Disclaimer: I don't own Scrubs.
"You can't stand there all day," Carla said critically.
"Whoa," I said, backing up. "Lay off, sister. Or was it that you just can't stand the thought of me breathing your air? Because believe me, even though you need a lot of the air to puff up your ego, I'm sure there's enough to go around. And I know, I know, you're probably concerned with global warming and all, but—"
Carla turned on her heels and started to walk away furiously, ignoring my rant.
"Wait," I called after her pathetically, sounding a little more desperate than I meant to.
"Give me one good reason," she said, her voice even with anger, not even bothering to turn to face me.
"Because…" I sucked it up and decided to tell her the truth. "I can't do it alone."
At that she turned around, laughing bitterly. "You're not alone. You see the patient in there? That's JD. That's my friend, and I'll be damned if he's not yours, too. He's the same person, Perry. What do you think is going to happen?"
I looked into the room, grimacing. The ventilator was gone, and I could clearly see his paled, sickly face sinking into the pillow, so still and unaware. I missed his idiocy. I missed it, dammit. What do you think is going to happen? Carla asked. I took a deep breath.
"He'll never be the same, Carla," I said softly, putting the truth into words. "He'll never…"
"It's still JD," Carla repeated forcefully, tears springing into her heated, passionate eyes. "It's still JD, no matter what happens." She shuddered, trying to blink the tears back. "Besides, we don't even know if it's that bad. He might be fine. He might be walking around in a week."
I scoffed disbelievingly. "He may never walk again."
Carla shook her head. "You care, Perry. You know that. Go see JD, would you? Please?"
"He's sleeping," I excused myself, trying to avoid the confrontation.
She rolled her eyes at me. "He'll wake up as soon as the door opens. He's still as jumpy as…" Her eyes filled with tears again. "Jumpy kid," she croaked, reflecting. Her eyes grow misty. "Always has been."
"What do you mean by that?" I asked Dan's outburst from earlier and the confession from Newbie's mother popping fresh into my mind. I shook my head. He needed me, the kid, he always had. And he didn't need much. He needed the occasional rant just to remind him that I knew he existed—he really never asked for anything more. And all the while, he'd been helping me grow; not just as a doctor, but a human being.
The student becomes the teacher…that crappy line from Star Wars.
"You have to see for yourself," Carla said in a teary voice, passing me the papers in her hands.
I scanned the list of hospital admittances, injury after injury. I read it all, from top to bottom, and became sick to my stomach. Sure, my dad had done a number or two on me, but never anything this bad. One time he broke my arm, but that was the worst of it. He was drunk. He wasn't crazy like whoever had done this to JD.
"This can't be…" I stammered weakly. I dropped the papers. They hit the floor noiselessly, scattering out of order. Neither of us made a move to pick them up.
Carla looked at me hard. "Go on, Perry. We're all that he's got."
My hand reached for the door. "Don't think I'm going in there because you told me to," I said lowly.
Carla smirked. "When have you ever listened?"
I took a deep breath. "Never." Then I opened the door.
She was wrong about one thing. The kid didn't wake up the second I walked in. His arms remained limp at his sides, a far cry from the fidgety kid who raced around these hallways. His hair wasn't gelled up for once, matted on his forehead. It didn't look like the Newbie I knew and made fun of.
So I wouldn't make fun of him. Not today. Maybe some other day, when he wasn't laying helpless in a hospital bed—but not today.
I sat down and touched his hand. He still didn't wake. He would have looked dead if it weren't for his chest slowly rising and falling, the occasional unconscious shudder in his breath.
How did it ever get so bad? I wondered. Everything…everything had gone wrong. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Not for me, not for Newbie, not for anyone. So how was it that our lives got so screwed up, and God or whatever unfathomable force could never leave well enough alone? I was happy—ignorance is bliss. When Newbie hadn't gotten sick, when I hadn't known about his past, when I didn't have to feel the constant guilt that was still gnawing at me even as I sat in his hospital room…I was happy. I had a wife, a kid, a decent job, and friends. I thought I was an okay person.
But I'm not an okay person. I'm not even an okay friend. I couldn't even suck it up to see the kid until we were sure he was going to live, because for once it was me being the total coward.
Newbie's eyes opened, still wide as ever but still subdued. He didn't see me at first. I wondered if he could feel my hand on his, and I pulled mine back instinctively. He did feel it, though, and his gaze shifted over to me.
His mouth opened, but nothing came out at first. "Do…doctor Cox," he gasped out.
I pursed my lips, feeling frozen. What the hell was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to make this better for him when I couldn't even make it better for myself?
"Yeah," I said. The one and only, I thought bitterly. "It's me."
He looked up at the ceiling then, as if he were almost afraid to look at me. I realized my vision was blurred as my eyes watered. But there was no way in hell I'd let myself cry in front of the kid, there was just no way.
"You do realize," I started slowly, "what you've done. Right?"
He closed his eyes as if in thought, either unable or unwilling to respond.
"Every damn person in this godforsaken hellhole—" He smiled slightly at that, and my voice broke off. "It's not funny," I say quietly, my voice beginning to rise. "Everyone, Newbie, and I mean everyone—they've been nagging me endlessly. And you want to know why, kid? You want to know why?"
The smile was gone. His eyes were open again, staring distantly.
"I'm the only one. Damn it, I am the only one," I said, feeling slightly mad as the heat rushed into my face. "I couldn't just be here for you. It's just not that simple for me. Everyone else…they come in here, they reminisce and say crap words that are supposed to be comforting and then they leave. But I couldn't do that, could I?"
You don't really hate him, do you?
His mother's words echoed in my head. My thoughts were completely convoluted, jumping from one issue to the other. I had to tell the kid something, but I didn't know what. And I couldn't screw it up. I'd had days to come up with whatever I was going to say; why couldn't I just spit it out?
The thoughts continued to spiral until finally I asked the stupidest thing I could possibly ask.
"You don't think I hate you, do you?" I asked wearily, the words sounding like a confession. In a way, it was a confession. I was confessing that I cared and that it was hard for me to…to be that guy that was there for people.
Before he could answer, I continued with the riddance of my own guilt, bearing it off my chest as the words were spoken aloud. "Because I don't hate you, JD. I don't. And I don't want you to think…that I was just ignoring you. Because…it upset me, too."
I had to look away from him then, realizing that there were tears in my eyes that wouldn't stay back if I kept talking. And damn it, I had better not stop now that I was on a roll, because I knew I'd never have the balls to face him again if I didn't.
"I guess I just…it's always been you. I know that even if I mercilessly mock you, you'll always be there, that same dorky kid that…" I'd promised myself no insults, but he needed to hear it. "Sometimes it's like you're the only thing this hospital can count on, as stupid and goofy as you can be. You actually care. You don't get wrapped up in all that other crap like money and power. And if we lose that…" I couldn't even finish the sentence. I didn't think I would know how.
I took a deep breath, trying to focus on what I was saying. "What I'm trying to tell you is that I'm sorry," I said straightforwardly, feeling a tear roll down my cheek. And even though I wouldn't look up for shame that he might see me, I didn't hate myself for crying. It was the first time that I ever let myself cry without thinking of myself as a wuss.
"I'm sorry for avoiding you these past few days. I was…afraid."
I saw his eyes water too, and I thought of how pride was a funny thing. There was Newbie, who hid everything from his abusive past to the illness he struggled with until his collapse; there was Mrs. Andrews, who held a grudge against her son for twelve years before finally apologizing; then there was me, the guy who couldn't face his friend being sick. It was a twisted thing, pride. It made us do the stupidest things, but sometimes it was all that we had.
"By golly, Carly, let's not get all emotional here," I said sarcastically through my own tears. "You'll ruin your make-up and your date for Homecoming will think you're a-habsolutely hideous. I just don't think you can afford that mishap, considering you didn't even bother to do your hair. And to be honest, that gown you picked out? It matches your eyes, but I just don't think the cut was right. It sort of screams 'hospital patient,' if you know what I mean."
Phew. It felt good to get that off my chest. I stood up, feeling free of guilt for the first time in a week.
Except that still didn't make the years of abuse go away. It didn't make the horrors the kid had experienced disappear. It could never really make everything go away.
I looked over at his hand that I had grabbed earlier, looked over at it for the first time while actually seeing it. There was a long, violent scar that traced the top of his hand to the top of his forearm, and a scar that could only be from a burn that was visible on the part of his chest that the gown didn't conceal. They weren't the only marks. His other arm was branded with the misery as well.
He'd always worn long sleeves under his scrubs, even in the summertime. Told everyone it was because the evil janitor kept pumping up the air conditioning. Now I knew why he'd made such stupid excuses.
But that—that was a whole different ball game. We'd get to that in due time. Even I knew that there was only so much that I could do.
I was about to leave when Newbie took a deep breath and croaked out, "Thank…you."
I couldn't bring myself to say "you're welcome." I hadn't actually done him a favor; I didn't deserve his thanks. So instead I said, "I'll see you later, JD."
That's right! Finally, the Dr. Cox-and-JD sobfest. Aw, c'mon, admit it, that's what you were waiting for, wasn't it?? Admit it, you pansies!
Mmkay. I've had more than seven reviews (a lot of anonymous, or I'd just email you all myself) asking what the acronym JDA means. Well, see, I was writing this fic and if you read on the bottom of one of the previous chapters, I decided randomly to make up an acronym to describe "JD Angst" fics (hence the JDA). So this is my trademark, everyone...lol...I created the phrase exclusively for the use of anyone brave enough to write JD angst. So if you write a JDA fic, by all means, slap the label on your summary!! Cuz then I might feel important...lol...plus it helps everyone pick out the REALLY good fics (because the juiciest most wonderful fics are angsty, right? RIGHT??).