Author's note: Ok, I have never done a Scrubs fic before. In fact I have only ever worked on one other fanfic before, and I really don't know what I am doing. I know that the characterizations are going to be waaaay off, nauseatingly off. This is really more of a random thought – an experiment. Something that just popped in my head. Just be advised it won't be great. It won't be vintage JD or Dr. Cox or anything. I hope someone likes it anyway.
Disclaimer: No owning, just playing. No suing.
You know those mornings when you wake up feeling extremely sensitive? Maybe I had a really disturbing dream where I was captured by aliens that resembled Dr. Kelso and forced to listen to old volumes of Teen Beat magazines being read aloud by Elliot. After which I was strung up by my toe nails, dipped in pesto, and left for the crows to peck me to death. Could be, but I doubt it. I'm actually pretty sure I know why, but I also would really rather not think about that.
The alarm went off at 5:03am. I lay there for a few moments, listening to the song that happened to be playing on the radio when it automatically turned on. It was "Mad World" by Gary Jules. Maybe it was the song's fault I was feeling this way. Only I know that's not true since I woke up before the radio went off, and I already felt heavy and…sad? No, it couldn't be sadness. As a general rule I don't get sad. No, that wasn't the right word. What is it? Vulnerable? Maybe.
I slowly turned my head and blinked at the radio. This song seemed to be a rather fitting one to wake up to. I think I'd like to nurture my mood today. Really feed it. If I could carry around a portable CD player at the hospital, I would have this song on repeat as a soundtrack to my world at present. The thought almost made me smile. Almost.
"JD! Turn that thing off and get up!" Carla hollered through the wall. She sounded monumentally irritated.
Woah, someone else is in a funk today I hear. Reminder to self: avoid contact with Carla as much as possible. I've always been prone to sticking my foot in my mouth and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but something tells me that today that could be exaggerated way beyond normal. Reminder to self: avoid contact with everyone today.
A part of me is really tempted to ignore Carla and finish listening to the song. It's so pleasantly haunting. Mellow and dark. I love it.
Carla threw the door open. For a second I could have sworn she had smoke coming out of her nostrils and a forked tongue darting in and out of her mouth. I blinked. Nope, just Carla. Carla looking pissed.
"JD. I am not in the mood for that depressing crap. And if you're late today you'll put Perry in a mood that I really don't want to deal with today. So do me and everyone else a favor and turn that thing off and GET UP!"
I blink a couple more times. Now would be a great time to drift off into a JD fantasy world where people don't yell at you first thing in the morning and everything is shiny and happy. But, my brain isn't cooperating today and that doesn't happen. The song is ending anyway, and I suppose it would be better to shut it off before some overly eager radio announcer comes on and interrupts the last notes of the song, killing the mood.
Oh wait, Carla already did that.
I did mention that I was feeling a little sensitive today, didn't I? Well, I am. I can quite often let things like morning irritability and yelling roll off my back, smile, and go about my day. Like everyone else, though, I have those days where that is a wee bit more difficult than normal. And this being an overly sensitive day…yeah…you get the point.
I reach over slowly and turn off my radio. I've been told that my face gives away my feelings almost instantaneously, like a neon sign blinking above my head. I'm a little worried about what that's going to mean today. I think my reminder to self to avoid everyone includes not letting anyone get a good look at my face, doesn't it?
So, I'm not looking at Carla. Eye contact is definitely out. And I'm tired. Faking happiness takes energy. Can you have a flat affect and be overly sensitive at the same time? I think I saw her turn to leave out of the corner of my eye. I don't want to get up. But if I don't then I'll get yelled at some more by people who can be far more vicious than Carla. And it would be in a public setting. I'm not sure I would deal very well with that today.
So I get up. I get ready. I zoned out in the shower, which received a yelling at from Turk. I think he felt bad about it because he tried to feed me s'mores pop tarts. Which made Carla mad at him because they were the last ones in the pack, and she had been looking forward to eating them. I think Turk is mad at me again because I inadvertently made Carla mad at him.
"Sorry, Carla. I wasn't going to eat them anyway. I'm not hungry. You go ahead."
Did that sound ok? It's true enough. I'm not hungry. And as insane as it sounds, I'm not in the mood for s'mores flavored pop tarts. Man, I am in a mood today. Lucky for me, I can find humor and cheeriness in just about anything, so, my mission today is to pay close attention and I'm bound to find something that zaps this mood.
Right now though, I haven't even gotten over the first time someone yelled at me today. And now I've been yelled at three times, and both my roommates are mad at me, and I feel guilty that Carla is mad at Turk. I know I'm such a girl and Dr. Cox will actually be justified in his creative name calling today, but I really just feel like hiding in a corner and crying.
Which is why I don't wait to see if Carla eats her pop tarts and cheers up, and I don't wait for them before I leave for the hospital. Instead I hop on my scooter and "scoot" over to the hospital. I park my scooter in my usual space and then…freeze.
"There's got to be a way out of this."
I know I said that out loud. Or more like murmured. I don't even look around to see if anyone heard me. I'm going to try to stick to my no eye contact policy today. Which is part of the reason why I am frozen in place. Walking across the parking lot and into the hospital will most definitely mean running into people.
It's actually quite chilly out here, and I'm really not dressed for the weather. My teeth are chattering, and I know that if I just relaxed my muscles I wouldn't be shaking so much. My eyes are starting to water and I am sooo grateful that it's because of the cold and not because I'm a sissy.
I can see the janitor through the door. Another reason why I am frozen. Sensitive days are not good days to be near the janitor. He just looked my way and gave me the death threat point-trail-finger-along-throat move. Not good. NOT GOOD! Maybe if I stand here long enough I'll freeze in place semi-permanently and will have a valid excuse for not going into work today.
I swallow a sure-to-be-girly scream as someone roughly brushes past me, slamming me with their shoulder. I don't recognize them, and they don't seem to care that they practically body slammed me. It's best not to react. Not to say anything. Someone just pulled up into the space next to mine. I don't look over, but I can see that it's Dr. Cox since he's now walking in front of me into the hospital.
Am I invisible? Is that why no one is acknowledging my existence? Maybe this whole avoiding people thing will be easier than I thought today. I could almost smile with relief. Until I remember that even though most of my being wants to fade away completely, there is a part of me that is now feeling rejected and disliked. Ignored. Unimportant. And now I'm back to wanting to cry.
Miraculously I make my feet move, and I blink away the threatening tears and hope that I look like I'm cold, and not like my boyfriend just broke up with me and I didn't win prom queen.
8 hours later…
So here I am, 8 hours into a double shift and I feel like I've been here for a week. The janitor managed to make me fall on my ass in front of one of the cutest nurses I've ever seen as soon as I walked in the door. I forgot about my avoid all contact policy and tried to say hi to Lavern, but she stopped me before I had a chance to even say "good morning" and informed me that it was not a good morning and that she was in no mood for my sickening cheerfulness. I could have corrected her understandable mistake and told her that she needn't worry about me being sickeningly cheerful today, but it didn't seem worth it, and she clearly didn't seem to be in the right head space for the correction.
Dr. Cox has only given me the time of day to yell at me about not being efficient enough or competent enough or prompt enough. And when I say yell, I mean, this wasn't even his typical call me three different girl names and speed talk through a witty and snarky speech that leaves me admiring him instead of feeling bad. I'm talking, he was too angry to even be witty and snarky. He was simply mean. And as usual, it was in front of half the staff. And he did this three times.
To be fair, I am really quite spacey today. I can't concentrate, and I know I'm not doing my best work. Maybe I'm just upset about it because this time I completely agreed with him. You should have seen the look he gave me, though. I can't remember the last time I felt so repulsive and reviled. Actually I can. But that's something I can't think about now. Not now. Not now. Not now.
"Hey, Susan. Would you mind telling me why you're standing in the middle of the hallway, dropping…Mrs….Lavino's chart all over the floor?" Dr. Cox bent down to pick up one of the stray papers off the floor to read the patient's name.
Oh God, he's going to yell at me again. Think of something good. Think of something fast. Ok. First things first, open your eyes you useless sack of crap! How long have I been standing here with my eyes closed?
Oh shit, I almost made eye contact. It wasn't my fault. He happened to be standing in my line of vision when I opened my eyes. My head feels light…like something's shifting around inside there. I want to close my eyes again and pretend that I'm lying down and the hallway is a cozy bed with a down comforter and feather pillows. Only they'd have to have some serious pillow protectors on them because those suckers can REEK! Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Wasn't that some game we used to play in grade school? I walked into the wrong room earlier today, there was someone in the bed who was stiff as a board.
"Holy shit, Shirley…"
Oh crap! I forgot I was supposed to be answering Dr. Cox! He's ranting right now. I'm choosing to zone him out - or trying my best to. A few choice words are getting through, though.
"…useless…idiot…waste of space….little girl…"
Ok, zoning out not 100 effective. I may have failed at avoiding him, but I can do a mid-contact avoidance move. I can walk away, never saying a word, never making a sound, and most importantly, never making eye contact.
There. Now I'm safely out of earshot. And unless I am completely out of it, I was in fact supposed to be getting lunch anyway. I'm still not hungry, but my legs mechanically take me to the cafeteria. Stupid legs. My arms hate me too, because they mechanically got a tray of food.
Now I find myself standing here like an idiot, in everyone's way, not having the slightest clue what to do with myself. I see Todd, Turk, Elliot, and Carla all eating at a table. They don't see me. Which I find a relief because:
a) There doesn't appear to be enough room for me at the table unless I squeeze in on the end
b) My brain has been unable to effectively form words to anyone (excluding patients thankfully) all day
c) I am still getting the vibe that Turk and Carla aren't completely happy with me and that would just be awkward
d) I'm not hungry. I don't want to eat. I don't want to be here.
So, I abruptly turn around and almost send some guy's food flying in the process.
"Oh! Sorry." I mumble, again, not making eye contact.
I just can't seem to make the right decisions today. Decision to turn around at that exact moment resulted in almost having the dreaded dropping tray in cafeteria disaster. Luckily, he had good reflexes. I'm pretty sure he swore at me. But, I'm too busy stuffing my untouched food into the nearest trashcan and throwing the tray into the tray holder to retort, or repeat the apology in case he didn't catch it the first time.
"What a waste."
I glance up to see the lady who served me my food giving me the lunch lady death glare for throwing away my food without eating it.
I tried to apologize, but my throat is tightening up because I'm pretty sure I'm dangerously on the verge of tears, and a strange strangled squeak that barely resembles the words "I'm sorry" comes out instead.
Since I feel like being one gigantic cliché right now, I duck my head in shame and brush past Dr. Cox's name tag…
Oh shit, Dr. Cox's name tag – DR. COX! Please don't see me, please don't turn around, please don't yell at me!
Now I know I must look like a mental case because I am walking like I'm in a speed walking marathon. Only my hands are stuffed in my pockets and I keep clumsily bumping into people, who keep swearing at me. And I think I heard Dr. Cox call me Tracy.
I don't look up until I'm on the roof. Safely on the roof. Freezing on the roof. The cold air makes me cough. The several flights of stairs have left me quite winded and now my chest is killing me from gulping in large amounts of cold air. My eyes are watering again. This time I'm not sure what it's from.
I slide down the side of the building, behind a big pipe, as far away from the usual places doctors and nurses gather up here to smoke and take a break. It's so cold today, I hope it means no one else will be up here. Of course….I'm up here, so I guess that means anyone else could come up too.
It's so quiet. Everything feels still. I have nothing else to focus on but…me. I feel exhausted. I feel weak. I feel heavy. I feel like a brownie. Like if someone poked me it would leave a permanent indentation. Actually, I feel awful.
I haven't found anything to be happy about all day. I smiled at my patients, but I doubt it was terribly convincing because they all sort of looked at me funny, like they weren't quite sure if I was quite right in the head. I'm not sure if I'm quite right in the head.
I pull my knees up to my chest, try to make myself as small as possible - just in case someone does come up here, maybe I could hide. I bury my face in my knees. It's just to protect it from the cold, that's all. But now it's dark and silent. And somehow I feel more exposed than ever.
I feel utterly wretched. I can't even recall one kind smile or word directed at me today. Of course, I haven't really been looking at people and therefore wouldn't have seen a smile. But I've heard some words – and all of them have been less than desirable. All in all, it's been a bad, horrible day. And it's only half over.
I think I'm getting numb. I must have been in this position for a lot longer than I meant to. Yet, I can't seem to move. I wonder what time it is. I know my break must be over. But, since I can't do anything right today, I guess it's only natural that I take an extra long lunch break.
My pager is going off. The beeping isn't as loud as I thought it was. I think the wind might be devouring the sound – whisking it away from me so I don't need to hear it or answer it. The damage has been done, however, and I am slowly and painfully being drawn back into cold, harsh reality. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Rise and shine Priscilla."
Oh shit – the bridge has been breached – THE BRIDGE HAS BEEN BREACHED! Pretend you didn't hear that. No, wait – you've been acting weird enough as it is all day. Maybe my whole avoidant approach is just making this worse. Maybe I need to reconsider. Act normal. Act normal.
Dr. Cox just kicked my foot. Nice start to acting normal, JD - keep balled up in a stony silence until he kicks you to see if you're still alive. Good work.
"Sorry." Ok, talking, not so bad. This could work….if you didn't sound like you swallowed an army of ants maybe.
"Excuse me Martha? Are you trying to speak?"
And maybe taking your head out of the cave you've created would be a nice touch. I look up, clear my throat, and try again.
"How did you know I was here?" Wait – what? What kind of response is that? Damn it, why am I acting like I'm hiding from him? Oh, I suppose because I am…ug.
Dr. Cox gave me his best "you're a freakin' idiot" look and waggled his pager in my face.
Suddenly I feel largely ashamed and look down. "Oh." Sometimes I am really quite brilliant.
There is a really awkward silence, which now that I think about it isn't all that common around here. We all know how much Dr. Cox likes to talk, and I can be something of a Chatty-Kathy myself. Only right now I really can't trust myself to say anything that makes any sense or that won't piss someone off. So I'm trying to think long and hard before I make my next move or say anything.
Making my next move….that might be difficult really. I'm beginning to realize that I've been scrunched up in this position for longer than physically beneficial, add the cold air to that and my general weariness and it probably won't be a pretty sight when I finally uncurl myself and try to stand.
I find that the very thought of physical movement of any kind where someone else can see it is making me anxious. I have a headache. I'm freezing. I think I'm shaking.
"You've been gone for an hour."
I stop my current activity of rubbing my temples, and swallow.
"I've been up here for an hour?" I hate how squeaky I sound. I hate that I can't get my hands to stop shaking. I hate that I'm so fascinated by it and I know that the longer I sit here staring at them shaking, the more likely Dr. Cox will notice.
"I don't know, have you? I said you've been gone for an hour. You would be the one to know where you've been."
He sounds so irritated. I guess he always does. Right now I just wish it wasn't me who was irritating him. Only I seem powerless to stop it.
I stop looking at my hands and slowly uncurl myself. My limbs feel heavy and uncooperative. And cold. It really is quite cold. Now I'm just sitting here because I can't figure out how to stand up.
Dr. Cox holds his hand out to me. I can feel the beginnings of a smile forming in my eyes and tugging at the corners of my mouth. The first act of kindness extended to me today. He's offering me his hand. I look up at him and see that he's scowling. My smile dies before it's fully formed.
I swallow and stare at his hand for a moment. I have a sudden fear that he's toying with me. I slowly reach my hand out, it's still shaking. My fingernails are blue. There's a ridiculous panic quickly spreading from my stomach to my throat. I'm scared that he's going to take his hand away if I move to grab it.
I must have been thinking about that for too long because Dr. Cox just grunted and shot his hand forward to snatch mine. I involuntarily jerked back and gasped. How embarrassing. Normally I would laugh at myself out loud for that, but…not today. Today I dwell on it. Today I get to add that to the growing list in my head of stupid things I've done and said, and of things that have made me sad or anxious. What the hell is wrong with me? I think I know the answer to that, but I can't think about that or I'm really going to lose it.
Dr. Cox manages to help me up to a standing position. Well, semi-standing. I'm leaning against the wall behind me. I forgot that the wall only goes up to the top of my thighs, however. Since I am a colossal klutz today, and have yet to regain the proper use of my leg muscles from sitting in the same position for close to an hour, I feel myself alarmingly close to toppling over the ½ wall, and off the roof.
Thankfully there is someone near me who is paying attention and is strong enough to grab a hold of me and pull me away from the wall.
He called me JD.
My near-falling-to-my-death experience has caused an unpleasant tightening my stomach, a pounding of my blood in my temples, and I am now shaking more than ever. I think I want to throw up, too. The wind is blowing harder up here, now that I'm standing. I can't look up. But I can tell Dr. Cox is running his hand through his hair.
"For the love of all things holy….what in God's name is wrong with you today?"
I blink at him, and I know my expression is infuriatingly blank. I honestly have no idea how to answer that question.
He looks so disgusted I almost apologize again. Instead I blink at him some more like a mindless blob.
"You have 7 more hours, Katie. Are you going to be able to pull it together and actually work for the remainder of your shift, or do I have to send you home to sleep whatever this is off and cover for your sorry ass? Which I would just loooovee to do since my dance card is embarrassingly empty and I'm simply dying to add some names to it."
Yes – I want to go home. Please, let me go home.
"N-no. Sorry. I'm just…tired. I'll just down some coffee. I can work. Sorry."
"One more time."
What? "Sorry?" Hopefully that's what he was looking for.
He nods and rolls his eyes. He then grabs my arm and "assists" me in my journey towards the door of the roof. My head hurts. My nose is cold. I think I need a tissue.
7 and ½ hours later…
My shift is officially over. I haven't really talked to Elliot all day. I haven't really talked to anyone all day. Except a little bit with Dr. Cox on the roof. It's even colder now that the sun has gone down. Why did I bring my scooter today? Because I'm moronic.
My cell phone is ringing. It's my brother. I'm nervous - he doesn't call all that often. He tends to carry with him bad news. On the other hand…he might be the only person I could really talk to about….it. Maybe I should tell him? He'd probably think I was being irrational and stupid. Besides, saying it out loud could be bad, could make it more….possible.
I sigh, flip open the phone, and sit down on the stone wall outside of the hospital. It's quiet enough out here. I should be able to hear him ok.
"Hey, Dan. What's up?" That's the most normal and casual I've sounded all day.
"Hey, Johnny. Are you at work?"
"Sort of. I'm sitting outside, just got done a double shift. Fun fun." I'm faking a smile and I gave a half hearted arm pump. Not that he can see.
"I….I thought I saw him yesterday."
I whispered it. He may not have heard me. I said it. I can't believe I said it. Maybe he didn't hear me. He's not saying anything. This is ridiculous. I know it makes no sense, and now I'm thinking about it. And it's dark and eerie out here and….no cut it out. It's a public place that never closes. People come out here to smoke all the time. Stop shaking you little girl.
Oh, ok. He heard me. But worse than that, he sounds serious. He sounds scared. Like it's a possibility that I could have seen him.
"Supermarket down the road. Check out line. Yesterday afternoon."
"Sorry, I know it makes no sense. He's locked up, and it's been fifteen years anyway. I mean, how would I know what he looks like now? I wouldn't! He wouldn't look the same. It's been fifteen years, and who knows what prison can do to a person's appearance in that length of time, ya know? Sorry. Sorry, I shouldn't have said it." I'm rambling, and I can't stop. I'm vaguely aware that I'm talking out in the open and anyone could walk out of the hospital and hear me. That's not good.
He sounds so serious. Dan never sounds serious.
"Johnny, he's not in prison anymore. He was released. He was released 3 days ago. I just found out."
I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I CAN'T BREATHE!
"Johnny – listen to me. I'm sure it wasn't him. I mean, what are the odds he would move there? Lets just be rational. We can check the Sex Offender Registry. They must have that online or a hotline to call or something, right? Johnny – say something."
I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
The phone clatters to the ground. I'm shaking. I feel like I'm going to be sick. I can hear Dan calling my name faintly from the ground. I know I just need to pull it together and pick up the phone. Let him know I'm ok. I'm ok. I am ok. I'm ok. I just need another minute to sit here, catch my breath, control my heartbeat, stop shaking.
Someone's shoes come into view and I am momentarily seized by complete, mind numbing terror. I gasp harshly, and try to jump back. Only I was sitting at the time and I somehow managed to fall over the rock wall I'm sitting on. More terror, panic. I can't see, I have to get up, I have to be able to see, I have to be able to run.
Someone grabs onto my arm, I'm screaming, I think my heart's going to explode. Dan - Dan might be able to hear me, he can help. He can call someone.
The arm lets go, I fall down again. My eyes scan around me frantically. Wait…wait… that can't be right. Turk? It's Turk.
He's holding his arms out like he's approaching a scared maniac or injured wild animal….oh….that's me. I'm the scared maniac. Ok, would it be too weird to make a joke out of it? Could I effectively laugh this off?
"H-hey Turk. I thought..I…didn't mean….sorry." Am I smiling? I can't tell what I'm doing.
"S'ok, man." He looks perplexed.
We both become aware of someone yelling from the cell phone. Turk hesitates and bends down to pick it up. He looks at the name on the display before talking into it.
I could hear Dan talking on the other end, he sounded frantic, but I couldn't hear what he was saying.
Turk moved the phone away from his ear and look at the phone like it was an alien.
"Woah. Take a breath. He's right here. I just startled him, I think. He didn't see me coming up beside him. Are you ok? You sound way stressed."
Turk listened some more, nodded, and handed the phone to me. My hand is shaking so bad I have to try twice to grab it.
"Hey." I breathe into the phone. Even my voice sounds shaky.
"Jesus, Johnny. You scared the shit out of me. You were screaming."
"Sorry." I'm whispering.
"Are you gonna be ok?"
That's quite the question.
"Y-yeah. I'll look…that thing up tomorrow. I know nothing will turn up. It's fine." I glance over at Turk and try to choose my words wisely. The last thing I need is to get him involved and worried for no reason.
"Ok. You're right. Just call if you need anything, ok?"
"And be careful, ok?"
"I love you."
He loves me? He never says that. No one really ever says that. I want to cry again. I want to go crawl into his bed like I did when I was a kid during thunderstorms. But I can't. I'm a big boy now, and he's not here.
"I love you, too." My voice cracks. A minute ago I felt like I was 3, and now I'm suddenly 13. Well, at least I'm aging. Maybe in a few more minutes I'll be back in the present.
I hang up and stare at the phone for a moment. I need to keep swallowing or I'm afraid I'm going to cry or puke.
Turk nudges my shoulder with his hand. I look up and realize I'm still on the ground.
"You ok, buddy?"
I try to smile. I'm pretty sure it wasn't one of my best or most convincing smiles ever, but I think he buys it anyway.
"Yeah. Just a little jumpy today, I guess. Sorry of I freaked you out. I'm such a spaz."
He smiles and shakes his head. I stand up.
"Oh, man - you should have seen the look on your face. Priceless." He's laughing. I try to laugh with him. It sounds strange to me, but he doesn't seem to be too bothered by it.
He claps me on the shoulder, still laughing and does a little impression of me falling off the wall screaming for Dan. It looks ridiculous.
"Hey, you up for a brewsky?"
Sure? What the hell am I doing? On second thought…I'll be with people, in a relatively well-lit area. We'll all go home at the same time. This might actually be a good idea. Maybe I can loosen up. Forget today, get happy. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe it will bring some good news.