A/N: This has been sitting in my one-shots folder on my computer for months but for some reason I've never posted it. I know I have other fanfics I desperately have to update, but I've just been so busy and I couldn't let this sit in my documents any longer. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: If I owned the show it would probably be called Jolex's Anatomy.
When Mrs. Carter tells him that his mother is coming to pick him up, he's not excited.
Maybe before he would've been, but now he knows exactly how she is. Every time she gets them back, his mother swears that she'll take care of them from now on, that she'll never go away again. Aaron and Amber are still young enough to believe her, but Alex knows the truth. At fifteen, he feels so much older than his age, but not in a good way. He feels like he's experienced too much for someone of his age. Sometimes he just wants it all to stop.
Downstairs, he can hear Mrs. Carter's voice travel as he packs his bags. She's one of the best foster mothers he's had in a long time. She's sweet and gentle, and even when he tries to push her away she sees right through him. He knows though that after today he'll probably never see Mrs. Carter again. When his mother loses it again - which she surely will - and Social Services find out - which they surely will - he and his siblings will be forced to go off to another new foster home, where they will stay until their mother fools everyone into thinking she is ready to be a good mother to her children - well, until she fools everyone except for Alex. He knows his mother is sick but he just wishes she could take her meds, try to hold on – for Aaron, for Amber, for him.
He is snapped out of his thoughts when Aaron appears in the doorway, practically busting at the seams from excitement as he tells Alex: "Mommy is here! Mommy is here!" Alex smiles and nods, tells Aaron that he'll be downstairs in just a second. Once Aaron is gone, Alex lets his face fall.
He grabs their bags and walks down the stairs. Aaron and Amber have already disappeared, probably having run out to their mother's car, unable to contain their excitement any longer. Alex doesn't burst their bubbles. Though, Mrs. Carter is still in the kitchen, and she's holding in her arms a little girl Alex has never seen before.
She's very young - no more than five or six - but there's something about her that's so...sad, nothing like Aaron or Amber. It's like she's already lost all hope. I feel for ya kid, Alex thinks to himself. Then, the little girl looks up from Mrs. Carter's embrace, as if she's heard Alex's thought. Her eyes are big and a slightly lighter shade of brown than her hair, and full of melancholy.
"Josephine," Mrs. Carter says to her now, alerting the little girl back to the woman who is currently keeping her captive in a tight embrace. "It's okay, sweetheart. I'm going to take very good care of you here."
The little girl looks down, as if not believing her. Alex had been the same way when he first met Mrs. Carter. He hopes the little girl is happy here.
When he walks out the front door, his mother's car is parked by the curb. His mother has gotten out of the vehicle and Aaron and Amber are in her arms, as they all kiss and cry and promise to never be separated ever again, never.
Helen Karev turns her attention to her oldest child once she's noticed his presence. She attends her arms for him. "Alex, baby, come here."
Alex wants to snap at her that he's not a baby. She would know that if she'd actually paid just a little damn attention during his childhood instead of losing it time and time again. But tonight, for some reason he cannot name, he humors her, letting her pull him into a hug and brush back his hair and kiss his forehead. And as she whispers into his ear that she's sorry and she will never lose him again, he actually nods, like he believes her.
He looks back at the Carter house one more time as he climbs into the passenger seat of his mother's car, and finds the little girl standing in the open doorway. As he leaves, he swears the little girl is watching him, following him with her big, brown eyes.
"Okay, so this is the library - "
As her tour guide goes on and on, Jo finds herself zoning out. She'd only come to visit the Iowa State campus because Ms. Schmitt had encouraged her to consider all her options, and the annoying perkiness of her tour guide is not helping the matter. She's the kind of girl Jo would never associate with if she had the choice - perky and blonde and with a name just as girly as she, Candy or Mandy or something like that.
As Candy/Mandy talks about the number of books in their library and the history behind pretty much every one of them, Jo looks around. To most, the Iowa State campus would look like nothing compared to Princeton and Harvard, which she's already visited, but something intrigues Jo about it. Yeah, it's not Ivy League and it's very cold here even in early spring, but everyone she sees seems so...happy. And Jo can't remember the last time she's been happy. Has she truly ever been?
Candy/Mandy is walking away from the library now, and so Jo follows, anxious to break away from her hostess and consider this decision on her own. As they walk forward they pass a group of boys, sitting together on a cluster of benches. They're all wearing med school sweatshirts and eye Candy/Mandy in her tight skirt like she's a piece of meat.
"Hey Sandy!" Oh, it's Sandy - well, Jo was close. Her tour guide turns around, her hands on her hips and an unamused look on her face as she meets the gaze of one of the guys. He has dark hair and a wicked grin, clearly handsome but also troublesome at the same time. "You want to come to the bar with us tonight? I'll even buy you one of those fruity little drinks you like."
Sandy rolls her eyes. "You're just trying to get me drunk!" She says, annoyed. "Nice try!"
The guy shrugs. "What can I say," He replies. "When I see something I like, I grab it." He turns his attention to Jo now, and his gaze softens. "Maybe your friend would like to come along."
Sandy lets out a disgusted gasp and promptly grabs Jo's arm, dragging her off in the opposite direction. Jo looks back over her shoulder, but the guy is no longer paying attention to her, laughing with his friends.
"Ignore Alex," Sandy says, brushing off her skirt even though it's not dirty and trying to regain her composure. "He's in his last year of medical school and trying to screw as many college girls as he can before he gets out of here. He's not worth your time."
"Oh," Jo says, and this new found information makes her feel sad for some reason. "Well, thanks for the warning."
In the end, she turns down the offer from Iowa State. After all, there's nothing there for her. Or so she thinks.
"Jo," Ms. Schmitt says. "Stop pacing, please!"
Jo looks up from counting tiles on the floor of her favorite teacher's hospital room. "How am I not supposed to pace? I'm pre-med, I'm thinking about all the things that could go wrong!"
"I'm getting my appendix out, Jo. This is really unnecessary." Ms. Schmitt sighs. "Maybe I just shouldn't have told you..."
"No, I'm sorry." Jo says with a sigh. "I'm freaking out for no reason. It's just an appy, you'll be fine."
Ms. Schmitt sighs, relieved. "Why don't you go down to the cafeteria, Jo? Get yourself some coffee." Her former student opens her mouth to object, but Ms. Schmitt cuts her off. "Please? It would make me feel better."
Jo closes her mouth and concedes. "Fine," She says. "But I'll be right back." She reluctantly turns and walks out of the room, just as the doctors come in.
"Alright," Miranda Bailey says to her group of interns. "Someone read me the patient's chart please?"
"Margaret Schmitt," Alex recites. "55. Needs her appendix taken out."
"Great," Dr. Bailey says. "You just got yourself a case, Karev."
Alex looks at her, silently pleading. "Come on, Dr. Bailey. She just needs her appendix taken out, that's barely worth my time."
"Can I do it?" Izzie pipes up. Everyone looks at her curiously. "It's just, you know...anything is better than more rectal exams."
"I sure as Hell don't want it," Cristina says. "I'm with Burke." Meredith elbows her in the ribs.
George rolls his eyes discreetly. "I'll do it, Dr. Bailey." He says, and Bailey smiles appreciatively. Alex hands him the chart.
"Try not to almost kill this one," Alex says to him. "Eh, 007?" George's cheeks flush, while the rest of the interns resist laughing.
Jo reappears in Ms. Schmitt's room five minutes later, her coffee dumped in a trash can on the way because she was still too nervous to drink it. When she enters, there's a young doctor in pale blue scrubs standing by Ms. Schmitt's bedside, engaging her in friendly conversation.
"Oh, hello." The doctor says when he sees Jo. "Nice to meet you, I'm Doctor O'Malley."
As she sits there in the police station, she has no idea how she got there. Well, she has an idea – when you start beating the guy who took you to dinner up at the drop of a hat, the police are bound to get called – but Jo just doesn't understand how this became her life. Her childhood had been hard to say the least, everyone knew it. She'd been abandoned, she'd been beaten, she'd been abused, she'd been taunted. She'd thought she'd finally worked through all those problems though – now, she was twenty-three, attending one of the country's most elite colleges, and she'd even found a serious boyfriend.
Jo had been actually happy in her relationship with Chase, so when he'd asked her to come meet his family in Cedar Rapids over Thanksgiving break she'd accepted eagerly. To think, she'd thought this might have been her chance to have a normal life, when her life had always been the furthest thing from normal. The dinner had gone great, but the problems came afterwards, when Chase had walked her to the hotel. They'd just reached the door when he leaned over and did something he'd never done before – he'd kissed her forehead.
It was an innocent enough action, but when Chase had done it it just set her off. The action of him kissing her forehead had sent her into a flashback, something she'd thought she'd finally gotten over. Suddenly, she was ten years old again, watching her then foster father climb into her bed, and feeling his lips touch her temple. That's when she'd started to beat him – and then the security guard when he'd come out upon hearing the ruckus. And so now she was sitting in a police station in Iowa, while across town the people who had been singing her praises earlier were probably sitting around Chase's hospital bed, cursing her name all the while.
Jo fidgeted in her seat, feeling nervous. Fifteen minutes ago the officer who had brought her in had called Chase's family to discuss the charges. They had to be charging her with something – after all, it didn't take you fifteen minutes to say 'We're not pressing charges'. She watched Officer Knox pace back and forth in his office, nodding his head and murmuring what looked like 'uh-huh'.
"What are you here for?" Jo looked over when she heard someone speak to her. Across the hallway, a girl was sitting in one of the plastic chairs. She had dark hair and hazel eyes, and couldn't be more than eighteen.
Jo shrugged. "It's a long story." She said. "You?"
"I didn't break the law," She said. "My brother came at me and the neighbors called the police." The girl brushed back her hair, and Jo's eyes widened when she saw bruises on her neck, bruises in the shapes of fingertips.
"Oh my God," Jo gasped. "Did they...did they arrest him?"
The girl shook her head. "Nah." She said. "I'm not pressing charges." Jo's shock must've been evident, because the girl continued. "My brother's a schizophrenic, the disease runs in our family. He wasn't in his right mind when he hurt me. I'm only staying here until my brother can come and pick me up."
"They're letting him take you home after all this?"
The girl laughed. "No, not that brother. My other brother, I have two of them."
Jo nodded and looked down, unsure of what to say to this girl. A second later, an officer appeared. "Miss Karev, your brother is here."
The girl smiled at the officer and stood up. "Good luck," She said to Jo. Jo forced herself to smile in response and then the girl walked away.
Officer Knox reappeared a moment later, an unreadable expression on his face. "Miss Wilson, you're free to go."
Jo grabbed the end of her scrub top and pinched it between two fingers. It felt so weird to finally be able to say she was a surgeon – weird and also exhilarating. Standing in the lobby of Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, she felt overwhelmed. This was it. Everything she'd worked for was finally here.
"It's really something, isn't it?"
Jo turned her head, finding an African-American girl with curly dark hair, and also wearing light blue scrubs, standing next to her. "Yeah," She agreed. "It really is."
The other woman smiled. "I'm Stephanie, by the way." She said, extending her hand for Jo to shake. "Stephanie Edwards."
Jo took the hand she was offered. "Jo Wilson,"
The crop of interns finds themselves being led forward by their resident. Jo notices that Stephanie walks by her side as they walk down the hall, happily chatting away. Jo doesn't really understand how she's managed to make a friend already, but she decides not to question it.
A few minutes later their group stops, while their resident explains something about which elevators to take if they want to get to a certain floor. Jo can't help but zone out a little bit, so she's not looking when someone bumps her shoulder.
When she turns, a man is standing there. He appears to be slightly older than her, and she can't help but notice that he's the kind of guy all the girls must fawn over – dark hair, dark eyes, nice built. She feels like she's seen him somewhere before, but she can't place it. "Sorry," He says, sounding like he's in a rush. "I wasn't looking." She nods, as if telling him it's okay, and he turns on his heel and walks away before she can even finish. Jo watches him go and simply looks back to her group as they surge forward once again.
For some reason this brief, fleeting, seemingly unimportant encounter stayed with Jo. Something about this stranger who had just bumped into her felt so familiar. Little did she know, this had been the fifth time they had crossed paths, the fifth opportunity that they'd unknowingly allowed to pass them by.
(The sixth time, though, they'd get it right.)