued his quest to put a permanent Dave-shaped dent into his sofa. "That would be a quiz hour with a difference."
His single-handed mission to overhaul the television schedules of the nation was rudely interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Please god, don't let it be Mrs O'Riley," he muttered under his breath. His overbearing next door neighbour complained if any of the building's residents returned after 8pm, so she wasn't exactly best friends with Dave, a doctor with just slightly irregular hours.
He shuffled to the peephole in his door. Unfortunately, his movements had caused creaks in the floorboards, something that gave away his presence to Jing-Mei, who was standing on the other side of the door, waiting patiently.
Reluctantly, he opened the door. "Hello."
"Where were you today?" she demanded.
"I overslept," he mumbled, running a hand through his sticking-up hair.
"How convenient," she retorted. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Ye-es..." he said patiently. "Is that what you wished to ascertain?"
Blank looks from all around him.
"Hey, I do know words that have more than two syllables."
"I'm sure you do," Jing-Mei said exhaustedly. "Look, give me a straight answer. Did you not come in to work today because you overslept, or because you couldn't face it?"
"A mixture of the two," he said candidly.
"Why didn't you ring in?"
"Just because I choose to let you in on various parts of my life does not mean that you are my keeper!" Dave replied, letting his anger at the world get the better of him. "Three days ago you would have been holding a party at the fact that I decided not to turn up for work, and now you're sending out a search party?"
"Look, I wouldn't have thrown a party because you didn't show up," Jing-Mei said, trying not to show her own anger. "And despite what you may think, I did care about you before all this happened."
"You did a damn good job of hiding it, if you don't mind me saying so," he muttered under his breath.
"Only because every come on line you used was a complete cliche," she informed him.
"Can you please leave? I was absolutely fine before you showed up and decided to start undermining my self-confidence again."
"I am not undermining your self-confidence!!" she almost yelled.
There was a strange silence in the tiny apartment. Neither of them knew what to say, who should speak first.
"I'll go," Jing-Mei almost whispered.
"Don't," Dave said, in the same soft tone. Things were eventually going to come to this, he realised. They might as well battle it out in a civil manner than avoid their issues.
There had been too many cases of avoidance in his life.
"What is there left to say?" she said quietly.
"We can't just leave things as they are," Dave said. "I don't know about you, but I have no idea where I stand. And this is confusing the hell out of me."
"What is?" she asked curiously.
"The fact that someone in my daily life knows everything I've ever been afraid to tell," he confided. "Julia knew as well, but... this is different." he didn't want to tell her exactly how it was different... at least not without some encouragement from her.
"It's not really been a picnic for me, either," she said. "I'm not trying to take anything away from what you went through, but I just can't help wondering how I never saw the signs in the first place."
Dave smirked. "I'm a good actor. Kept it from my family for near twenty years, I can keep it from people I work with."
"How could they not have noticed?"
"He hit me where it didn't show. Always acted normally.. and Mom's relatives eventually stopped coming over, I expect they'd have been the ones to notice something wasn't right."
_We're going in circles... eventually something's going to have to break. But who'll crack first?_ he thought. _Might as well be me... I've been the one baring my soul so far, might as well continue the trend._
"I can't believe there are people, anyone I know could have gone through this as well," Jing-Mei whispered, more to herself than to Dave.
"Yeah, but that's life," he pointed out gently. "We all have those things in life that we want kept secret. It's basically a human right."
Jing-Mei kept silent, understanding his almost subliminal message.
'Don't pry too much into my life, and I won't ask any questions about yours.'
"Get the feeling we're going round in circles?" she suddenly said.
Dave favoured her with a smile. "Just thinking that myself... that, and there's a basketball game on in.. five minutes ago," he said, hastily checking his watch. "Do you mind if I switch it on?"
"Hell, no!" Jing-Mei said, settling herself more comfortably on the sofa so she could see the television screen without cricking her neck too badly. "Who's playing?"
"Make yourself at home, why don't you?" he smirked. "It's Bulls-Jazz."
"Bring back Michael Jordan..."
Two hours later, after copious amounts of beer had been consumed by all, Jing-Mei finally decided it was time to go home.
"I'm still telling you, Karl Malone would beat Michael Johnson in a head to head any day," she protested, but her argument would have been a lot more convincing had she not fallen over once reaching the door... and straight into Dave's arms.
"This is nice..." she said dreamily.
_Shut up, Jing-Mei, it's the drink speaking! But... he does have kinda strong arms..._
"Yeah..." Dave said, suddenly finding his mouth several shades drier than normal. He was just beginning to realise that he hadn't wanted anyone as badly since Julia, when there was no thinking. Just...
A/N= I'm not sure whether to leave it as this... if anyone has any overwhelming desire either way please let me know.