Author: socact PM
Edward is a brilliant, troubled doctor who uses medicine to escape his past, until he meets a beautiful patient whose mysterious, debilitating disease challenges everything he knows about life and death. Can he save her? Can she save him? AH, ExB, Rated MRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 33 - Words: 102,109 - Reviews: 1,467 - Favs: 1,435 - Follows: 545 - Updated: 04-14-09 - Published: 02-07-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4847866
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This isn't an expansion of my one-shot with House/Twilight, but Edward has a lot of the same traits. Bella, however, is someone totally different. She will come in later.
I am only a med student, so I apologize if my depiction of the wards is inaccurate. I have done my best, based on my own experience (or inexperience, as it were). Also, I obviously don't have anything against the hospital staff - this is Edward's way of voicing his own frustrations. I think the world of nurses/PTs/pharmacists/etc.
I'm going to be nerdy and name my chapters after certain injuries, diseases, medical terminology, etc. Heh heh.
Reviews are always hugely appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but I own both my kidneys.
Chapter 1: The Unhappy Triad
"Excuse me, Dr. Cullen?"
The high-pitched irritating voice came out in a timid whisper, which I expected. Every nurse in this hospital was terrified of me, and I didn't give a shit if their fear was justified or not. It probably was, in this case. I was watching a highly entertaining episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and this useless lackey was breaking my reverie. I wasn't going to dignify her presence with a response.
She pretended to clear her throat, which she thought might lighten my mood. Or no, that couldn't be it. She'd be promoted to chief of orthopedics before that happened. Ha. Right. I chuckled to myself.
"Dr. Cullen," she said, in a tiny, quivering voice. "There is a patient in Room 4 that Dr. Brandon wants you to see."
What. The. Fuck. Now Brandon was sending me messengers to see her patients? I'd give her a walloping dose of shit for this tomorrow. She was one of the senior residents, fairly competent, but also spineless. Brandon was too fucking cheery and naïve to ever be a successful doctor. She probably knew that, but she didn't care. She cared only to the extent that I gave her a decent recommendation, because she was my resident and I was her boss. I singlehandedly dictated the course of her career.
"Then why doesn't Dr. Brandon," I sneered, "come and get me herself?"
"Her shift just ended, Doctor."
"Jeezus," I said under my breath as I stood up and grabbed the chart from her. "Since when does anyone around here think their shift ends until I say it ends?"
I was pretty sure Brandon had just worked a 24-hour shift, or something close to it, but this nurse didn't know that and I wanted to remind her who was boss. Of course I didn't dictate when people's shifts ended, but again, I wanted to make a point. Brandon had probably paged me eight times to let me know she was going home, but I left my beeper in my office and had no incentive to get it at the moment.
"I'm sorry, Doctor," she mumbled.
I glared at her as I stalked out of the room, headed toward Room 4 to see this patient who sure as fuck better be worth my time. I shouldn't always be taking my annoyance out on the nurses, but I get irritated when they show up in my face and tell me what to do. I would deal with this one later.
I walked briskly down the hall, nodding gruffly to the few people that managed to make eye contact with me. They respected me in a silent, intimidated kind of way. Hospitals were built on a very hierarchical system, and I was at the top. Or somewhere near the top. Surgeons had the cushiest offices, because that's just how it is, but surgery was also for people who wanted to fix the shit that I diagnosed. And where was the fun in that? I had done a residency in surgery, kind of for the hell of it, but it was more to prove a point than anything else. I wasn't intimidated by people who viewed medicine as "art." Bullshit. Medicine was sick, old, dying people who wanted you to save them. To give them another day, another month, another year. And for what? To be brutally fucking honest, most people didn't have lives worth saving.
So, why do it at all then? Why was I on these godforsaken wards at some godforsaken hour, listening to a goddamned nurse tell me I had to see some worthless patient in Room 4? I don't know. Sometimes, I really don't fucking know. If I had to articulate an answer, I'd probably throw in a few words like power and prestige. Maybe one or two about challenging myself. I saw the sickest, strangest, most baffling cases, because no one else could solve them. I could, more often than not. If I couldn't, they died. I was the end of the line for these people.
And so I approached Room 4 fairly certain I was going to see someone on their deathbed, bleeding out of their eyes and ears or some other crazy shit. I didn't bother to knock, as usual. My subordinates knocked; I just did whatever the fuck I wanted.
"Are you awake?" I bellowed as I strode into the room, which was empty except for the figure lying on the bed. "Ms…uh, Hale?"
She looked battered and bruised, and the skin around her eye was a deep, menacing purple. Aside from the massive contusions and multiple lacerations all over her face, she was a young, striking blonde.
"Well, shit," I said. "What happened to you?"
"Car accident," she managed through clenched teeth. Right. I had heard that excuse thousands of times from women her age. It took a few trips to the emergency room for them to give me the truth.
"Are you here alone?" I asked.
"Yes," she mumbled.
"Well, that's step one in your recovery," I muttered, giving her a not so subtle signal that I knew exactly what had happened.
"It's not what it looks like," she protested.
"Look, I don't care. I'm here to address your medical needs," I said with my typical sarcasm. "If you want more than that, press the chaplain button."
"There's a chaplain button?" she asked.
I rolled my eyes. Again, I wasn't going to dignify that with a response.
"So what's wrong with you, aside from your face?" I asked. As in, what the fuck am I supposed to do for a purple face? I couldn't give this bimbo some instant plastic surgery, although she was probably about to ask for it.
"My knee…" she mumbled, cringing as she spoke. It was almost painful to watch. Almost.
Ugh. A knee problem? So straightforward. So boring. I felt my valuable time being wasted with each passing second.
"Can you pull up your gown so I can look at it?" I asked, which came out like a demand. I tried to grant my female patients some measure of dignity. It was one of the few lessons in med school I actually put into practice.
"Can you?" she asked. "It hurts to move."
I pulled down the sheets and rolled up the edge of her gown to assess the damage. Her knee appeared normal to an untrained eye, but I could tell just by looking at it that she had busted the unhappy triad.
"Meet up with a baseball bat?" I asked. It was an educated guess, and most likely an accurate one. But she'd never admit that.
"No," she said. "I…hurt it a month ago, and I think it's messed up."
"It is messed up," I said, recycling her words. "It's very messed up." Best to use kid gloves with this one.
"What's wrong with it?"
"You most likely tore three ligaments in your knee, known in orthopedics as the 'unhappy triad.'"
"Why is it called that?"
"Because your knee is unhappy about the fact that it's totally fucked up."
She sighed deeply. "But it doesn't even hurt," she mumbled.
"If the ligaments are torn, then it won't hurt. Here, let me demonstrate."
I lifted her slightly-bent leg and jerked the calf forward, and for a second, it looked like the upper and lower parts of her leg weren't even connected. Ah, yes, a positive Lachmann test: every college football player's worst nightmare. I thought of this broad playing football and almost laughed out loud.
"That looks like it should hurt," she observed. "Is it bad that it doesn't?"
"No, it's not bad. Look, if you want to fix this, get surgery. Enjoy nine months of recovery and you'll be back to runway modeling, or whatever you do."
"Nine months?" she exclaimed, and her face fell. "I don't have nine months."
"Then live with a knee that does the weird shit I just demonstrated for you. Your quads will compensate, although you'll limp. It'll be, like, your trademark."
"I don't want a limp."
"No, most of us don't. But that's your problem, so tell the resident you want an ortho consult and they'll deal with it."
I pulled the sheets back up hurriedly and let out a disgruntled huff as I started for the door. Brandon was going to pay for this. Seriously, what the fuck was she thinking? A battered wife with a busted knee? Precisely the kind of emotional, messy cases I avoided.
"Wait," came her garbled, agonized voice. "Please, wait."
"What?" I asked in an irritated, rushed tone. Most patients backed down when they got this tone. She didn't.
"I requested you," she said. Of course she did. I was practically a celebrity in this place. Every patient wanted to see the best doctor, just like every doctor wanted to see the best patients. Best as in hot, young, and well acquainted with showers. Didn't mean I got them.
"A lot of patients request me."
"I've heard about you, Dr. Cullen. A friend of mine told me to see you."
"A friend of yours?"
"Yes, she…went to college with you. Although she was a few years younger than you, I think."
College was a distant, murky memory, and I remembered approximately three people from the experience. There was no way in hell I was going to remember some rando, but if she was as attractive as this one, I might have done her at a frat party or something. Then again, I probably wouldn't remember her in that case either.
"Her name is Bella Swan."
"Don't know her," I said. And that was the truth. I had definitely never encountered anyone with that name, in any capacity.
"She knows you. Well, she knows of you. She's a doctor, too."
"What kind of doctor?" I asked in a bored tone. In fact, I had no idea why I was even perpetuating this vapid conversation.
Ha. What a waste of time. I put pediatricians on the same level as nurses and physical therapists. Any decent mother knew more than any pediatrician I had encountered.
"That's great," I said, the usual sarcasm returning. I really didn't give a shit about the subpar doctors this flake knew, and I couldn't believe I had wasted so much time indulging her.
"Anyway, best of luck with the unhappy triad. Enjoy your new limp," I said in a clipped tone as I turned on my heel and left the room. I was tired and irritated and it was time to go home, home to my empty apartment and miles away from these halls that consumed my life.
It was almost midnight when I got off the train and walked up the steep hill to my apartment. The night was foggy and cold, unsurprising for August in San Francisco. Or Fogust, as the locals called it. I didn't care, though. I liked bad weather because it kept people indoors and out of my ER.
I walked up the stairs to my apartment on the third floor of one of those picture-perfect Victorians, which sat on a hill and overlooked the city in every direction. The view from my windows was a stunning sight, more than enough to keep me entertained most days. The city lights streamed in through the large, open windows, and I was reminded, once again, of why I lived here. "Welcome to paradise," someone had said a few days after I moved to San Francisco. Paradise indeed.
I stepped out of my shoes and walked over to my piano by the window, my favorite place to just sit and think and stop giving a shit about my life and all the sick people in it. Because I really did despise people most of the time. I enjoyed my solitude and only Brandon was brazen enough to question me about it. She couldn't process the fact that some people enjoyed their own company and didn't feel the need to interrupt it with the mindless chatter of others. I endured enough of that on a daily basis.
But that was the front, the very convincing image I projected to the world. I was a doctor who treated strangers. I turned away patients I knew and the people they knew. I did it because I was fucked up, in a way, but it had very little to do with medicine. Or everything to do with it. The only person I spoke to these days was my father, and our communication was almost shamefully infrequent. He understood why, though. He understood, and thankfully, he was the only one in my life who did. No one would ever get close enough to me to know more about me than the medicine I practiced and the reputation I had earned. No one would ever see this place. No one would see the completely empty walls and stark lack of furniture. I didn't have a home. I had an escape.
Brandon had tried, of course. She had asked me a few questions about my family and background before I completely shut her down, and she gave up. I knew a few of the rumors circulating about me, but I didn't give a shit. They weren't accurate, or even creative. Dr. Cullen was a recluse, a deranged genius, an anomaly. Or, my personal favorite, a highly functional autistic who couldn't relate to people. Loved that one. If they knew about my musical talent, people would go nuts with that diagnosis. An autistic savant. Maybe I should just go with it.
Of course, none of it really mattered anyway. People were self-absorbed and merely enjoyed the speculation about my private life, rather than the reality. As I downed the last of my gin and tonic, I placed it gingerly on the wood surface, and placed my fingers on the worn, familiar keys. I played long into the night, my fingers dancing in a frenzied rhythm, my emotions spilling out in some fucked up way that I never bothered to think about. The piano spoke for me. It was all I needed to escape: a piano and walls and the endless lights of the city below. I escaped to this place, where my past, my life, my medicine, could never follow.
As the music filled the room, my mind cleared and I felt the familiar fatigue cloud my thinking and pull me toward unconsciousness. Still sitting at my piano, I drifted off to the sound of the foghorns in the distance, and the screech of cabs as they pulsed through the city like the blood in my veins.
"Dr. Cullen, did you see Ms. Hale yesterday?"
I was sitting at my desk in my office, zoning out while a new day of life and death started on the wards. I groaned at the interruption. Brandon was standing in my doorframe, looking too cheerful as always.
"Rosalie Hale? I wanted you to talk to her."
"Yes, I gathered as much. What for, Brandon? She had a torn ACL. You saw that."
"Didn't you talk to her? She wanted to talk to you about a case."
"A case? From a patient? Jeezus, don't waste my time."
"She didn't tell you about her friend?" her face fell a little bit, and she looked slightly concerned.
"Who gives a shit about her friend? That woman has her own problems."
"I reported the abuse," she said. "I didn't expect you to do that."
"Well, great. And no, I didn't talk to her about her friend. She mentioned some random pediatrician but that was it."
"That's it?" Brandon asked, and she had a puzzled look on her face.
"Yes, that's it. What isn't your brain registering here? Give me a break, Brandon. Don't play games with me. You know I hate that shit."
"I see," she said. "Well, never mind then. I apologize for wasting your time."
"Don't do it again."
"Good. So who is demanding our attention today?" I grumbled.
"There's a meeting at 10 with the new interns. You're expected to welcome them…or something along those lines," she mumbled.
Oh, fun. I wasn't a very welcoming person, and Brandon knew it. More than likely, I'd make them regret their career choice altogether.
"Two new admits on the third floor. One is…well-known."
"A celebrity of some sort."
Oh, goodie. I loved toying with celebrities, especially the hotheaded actors who thought they ruled the world. Then they dealt with me, and realized they ruled nothing. They couldn't even rule their own bodies.
"Fine. I'll get on that later."
"Okay," she said, but I noticed her tone had a little less lilt to it than usual. I didn't really give a fuck about Brandon's private life, but if it affected her job, then I did. I could usually read her like a book, and I had an idea of what was going on here.
"How is that kid doing? The ALD patient?"
Adrenoleukodystrophy was a fatal, genetic disease that affected young boys. Brandon had been treating a six-year-old for months, but his prognosis was poor. The condition destroyed nerve cells, and it was a slow, agonizing death. I avoided those cases, too, because they were too fucking depressing.
"He died yesterday," she said softly.
"I'm sorry," I said, meeting Brandon's dark eyes. Medicine was about saving lives, not losing them, and death affected everyone differently. It affected me, too, but I never showed the slightest shred of emotion. Most doctors tried not to. Emotional detachment was a skill that every physician tried to develop, but few ever did.
"It's part of the job," she said. And that was true. She would bounce back, and she'd be stronger the next time. At least, that was how it went for me. But I would never, ever, mention that to Brandon. Most doctors thought I was emotionally dead, and I wanted to keep it that way. I wasn't here to lecture young doctors on the psychological turmoil of life and death matters. They had shrinks for that shit.
I nodded, and I watched as she struggled to mask the emotions bubbling beneath the surface of her dark, expressive eyes. No wonder I could read her like a book.
"Don't forget the meeting at 10," she said. And then she turned and walked out.
I screwed around in my office until 10, when Brandon came by to get me.
"Did you forget?" she asked, but she wasn't annoyed.
"No, I just wanted to be late," I replied honestly.
"Well, mission accomplished. Let's go."
I groaned as I pushed out my chair and stood up, feeling my muscles scream. I had somehow found it in me to go for a 10-mile run this morning, and I was paying for it now.
"Rough night last night?" Alice teased, which was a little bold but I'd allow it.
"Unfortunately, no," I responded, grabbing my stethoscope off the desk. I never wore my white coat, because it looked like I was trying too hard. I didn't need a white coat to intimidate patients.
We walked along the crowded halls toward the conference room, which contained these poor, miserable souls whose lives were about to change in a very low paying, sleep depriving way. The life of an intern sucked hard, and no one envied them. Except maybe the residents, who missed their own innocence.
Brandon was the chief resident in my department, so she talked first.
"Good morning, everyone," she said cheerily. Her smile was open and genuine, because it always was. Everyone liked this girl, including her patients. All of mine despised me—until I saved them, of course. Then they worshiped me.
"I would just like to welcome you all to the University of California, San Francisco, which is one of the top hospitals in the country and the world. This is an incredible place, and we are so fortunate and thrilled to have you. We know that you will continue the tradition of physicians here who treat their patients with unrivaled skill, compassion, and respect."
Wow, this was a solid speech. Well done, Brandon. All bullshit, but well done. She continued her rehearsed remarks for a few more minutes, but kept it short because doctors hate long, useless speeches that take up valuable time for sleeping, eating, and functioning. Brandon knew this, and she abided by it. Her time was even more valuable than theirs.
As I listened to her, I realized that Brandon would one day make a decent doctor, if she removed her head from Cloud Nine and realized how truly shitty the world is. We spent millions of dollars, countless hours, and a fuckload of brainpower on each and every life, like each one was worth it all. We treated convicts, bums, child molesters, prostitutes, rapists, murderers, drug-addicts, and we spared no expense. Those patients couldn't pay a single dime, but no one thought twice about it. I was glad I wasn't sitting on some financial board somewhere, because our hospital was broke as fuck. Most hospitals were, really. Of course you would be broke if you spent millions on one person, who died a few days later anyway from a drug overdose. Was all of it worth it? Did my job make any fucking sense?
I tried not to think about the logistics, really. I didn't see my patients as people—I saw them as cases. It was easier that way. More professional, more distant. Most people did jobs dealing with money, sales, lawsuits, whatever. I dealt with people. It wasn't a simple science, so I had to make my own rules.
She avoided these and other delicate topics, including any mention of how fucking hard these people were going to work for the next few years, and turned to me with a polite smile and a generous introduction. I stood up where I was, because I didn't do podiums.
"This is Dr. Edward Cullen," she said, gesturing toward me. "He's the attending, so you'll ultimately be answering to him."
Ultimately. I liked the sound of that. I could do so much damage in such a short time with these bright-eyed fools, but I didn't want to embarrass Brandon. I respected her and didn't want her to lose face in front of these goons.
"I'd just like to echo Dr. Brandon's welcome to UCSF, which is the only place I would ever practice," I said truthfully.
They looked at me wide-eyed, processing my widespread reputation in medical circles as one of the best clinicians in the world. I knew how competitive this residency was; I knew because I sat on the admissions committee and hand-picked the little geniuses who would be spending the next five years of their lives with me. There were only five of them each year, and two or three always dropped out, but Brandon had made it all the way through. I knew, from the day I met her in this room, that she would. I surveyed the faces in front of me and made the same prediction about this clan when I studied their reactions.
"Just remember you don't know a thing about medicine, and if you act like you do, you'll seem like an arrogant asshole and you will most likely get your patients killed. I can tell you I'm not very happy when that happens," I said, watching their faces contort in fear at my words. I just wanted to drive the point home that I was the only arrogant asshole on these wards, and there wasn't room for more of them.
"And, also, the next few years are going to be hell, but you already knew that. I just wanted to reiterate the point," I remarked. "If you have questions, see Dr. Brandon. If you have more questions, see her again. Don't come to me unless your mother's dying from Ebola on the waiting room floor."
All but one of them looked at me in horror and disbelief. One of them, though, absorbed my words with a straight, almost bored expression. It wasn't arrogance, just intolerance to my intimidation tactics. Well, good. He'd still be here in five years. Just as I'd predicted.
"Great. Have fun," I finished, and turned to head out. But Brandon wasn't having any of that.
"Dr. Cullen, I know how valuable your time is, but everyone here would like to at least meet you," she said. I knew it was rude of me to walk out, but I also knew Brandon would stop me. So I obliged. I shook each of their hands and instantly forgot their names. I didn't need that useless info crowding my head.
"Wait. Dr. Cullen," one of them said as I made my second attempt to leave the room. It was the one with the stoic face, the one that would make it. Even so, I wasn't going to give him that satisfaction quite yet. He had years of misery to endure first.
"I'm Jasper Whitlock. I respect your work, sir. I applied here because it's a privilege to learn from you."
Great, one of these overly polite Southern types. His accent was subtle, a sign of years of rigorous, most likely Ivy League education, but he was still the "sir" type. At least he understood the meaning of respecting your superiors, even though we looked about the same age.
"I imagine you'll be doing most of your learning from her," I replied, glancing toward Dr. Brandon, who was chatting amicably with the other four.
"Yes, that's true," he agreed. "But I'm not afraid of you. I'll kick my own ass for you, but I'm not afraid of you."
"Fear is not a bad thing, Dr. Whitlock. Fear makes you a better doctor."
"I understand that, sir. So does compassion."
Was this little prick trying to give me a lecture? I sincerely hoped not. I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt, because in spite of his boldness, I liked him for some odd reason. I had a feeling this guy wouldn't bullshit me. I had a feeling that when I asked him a question he didn't know, he would give me the right answer: "I don't know." Most valuable three words in medicine. Otherwise people died and that pissed me off.
"I'll be anxious to see if you're still telling yourself that in ten years," I retorted, because compassion was always the first thing to go.
"I hope so," he said. "In any case, I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here."
"Don't thank me. Just do your job and do the best you can to avoid me. Interns are more useless than med students around here. At least they know they know nothing."
I saw Brandon out of the corner of my eye, studying our interaction as she answered inane questions from the other interns. She was looking at me a little funny, and she managed a few glances at this Whitlock guy, too. What the fuck was she doing? Assessing my judgment of another useless, naïve newbie?
She managed to excuse herself from whatever conversation she was having with the others, and walked over to us.
"So I see you've met Dr. Whitlock?" Brandon said as she strolled into our circle.
"Please, call me Jasper," he insisted. Jasper? What kind of fucker let a guy named Jasper into medical school? Maybe I should have paid more attention to that on his application.
Brandon smiled brightly, and something in my mind clicked when I saw her looking at him. Brandon liked this guy. As in, wanted to do him in Janitor Joe's oversized closet. As in, Brandon apparently had a sexual interest in the opposite sex. I had always figured Alice was just asexual, because she didn't have a ring and didn't seem to care. Either way, I didn't give a fuck what her bedroom activities entailed, unless it filtered into her professional life. This little development could very easily interfere with her work, if it ended badly. I might have to nip this potential love affair in the bud.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes as she ogled at the tallish, blondish guy named Jasper, of all things. No one at this hospital had ever addressed me by my first name, which was odd, but it suited me fine. My first name reminded me of things I never thought about anymore, a time when I actually had a life outside of my profession. That time was so long ago that I rarely thought about it anymore.
"Well, then, I should be going," I announced. No need for me to witness this eye flirt any longer.
"Wait," Brandon said, turning to me. "Is there a chance you could swing by Rosalie Hale's room again today?"
I had already done that because Brandon had seemed so upset about it earlier, but I didn't want to give her that satisfaction. It didn't matter anyway, because she had been discharged early this morning. The whole thing was so fucking bizarre—why the hell did she want me to talk to this completely random, bland patient whose case was boring, standard, and a waste of time?
"She was discharged this morning," I said finally. I wanted her to get over this Rosalie Hale fixation and move on.
"She was?" Brandon exclaimed, and her smile disappeared instantly.
"Yes," I said. "She was."
"Who the hell discharged her?" she demanded, and I saw her face redden a bit at the outburst. In my five years working with Brandon, I had never once heard her raise her voice. I was stunned, actually, and I lost my train of thought for a second. The last time someone had raised his voice at me was fifteen years ago, and it was the night that had changed my life. I unconsciously flinched at the memory.
"I apologize," she muttered, reading my reaction and the grimace on my face. It wasn't her words, but that image in my mind. An image I had suppressed for over a decade, and her voice had somehow brought it back.
"It's fine," I said, but my voice was tense, angry.
And I left the two of them there, Brandon's face a shattered, flustered red, while Whitlock attempted to register the puzzling exchange. Even I had no insight into what had just happened, and I didn't want to give any one of us a chance to find out. It would pass, and that memory would fade into the deepest recesses of my memory, exactly where it belonged.
A/N: Thanks for reading!