A Friendly Hand
By Didi

Disclaimers: I don't own any of the characters. John Wells and his friends do. Let's not get into the debate as to who owns the ideas and all that; cause let's fact it, you'll lose. Enjoy the story anyways.

Summary: The hospital rumor mill get hold of a hush-hush situation.

Note: I don't know why I'm writing this. I usually only write stories on series that have already made their conclusion so that I don't have to deal with cannons. But this kind of hit me on the head.

Chapter 1

"I don't believe it."

"Well, I'm just telling you what I heard."

"No way. She wouldn't, not with his reputation."

"I don't know, I heard she was really desperate."

"Now I know it's not true. Cause she definitely needn't be desperate."

"Well, I heard that prospects were ... shall we say less than... ideal."

"Nope, I refuse to believe."

"Hey, I'm just the messenger."

"Sh... She's coming."

The nurse scrambled away in opposite direction as the resident pediatrician on call stepped up to the nurse's station to return a chart to the filing area.

Jules Keating never thought of herself as a paranoid. If anything she's always been pretty open minded and ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt. But lately, more specifically the past three days, she's beginning to feel that everyone in the hospital knew something about her that she didn't know herself.

"Gloria, could you get me Kenny Davidson's charts? He has an appointment in fifteen minutes and if I know the mom, she's going to want me to recite everything check up and procedure that Kenny's had since birth."

"Sure, Dr. Keating."

Making a final note in her last patient's chart, Dr. Keating dropped the metal incased file into the resort pile and got ready to go back to the exam room.

"Jules!" Even in a single word, the heavy British accent could be clearly distinguished.

Turning, Jules smiled as Dr. Matt Slingerland came running up to the station, slightly out of breath from the three flights of stairs he's had to climb thanks to the maintenance of the elevators. "What's up, Matt?"

"Got a moment to spare?" he asked, glancing questioningly at the three nurses that suddenly halted whatever it was they were doing to stare. "Is something the matter?" The three nurses made a production of getting back to work.

Frowning at the odd behavior, Keating dismissed it to the back of her mind as Slingerland turned on his thousand-watt smile and aimed it directly at her. Warning bells went off loudly in her head. He wanted something. "I've got fifteen to spare. Why?"

Not faltering one bit, he reached over and guided her with a hand at her waist toward the stairs. "The elevators are out again."

She looked at him questioning, digging in her heels and slowing their progress down. "And?"

He glanced over his shoulder at the three nurses that were now, once more, staring at them. "Have you noticed anything... unusual as of late?"

She glanced back just in time to see the nurses spring back into action once more at being caught staring. "As a matter of fact..."

"But that's not what I came to see you about," he interrupted as he pushed the stairwell door open. Smiling widely again, he pointed toward the down flight. "I have a patient in exam room two..."


"No, it's the mother."

She raised her brows at him as she grabbed and railing and walked own the concrete stairs. "And I would be involved how?"

He glanced up and down the stairwell, checking to see that they were alone. "Look, she's a single mother and an underpaid waitress with a five year old. She's got HMO and they don't cover little things like clearing out a child's ear when it's blocked to the point that the child is no longer hearing properly."

Now the jest of what is needed is clear. "And you want me to volunteer fifteen minutes of my time to help the poor underpaid mother by doing the procedure for the kid."

"Please?" he turned those big brown eyes at her, giving her his best puppy dog look. "I would consider it a personal favor."

She grinned and wrinkled her freckled nose. "Okay, but only because I'm a sucker for kids."

"Thank you, you are a kind and generous soul," he replied with a wide smile as he pushed the door open to enter the second floor. "And let's not let this get around."

"Wouldn't dream of ruining your rep," she sassed as they approached the nurse's station together. The two nurses on duty at the station looked up and stared for a moment. Jules had a distinct impression they were having a difficult time reconciling what they were seeing. Genuinely curious now, "What?"

"Nothing!" Clare responded almost too cheerfully as Albert flashed her an overly bright smile.

"Ooookkkaaayyy....." Dr. Keating shook her head and took the chart Dr. Slingerland handed her before following the British doctor to exam room two. She couldn't help but hear the suddenly rise of whispers behind her. "Matt?"

"Yes?" he asked, glancing back at her with wide eyes.

"Do you get the feeling the rest of the staff knows something?" she made another peep over her shoulder at the nurse's station. They were all huddled together and whispering. An argument seemed to have started. "Something that they don't want me to know."

"Don't be paranoid Jules," he teased with a grin. "You're a regular girl scout. What is there to know about you that the rest of the world doesn't already?"

She gave him a good frown for that then thought better of it and raised one brow flirtatiously. "You'd be surprised, doctor." She wrinkled her nose adorably and sailed through exam room's glass door with a slack jaw Dr. Slingerland staring after her. "Good morning."

The blonde haired woman sitting on the exam bed looked exactly as Jules would expect a woman that could solicit extra services from Slingerland would. Tall, leggy, blue eyed and looked like she just stepped out of some catalogue, the patient waited in a blue hospital gown with her wide eye son in her lap. It wasn't to say that Slingerland was a bad doctor, far from it. But the man did have a certain reputation among the female staff.

Suppressing her own amusement, Jules extended her hand. "Hi, I'm Dr. Keating the resident pediatrician."

The blonde took her hand limply. "Debra Jankins," then glanced down at the child. "And this Billy, my son."

Leaning over, she brought forth a big smile usually reserved for her young patients. It made her look ten years younger and like everyone's favorite older sister. "Hi there Billy. I'm Jules," she extended her hand out formally. "And I'll be your doctor today."

Delighted to be treated like an equal, Billy stuck his hand out and shook Jules's hand with more gust than his mother. "Hi."

Smiling and reaching over, she brought the child up and over to the next exam bed. "Dr. Slingerland tells me that you've got stuff in your ear and cannot year like you should be. Is that right?" she waited while he nodded his head soberly. "How about you let me take a look? And we'll see what I can do for you." She laughed as Billy turned his ear toward her.

Matt Slingerland smiled as he watched the doctor and child come together comfortably before turning to the almost unconcerned mother. He offered her the most reassuring gesture with a hand to her shoulder in a friendly manner. "No worries there, Dr. Keating is the best when it comes to the little buggers."

Jules turned to smile at him for the compliment just as Debra dimpled up, "I knew you'd take care of us, Doctor," in the throatiest voice since Marilyn Monroe singing happy birthday to JFK, causing Dr. Keating to roll her eyes skyward at that obvious ploy at seduction, in front of her kid too.

Wondering if it was possible for him to go up in flames from embarrassment, Slingerland cleared his throat and ignored Keating's ill attempt at hiding her amusement at his expense. "Let's have a look at those legs, shall we?" Then almost groaned at the choked laugher from Dr. Keating.

"Of course, that's what I'm here for." Debra wasn't the first patient to flirt with him, far from it when single male doctors were such scarcity, but never had one done so in front of a fellow doctor. It was equivalent to getting caught with one's pants down.

Backing up on the exam bed, Debra swung her legs around and posed for the young handsome doctor. Flashing him her most winning smile, she leaned back and waited as he warmed up his hands first.

Jules shook her head again and turned back to her own patient with all the necessary equipment in hand. Draping a towel over the boy's shoulders, she bought the plastic try to the ear. "Okay Billy, I need you to be a big boy right now. You're going to feel some pressure in your ear, like someone pushed a pencil eraser in there. And you may feel a little dizzy from the pressure. It you feel bad, you tell me, okay? And I'll stop." He looked at him and to make sure he understood. "We got a deal?"

Billy looked back at her with sober blue eyes and nodded. "Deal."

"Good," ruffling his hair with hand as she picked up the wide nose syringe. "Here we go."

It took a few minutes. "Aw...." Billy cried, pulling away from the irrigation syringe.

Putting down the syringe, Jules pulled the little boy to her, rocking him gently as he sniffled into her lab coat. " Sh...It's okay, it's okay. You did very good." The little boy smelled like grease, fries and bubble gum. It was adorable.

"Everything all right?" Slingerland asked as he dropped Debra's feet, where she says her arches were becoming painful to stand on.

"Everything's fine," Jules said softly, pulling back to looked at Billy's weepy-eyed face. "Isn't it?"

Billy nodded his head and wiped his eyes with his knuckles. "I got dizzy."

"I know, I can see that," she smiled at him and glanced discreetly at the clock. "Can you hear any better now?"

Nodding, Billy blinked at her than at Slingerland. "Everything is loud now."

"I'm sure it feels that way," he smiled and ruffled the boy's head with fondness. "How's about we say thank you to Dr. Keating?"

"Thank you, Dr. Keating," Billy repeated dutifully with adoring eyes at the nice lady doctor.

"You're welcome, Billy," reaching into her pocket. "And for being such a brave big boy, here's lollipop for you."

Billy took it eagerly. "Thank you. You're my favorite doctor."

Slingerland groaned mockingly. "Great, bribing my patients for their affections. You should be a ashamed of yourself."

Shaking her head, Jules laughed and began the clean up. She's got three minutes to get back up to her office for Kenny Davidson's appointment. "You're just jealous cause you didn't think of it first." She dropped the used equipment into disposal and turned to the mother, who was reclining on the exam bed. "Mrs. Jankins, Billy appears to have some uncommon build ups in his ear canals. You might want to think about buying come over the counter kits that will help with the removal of hardened earwax. That should clear up Billy's problems."

"Sure, whatever," Debra replied causally with a shrug.

Jules forced herself not to say anything more before heading for the door after a quick wave for Billy.

"I'll be right back," Slingerland explained before stepping out the door behind Keating. "Jules, thank again for your help."

"Sure," she glanced back into the room. "She seems very... trusting of your abilities."

For the second today, Matt felt his face flush. "She's just... She came in complaining of a pains in her arches."

"From waitressing," Jules concluded logically.

"Right," he nodded and glanced at the nurse's station. Two nurses were opening watching the conversation taking place. The minute the nurses were spotted, they jump back into action, but doing a very poor job at concealing their interest in the conversation. The staring has come more frequent as of late. Dimissing that for the moment, Matt got back to the more pressing matter. "Last week she came in with a back problem. The week before that, it was her hands..."

Dr. Keating laughed with delight.

"It's not funny," Matt complained, irritated over the whole situation. He was use to being the chaser, not the chased. It was rather disconcerting. "I need help."

"You need a chair and a whip," Jules laughed, not having this much fun since... since forever. The past few months have been trying on her if nothing else.

"Come on Jules, help me out here," Matt asked, giving her that puppy dog look again.

Rolling her eyes, she sighed knowing that she was probably going to regret this. "Seeing as how you did help me out once..."

He brightened considerably. "Yes, I did."

She just knew it was going to come back to bit her, "I guess it only seems fair that I help you out of your sticky situation."

"Thank you," he grinned radiantly.

She stopped by the stairwell door and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms in a resigned manner. "So, what do you want me to do?"

"Debra works at the Blue Note."

"The jazz place on 27th and New?"

"Yes," happy that she knew where it was. "I want to convince her that she's wasting her time."

Jules looked puzzled for a moment. "So bring that string of girls you are always parading around in there and show her your stable of fine fillies for a fine stud like you." She reached over and gave him a light punch in the arm.

"Then she may really think she has a chance," he replied quite seriously. "I don't see her as the type that takes light competition as real danger. My usual..." he made a light jesture with his hand, almost embarrassed over the fact that it was well known that he's taste in women generally ran in the beautiful airhead types. "Let's just say that Debra's type does not let one of her own stand in the way. I need someone she can't compete with."

Truly unsure of where this was going, "What does that have to do with me?"

"Oh come now," Matt said exasperated. "You're smart, generous, kind and a good doctor to boot. You can talk circles around Debra and charm her son into letting you stick a big needle in his ear. You're cute as button and sweet as sugar. Debra couldn't even begin to fathom how to compete with you."

Stunned to silence for a moment, Jules had to shaker her head to clear up the confusion for a moment. "Are you asking me to convince Debra that we're...we're..."

"Together," he finished for her pleadingly. "Please?"

Not exactly sure what to say, she paused for a moment to glance at her watch. "Um... I have to... egh... go now and see... um... a patient!" she finished suddenly. Pushing the stairway door open, she scrambled through it with Dr. Slingerland following close behind. "I'll talk you some more about it later, okay?"

"Think about it Jules," Matt said hopefully. "Just one night, dinner with a friendly face. We just have to convince her that we're serious."

She made a face, not sure how to respond. "I'll get back to you. I have a patient."

"Sure," he said watching her climb the stairs as a hasty pace. "Tell me before you leave today."

"Okay," she called back down as she made a mad dash upward and away from him.
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