A/N: Yep, this is the new story I told you about. It's dark, it's depressing, and it will most definitely be dramatic. More details about the characters' histories will be revealed as the story progresses. Please, just be patient. Some things are slightly cryptic on purpose. Also, before you read, I wanted to warn you. We're hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year, so that means on top of our normal baking for the holidays (approximately 150 pumpkin rolls which also have to be delivered) and the fact that my Mom is currently in the process of remodeling our kitchen and I'm her little bitch, we also have mad cleaning and cooking to do to get ready for next Thursday. That said, I'm not sure how often I'll be able to post between now and then. I'll definitely get the prompt up for the flash fic on Friday, and I'll write a one shot for that sometime this weekend, but this will probably not get updated until after the holiday. Plus, I want to have a special Thanksgiving challenge (more details later), so look out for that, and, of course, I'm going to want to participate. However, now that I've bored you to tears with this long winded note, here's the post . Enjoy! Charlynn
Will to Leave
At exactly six a.m., Marissa Eileen Cooper's alarm woke her up. Rain or shine, whiteout or blackout, whether sick or on vacation, she never failed to get up bright and early before the dawn. In fact, her routine was so set in stone, she could get out of bed even without the alarm, but she used it anyway, just in case. Her schedule was important; it was rigid and unwavering for a reason, and, if anything were to ever interrupt it, she didn't want to ponder the consequences. So, stiffly, she lifted her arm to shut the ringing clock off, reset it for the next morning, and immediately set to work.
First, she made the bed. The six hundred thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets were smoothed out over the mattress and situated just right so that the fabric was evenly distributed on each side of the bed. Next, she pulled up and leveled out each duvet and comforter, a total of three and arranged in order from the thinnest to the thickest. Once all the blankets were tucked in, she moved to the pillows, fluffing the ones used for sleep and piling on the superfluous, decorative throw pillows as well. It was an exact science, making the bed, one she had learned quickly and efficiently.
From the bedroom, she moved into her walk in closet, choosing an outfit that was both attractive and appropriate for the work day. She needed matching lingerie, a satin bra and thong, a long sleeved shirt and a pair of dress pants to cover most of her skin, silk hose to wear underneath her designer heels, a coordinating handbag, and proper daytime jewelry. Her clothes were always simple but elegant, timeless but still modern, and they rarely varied. Taking the small, neatly folded pile into the ensuite bathroom, Marissa stripped off her pajamas, always a cotton nightgown unless it was a special night, and got into the shower.
She had a routine while bathing as well, her motions efficient and perfunctory so as not to waste water. First, she would shampoo her hair, rinsing out the soap quickly but thoroughly. While her deep conditioner would soak into her ends, she would put a quarter sized dollop of sweet pea and lavender body wash on her loofa, wash her body, and manage to shave her legs and underarms in five minutes' time. As was her custom, she would finish her shower by rinsing out her condition, turning off the water, and stepping out onto a towel so as not to get the heated floor wet. After running a large, body sized towel over her lithe form and hair, she would allow her skin to air dry as she scrubbed the shower clean. Everyday, rain or shine, whiteout or blackout, whether sick or on vacation, she always sanitized and wiped down the shower.
Next, she would get dressed, putting her clothes on in the same order every morning: panties, bra, hose, shirt, pants, shoes, and, finally, accessories. When her entire ensemble was complete, she brushed her teeth, cleaned out the bathroom sink, and flossed before moving to her vanity to pull out the stool and sit down to apply her makeup which she always wore, even if she stayed inside her apartment all day long. Graced with good genes and taught to always use sun block, Marissa did not have to wear cover up, so she kept her makeup to a minimal level: eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, light blush, and tinted lip gloss. It was both easy to apply and to remove. Completed, she stood back up, pushed her vanity stool back in, and moved to the bathroom counter where she combed out her hair, blow dried it, straightened it, and proceeded to style it as well. It was a process, an ingrained habit, rote, and nothing ever changed.
Satisfied with her appearance, she would clean up the bathroom, picking up her dirty nightgown from the night before and used towels. After carrying them to the small laundry room off of her kitchen, a luxury in New York City, she would put on a small load to wash. It was a rule in the household that she did not leave the apartment with dirty laundry laying around, no matter what she had to do or where she had to go. While her washing machine continued to run, she would go into the kitchen, prepare herself breakfast, and eat in solitude while quickly browsing through the morning paper. Not only did a woman need to be abreast on all the important events of the world, but reading also helped her forget the bland nature of her morning meal: two appropriately proportioned pieces of fruit, a dry piece of whole wheat toast, and a flavorless, chalky protein shake. Once she would finish eating, she would clean up the predominately stainless steel room, rinsing off any dishes or silverware she may have used during breakfast, cleaning them, drying them, and then putting them back away in their correct, labeled positions in the cabinets and drawers.
At that point, her morning routine was almost complete, but, while she waited for the small load of laundry to finish, she would move her wallet, keys, makeup case, and various other odds and ends from the purse she had used the day before into the one she had chosen for that day. The empty purse was then put back in her walk in closet, and she would do one last sweep of the apartment, making sure that it was in perfect, precise order. After all, she couldn't leave for work if it wasn't. On her way out the door, rain or shine, whiteout or blackout, whether sick or on vacation, she would switch the laundry, putting the wet clothes in the dryer, and lock the door both on the inside and on the outside before finally leaving, taking a deep breath, and relaxing.
Except that morning was different. She couldn't take a deep breath, she couldn't relax, and she couldn't take the elevator downstairs to hail and cab to take her to the office; instead, she asked the surly driver to take her to Presbyterian Hospital.
Ryan Cohen Atwood was running late to work – literally. As was his habit, he had rolled out of bed at the very latest possible moment, shoved some clean clothes into a gym bag, and set off to Presbyterian Hospital in a sprint. Killing two birds with one stone, he would run like hell to work every morning, barely giving himself enough time to shower and change before having to start rounds. It kept his life interesting, it helped him catch as much sleep as possible, something a doctor always seemed in short supply of, and he was able to exercise without going to an overprized and rather unfriendly gym. In contrast, he much preferred the streets of New York City for his daily jog than the sterile, repetitive treadmills a fitness club had to offer. Even in the winter with a foot of snow on the ground and the air so crisp it could steal the very breath from his lungs, he maintained his ritual commute to the hospital. His coworkers thought he was slightly insane, his parents worried about him, and his brother and best friend loved it, for the daily job allotted Seth an uninterrupted time slot everyday to call and harass him, and, just like clockwork, his phone vibrated in his pocket, alerting him to the fact that he had an incoming call.
Switching on the headset he wore, he laughed at the rush of words that left the curly brunette's mouth before he even had a chance to greet him.
"How's life in the big apple this morning," Seth asked. Ryan could hear the mirth and hyperactivity in the younger man's voice. "Juicy, perhaps?"
"It's… kind of hot right now."
"Well, it's June, and you're outside running. What did you expect?"
For someone who was still awake at three-thirty a.m., west coast time, Seth had way too much energy. His schedule was completely mind boggling. While the rest of the world was working during the day, his brother would sleep, preferring to be awake during the late afternoons, evenings, and early mornings. The younger man claimed he was more inspired then, that comic books were more interesting when read under the light of the moon, and that pudding always tasted better after it had all day to cool in the fridge. Ryan knew otherwise though. Seth just hated to be alone, so he would sleep during the day when their parents were at work, and then stay up all night harassing them until he could pick up a phone and harass his brother. The brunette really needed to find a girlfriend.
Deciding to direct the conversation towards a topic Seth could really sink his teeth into, the doctor queried, "so, what's up with you? Did anything interesting happen yesterday?" Plus, if the younger man dominated the exchange, he could focus on his breathing.
"I managed to have a few moments of genius during commercial breaks. Dad had a whole week's worth of The Nanny tivoed."
"You do know you can fast forward through commercials, don't you?"
"Yeah, but I need the breaks," Seth argued. "While Alex prattles on about life insurance and Betty tells me about how I can get my pet's medication delivered right to my door, I run to the kitchen for snacks or drain the main vein, you know?"
He didn't, but, on the flip side, he really didn't want to, so he let the comment slide and asked another question. "What happened to Judge Judy? I thought that was Sandy's show of choice still?"
"Dad says she's gotten soft, and The Nanny reminds him of home. You should hear him belt out the theme song. He should seriously consider adding it to his karaoke repertoire. Anyway," Seth segued, jumping topics, "between Betty yapping in my ear and Fran catching the doggie nappers in one of the episodes, I think I've come to the conclusion that I want a pet."
"You ate your egg during high school home-ec when we were supposed to take care of it as if it were our child," the older sibling pointed out.
"I was hungry, and, as I explained to Mrs. Hopper, it's called survive of the fittest, Ryan. I was the superior being, and my egg was weak. As evolution has taught us, it was my responsibility to dominate, destroy, and devour. Besides, I'm not actually going to take care of the dog; I'll hire one of the little neighbor kids to do it for me. I'll just take it for walks on the boardwalk every evening. Chicks love sensitive guys, guys who will sacrifice their video game time to take care of their pets."
"So, let me get this straight," the general practitioner wondered out loud, "you're thinking that the way to get a girlfriend is to get a dog first?"
"Who said anything about a girlfriend," Seth protested. "I just want to get laid. Girlfriends are needy. They want you to listen to them, to hold their bags when they go shopping, to remember their birthday. There are three hundred and sixty five days in a year, man. How the hell am I supposed to remember just one?"
"Have you talked this over with Sandy and Kirsten yet? They might not even want a dog living in the poolhouse."
"You let me handle the 'rents," his brother directed. "You just take care of you. Speaking of which," the curly haired man continued, "what are your current prospects with the ladies looking like? Are they just lining up outside your Ryan Atwood M.D. labeled door?"
"I'm a resident at one of the top hospitals in the entire country; I don't have time to date," the blonde argued through labored breaths. Because he had been so late at getting up that morning, he had to push himself even harder than usual. "What else is new?"
"Well, I thought of a new business venture," Seth admitted, "and this one is genius."
Since graduating from college four years ago, after taking five years to finish his degree in fine arts, his only sibling had been wandering aimlessly through life, proclaiming he was one brainstorm away from changing the world. He dabbled in comics, drawing his favorite action heroes and creating his own, attempted his hand at being an inventor, and even tried, just once, to design a sailboat, but still, at twenty-eight, he was unemployed and living in their parents' poolhouse.
"Cereal," the brunette announced enthusiastically, "that tastes good in orange juice."
"Think about it," Ryan," his brother insisted. "What about all those poor kids out there who are lactose intolerant and can't enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting down to a bowl of Cap'n Crunch saturated in their two percent milk? This is America; we're not supposed to discriminate against those who are different. So, that's why I think a cereal needs to be invented that would taste good in orange juice. Not only would those lactose intolerant kids catch a break, but those of us who are normal would get another delicious breakfast option."
"Seth, you caught the kitchen on fire last year when you were trying to make yourself a package of Ramen Noodles. How the hell are you going to invent a new kind of cereal?"
"What's with all the doubt," his sibling questioned rhetorically. "Where's all your faith in your supposed best friend? Don't you know by now that I always have a plan?" And he wasn't lying; he did always have a plan, and that's what was scary about his idea. "I've decided to contact Mrs. Hopper. She retired a couple of years ago, and I just bet that old bat is bored stiff in the nursing home, no pun intended. While she slaves away at the stove all day long, perfecting my idea for me, I'll take her place in the shuffle board tournaments and bingo bonanzas. Just you wait and see, man," his brother practically promised him, "a year from now, it'll be my face you see when you walk down the cereal aisle."
For some reason, of all the things Seth had said that morning, the idea of his image beside those of Snap, Crackle, and Pop made the most sense to the doctor. Shaking off the amusing thought, he said, "I'm at the hospital now. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Will do," his brother agreed quickly. In closing, the younger man directed, "sneak a few peaks underneath the paper gowns today. You know, you really should have gone into obstetrics and gynecology."
His sibling's complaint was a common one, one Ryan never listened to or concurred with. He liked his job; it suited him, and he knew no branch of medicine was perfect, not even his brother's idyllic view of obstetrics and gynecology. In fact, as an OB-GYN he might have been met with even worse horrors than what he saw as a general practitioner, and that was something the young doctor did not need. He was already haunted enough.
Freshly showered, changed, and ready for his twelve hour shift in the ER, Ryan slid open the curtain to reveal his first patient of the day, never once lifting his face from the chart he was reading. "Good morning, Miss Cooper," he greeted his patient pleasantly. Catching a gentle whiff of sweet pea and lavender, he smiled to himself. It was a very agreeable scent. "So it says here that you're complaining of pain in your chest and tenderness in your left shoulder when you lift your arm."
"I fell down the stairs," the woman explained. "I'm pretty sure that my collar bone is broken."
"Do you injure yourself often, Miss Cooper?"
She laughed softly at his teasing remarks, smiling in his direction when he finally lifted his gaze and met her eyes. They were wide, a striking color of blue that almost shimmered green in one light and then purple in another, and slightly timid. "Often is quite the relative word, doctor," she returned quickly.
Sighing, the blonde haired woman admitted, "I am a bit of a klutz, but this, a broken collar bone, is something new for me. I looked up my symptoms online though, so that's how I know."
"May I," Ryan asked, requesting permission to untie her gown so he could look at her injury. A slight nod of her head was the only answer he received. "It might not be fractured. You could have just pulled some ligaments, so we'll have to do an x-ray to make sure." Upon seeing her chest, arms, and back though, he gasped. "What the hell," he exclaimed, moving, once again, to stand before her. "Did you fall down a flight of concrete steps leading down into the subway? Your skin is more black and blue than it is white, Miss Cooper."
"It's Marissa, please," she asked of him, reaching behind her to retie her gown. The doctor noticed a definite blush of embarrassment to her cheeks. "And, no, they were the steps in my apartment."
"You have steps in your apartment… in New York City, a place known for its tiny artist studios and cramped walkups?"
While avoiding his searching gaze, she added, "I have a really nice apartment."
"Evidently." But, still, he wasn't sure he believed her. Shaking off his doubts and returning to professional mode, he held out his hand to help her stand up from the exam table. "Come on, I'll help you down to x-ray. Do you want me to get you a wheel chair?"
Before she could reply, she tripped, catching her feet on the small step down from the chair and would have fallen down flat on her face if he wouldn't have been close enough to reach out and catch her. As soon as his arms tightened around her torso, the young woman gasped in pain, and he immediately righted her position, helping her to stand up.
"I guess you really are a klutz."
"Told you," she taunted him playfully, making him smile, and, in that one small gesture, all of his doubt floated away to be replaced with an urge to see her really nice apartment. Of course, it was only because he had always found architecture to be interesting, perhaps because of his mother's job for a real estate development firm. "About that x-ray though," the blonde haired beauty recaptured his attention, biting her lip harshly "is there anyway we could skip it? I'm already late for work, and my boss expects nothing less than absolute punctuality."
"We won't be able to tell if it's actually broken without an x-ray."
"Trust me," Marissa promised, "it's broken. "I just… is there any pain medication I could take to make moving around any easy?" His distrust was back. "I shouldn't have said it like that," she promptly apologized. "Check my chart. I'm not some pain killer junkie looking to score. I just… it's really uncomfortable, doctor."
"Ryan, please," he insisted, although why he wasn't sure. "And I already saw your chart, and you're right; you've never even been admitted before to any hospital. However, with a broken collar bone we usually recommend taking anti-inflammatory pain medication, stuff that you can get over the counter like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin."
"Really, that's all you can give me?"
"I could attempt to put your arm in a sling to alleviate some of the pressure and to help hold it in place."
"No," she begged off, appreciative despite her negative response. "It would just get in the way and slow me down."
He couldn't help it; he laughed. "No matter what, I think a broken collar bone is going to slow you down."
"You're right." Sighing in resignation, Marissa asked, "so, what else do I need to know? How long will this take to heal?"
"Well, every person is different, but, normally, it takes between six to twelve weeks, depending upon the severity of the fracture," the doctor answered. "While you're here, I'm going to schedule you an x-ray in a few months' time. Whether your work schedule permits it or not, you're going to have to get an x-tray preformed later on to make sure that the break is healing correctly. Is there any day that would work well for you?"
"Sundays are probably the best," she replied. Nodding towards the curtain, she stated, "I really need to get going, so, if you don't mind…"
"You need your privacy to change, of course," Ryan assented. Just as he was about to leave the small exam area, he stopped and turned back around to observe his patient once more. "I'd like to see you again… if that's possible. Perhaps we could go out together some time?"
"I'm currently seeing someone," the beautiful blonde answered. Though her words held a note of finality, her tone was still considerate and slightly regretful. "But I'd love another friend… if that's enough for you."
"A friend would be nice. Let me give you my cell phone number." Reaching for a prescription pad from one of the front pockets of his lab coat, he wrote the seven digits down. Handing it to Marissa, he waited for her response.
"Thanks," she accepted the piece of paper. "I'm actually between cell phone companies right now," the injured woman explained. "You know how it is. One company screws you over, and it's a nightmare getting out of the contract you signed so you can find a new service provider. Hopefully the next time we talk, I'll have a number to give you."
"And hopefully the next time we see each other, it won't be in an ER," Ryan added. With a simple nod, he said goodbye, pulling the curtain closed and smiling confidently to himself. Suddenly, his day and social life were looking up. Seth would be both proud and pleased… not that his brother's reaction really mattered.
With a sigh, Marissa relaxed back into her luxurious bed. It was her one safe haven, her one place to find peace, and, after the long day she had lived through during the past thirteen hours, it was exactly what she needed. Like she had predicted, her boss had been furious with her for showing up late to work, no matter what excuse she tried to give him. Apparently, an emergency visit to the hospital didn't qualify as an appropriate absence. So, as punishment, she had been forced to work over that afternoon, and, after performing her nightly chores around the apartment, she was ready for bed at the early hour of seven in the evening.
"Get up," a voice rudely instructed her before appearing in the bedroom – their bedroom. "We're going out."
"Tanner, I really don't feel well. I'm sore, and I'm tired, and I just want to sleep. You should go without me. You'll probably have more fun that way anyway."
"You're right, I probably would, but it's important for me to be seen about town with my girlfriend on my arm. It helps my reputation," her boyfriend icily explained for what might have been the hundredth time. It was the same old dance they always did. She would beg off all their public appearances, he would insist, and, in the end, she always did what he wanted, what he told her to do. "Besides, it's your own fault that you're tired. If you would have shown up at work on time today…"
Snapping up from her reclined position, Marissa hissed as sheer, blinding pain almost leveled her onto her back once again. "I went to the hospital for my collar bone," she said as calmly as possible. Yelling would only strain her injury more, and Tanner was not one to stand by and allow someone to scream at him. That was probably just one reason why he had been promoted so quickly throughout his career. "It's broken."
"Well, that's your own fault, too," her boyfriend told her.
Before she had a chance to retort, he was at her side, forcefully pulling the blankets off her pajama clad body. "We're leaving in half an hour. Be ready. Oh, and Marissa," he added just before stepping out into the hallway that led to the rest of their spacious apartment, "make the bed up again before we leave. You know how much I hate a messy house."
And, just as he ordered, she was primped and set to go exactly thirty minutes later, the bed made to his precise instructions, just like it always was.