A/N: Hey, gang. I've been working on a variation of stories, another one-shot as well, but in the middle of writing that one-shot, I got an idea for this one-shot, and felt the immediate need to write it all out. This one's kind of angsty folks. I really don't know why either. It just sort of popped into my head and I decided to roll with it (though I am aware that similar plot lines have been done before, I hope mine still manages to hold its own creative spark)
Oh! Just one more thing before the story: I'm holding a poll on my profile, asking all you lovely readers and reviewers what Scrubs story you'd like to see from me next. Your voting would mean a lot to me, so if you could stop by and take your pick, I'd appreciate it. :)
Okay, that's enough out of me. Enjoy everyone!
Disclaimer: I own a very large nothing.
Warning: Minor character death; Rated for language.
My Strawberry Induced Breakdown
It was 2:00 in the afternoon when he got the call.
Perry pulled himself up from his comfortable position on the couch to begrudgingly answer the phone. "Yeah?" he asked the caller, clearly annoyed at being interrupted on one of the few days off from work he actually had.
"Carla?" Well, this was certainly a surprise. Carla very rarely called his home number, nor had she ever called him on one of his days off before. In fact...wasn't she off today too?
"Dr. Cox, its JD…"
"Newbie? Oh, don't tell me. He and his black wife were –"
"Dr. Cox, not now!"
Perry froze. Carla was one of the few people who was able to interrupt him without being punished, and sure…she'd given him quite a few rants of her own in the past as well, but something here was wrong. Her voice didn't sound like the annoyed nurse who just didn't want to deal with his usual crap due to a busy day. It sounded more…flustered. Urgent. "Carla…what the hell is going on?"
"Bambi," she responded, voice wavering with worry, "he's just…he's not talking to us. He won't even make eye contact. He's just…he's staring straight ahead, and he won't get out!"
The older man's eyebrows furrowed, his confusion over the situation blocking out the worry that was slowly bur surely boiling in the pit of his stomach. "He's not talking to you? C'mon Carla, Newbie always talks. And whaddya mean he won't, 'Get out?'"
"Something happened, but we don't know what. We, Turk and I, keep on trying to talk to him, to get him to tell us, but he just stares ahead at the wall and he won't even…he won't even get out of the tub!"
Perry's eyes widened. That sounded familiar… "Carla," he said slowly, trying to calm her down while simultaneously ignore the increasing suspicion of what may have caused his protégé's current state. "Carla," he continued, "I need you to go to your kitchen."
"What? Dr. Cox, why –"
"Just do it. Go to your kitchen and open your fridge."
He could hear her footsteps as she followed his instructions, carrying the phone along with her. He could hear the opening of the door and the confused voice of the nurse asking, "Who bought this cake?" He could hear Gandhi, just in the background, as he let out a moan; tired, sad, and filled with realization.
Perry simply closed his eyes.
Someone close to JD had died, and whoever it was must've been close, real close, to have the young doctor resorting to his older sibling's tactic of dealing with things. That thought, however, led to a new one. To someone. JD's older brother. Dan.
Oh, had he said that out loud? "I'm coming over."
"You heard me. And until then, just stop questioning him. Make sure he stays put, but no more harassing him, understand?"
"We haven't been harass-"
"And when I do get there, you and Gandhi will leave the apartment."
"Wait, what? Why!?"
"Because he needs to break, and he won't do it while you two are still there."
"He needs to…he needs to what?"
"Carla, just work with me here, alright?"
The Latina woman sighed, confused and frustrated. "Alright, fine. But you better tell us what's going on when we get back."
"Alright, deal. Unless, of course, he asks me not to."
"What? Since when do you listen to JD's requests?"
It was one of the few times in his life where Perry didn't know what to say. So instead, he said the first thing that came to mind. Because really, in an odd sort of way, it was true. "Doctor patient confidentiality." Then he hung up the phone and went to his car.
When he arrived at his protégé's apartment, he was met by a worried looking Carla and an aggravated Gandhi.
The surgeon shot up from the couch and was approaching the older doctor at an alarmingly fast rate. Carla grabbed onto his arm to hold him back, while Perry looked on, seemingly unphased.
"I've been JD's best friend for years!" Turk exclaimed in what could only be described as a whisper-shout. "Now you just come in here and tell us to get out because he supposedly won't open up to us? It took you long enough just to come over here and spend the afternoon with him when his dad died, but now you act like we're useless? This is just a solo act for the ego-maniac that is Dr. Cox, right? That's what it is, isn't it!?"
"Wow, Milk Dud, that was some impressive rant. Honestly, it was. But before you get on your high horse and start spewing all that sorority sister crap, please keep in mind that it was your wife – your actual wife, not that kid in the bathroom – that called for my assistance. So here I am, assisting."
"'That kid in the bathroom!?' That's assisting? Is that what you meant when you told Carla he needs to 'break,' because if you plan on going in there just to rant and call him a bunch of girls' names, then we're not leaving. We're not."
"Yes, as a matter of fact, you are. And I'm not going to stand here and talk about some kind of 'game plan' with the two of you on how to deal with Newbie. And to answer your question from earlier, no. This is not a solo act. In fact, I'm sure he'll need the both of you after all is said and done, but before all that? He has to break, and he won't do that with you two still here. So out. Out, out, out, out, out!"
Turk glared as he marched angrily to the door. Carla passed Perry with a small pat on the shoulder before following her husband to the car, knowing very well she was the only one who'd be able to calm him down at this point. And now? Now, Perry was standing alone in his protégé's living room, staring at the closed bathroom door before him.
Dr. Cox swallowed. Once. Twice. A crack of the knuckles. A deep breath. Ready and…go.
He knocked, knowing he'd receive no answer, but feeling the need to alert the kid of his presence anyway. "Newbie? I'm coming in."
Perry opened the door, slightly hesitant. The image that met him inside was one he'd definitely seen before, albeit a few alterations.
JD sat in the bathtub, beer cans floating amongst the water around him, but the thing that made the scene so much different from his brother's was his stillness. Dan had been moving around, even if it was only in the tub. He had been talking, even if he had been drunk while doing so. But JD…JD was just sitting there, staring straight ahead. Much like Carla had described earlier on the phone.
Dr. Cox walked in quietly, sitting himself down on the closed toilet. "Newbie." The older man let the name hang in the air for a moment, waiting for a sign of recognition he knew he wouldn't receive, at least not right now. He chose his next words carefully, making sure to soften the edges around his usually rough tone. "When Carla called and told me where you were, I guessed. She found the cake in the fridge when I told her to look."
Dr. Cox moved to the edge of the bathtub, sitting on the ledge. He dipped his neck forward, straining to get a good look at his protégé's eyes. He did, and found himself rather startled.
The fact that they weren't bloodshot from crying didn't surprise him at all. In fact, it was what he suspected the minute Carla told him that he'd just been sitting there, unmoving. He hadn't cried yet. He hadn't done anything yet.
He needed to break.
What did surprise him however, was how clear those eyes were. They weren't hazy from the alcohol, as Dr. Cox suspected they'd be. Hell, it was how they should be, what with all the empty beer cans that floated around him. Unless…
Perry dipped his hand in the water and brought it back to his face. He knew before smelling the tips of his fingers - he knew just by the feel - that it wasn't just water. It was beer. JD had apparently opened several cans of the stuff, had possibly made some attempt at drinking, but ceased to do so. Dr. Cox couldn't help but wonder if JD knew from the start that he wouldn't – couldn't – grieve in the way his brother did. So this scene, this scene before him…it wasn't the young doctor drinking it away in the name of his brother, no.
This was a devotion.
"A dedication?" Dr. Cox asked aloud. JD couldn't mourn the way his brother did. It just wasn't him. But if he was able to sit where his sibling once did for so long, to surround himself with the familiar setting that comforted his brother…
Simply put, it was a bath dedicated to Dan.
Dr. Cox cleared his throat, deciding it was time to speak again. "I told your roomies to beat it for a while. Thought that was best."
JD still didn't speak, but his eyes darted to Perry and landed there, if only for a moment, then returned their gaze back to the wall. That, the older man thought briefly, was a step in the right direction.
But he couldn't watch the kid soak in the bathtub all day. He wouldn't allow it. The break needed to come. He hadn't planned on rushing it, but when he looked into those crystal clear blues, he saw it there, bubbling underneath. It was going to come soon, and the kid needed to get out of the tub for whenever it did.
Dr. Cox reached for the bath again, this time putting his whole hand inside. He maneuvered through the dirty water and empty beer cans, finally finding what he was looking for. The plug. He twisted it open and watched JD for a reaction as the water began to drain. The young doctor's eyes followed the flow as it made its way downward, but he made no move to get up.
Perry combed a hand through his curls, letting out an almost inaudible sigh in the process. This scene wasn't only familiar because of where he had once found the kid's brother. This scene was familiar because of where JD had once found him. Sure, it'd been a couch instead of a bathtub, but it was pretty damn comparable.
The water was gone now, but Newbie still made no indication of moving. Dr. Cox stood from his spot on the toilet and went for the towel rack, grabbing the first one his fingers fell on. He walked towards JD then, placing it gently upon his head. From there, he went about drying his hair; business like, but with a certain rhythm he hoped was somehow relaxing. Perry wasn't sure if he imagined it or not, but he could've sworn that at one point, the kid let out a little sigh.
After his hair was thoroughly dry, Dr. Cox placed the towel over the kid's shoulders, squeezing them slightly in the process. JD understood, and while he didn't say or even look at the older man, he stood up then; slow and hesitant, but he was standing nonetheless.
Perry went to get the kid some clothes while JD dried himself off, zombie like. When he walked back into the bathroom, he found his protégé still staring at the wall ahead of him. He handed the clothes to JD, who took them without breaking his gaze. He put them on robotically while Perry went and cleared the couch of chip crumbs and dirty laundry, making room for the two of them to sit.
When ten minutes came and passed and JD still hadn't come out of the bathroom, Dr. Cox growled. He wasn't really mad at the kid, but this was just…it was the polar opposite of his Newbie. He was usually the first to talk; to share his feelings and emotions. Perry never thought that JD would ever have to be encouraged to let the break come, but here he was now: Walking back to the bathroom and leading the kid by the hand to come sit himself down on the couch.
JD didn't fight it. He sat down, his gaze now staring ahead at whatever channel Perry had turned the TV to. In all honesty, Dr. Cox didn't know what was playing either, but it was background noise; a distraction. Something they both needed.
The two sat like that for what felt like hours. Hell, it probably was. But then, from the corner of his eye, Perry noticed something.
JD's hand twitched.
Dr. Cox pretended not to notice, to continue watching the TV, but his entire focus remained on the brunette. He saw the kid clench and unclench his hands, saw his adams apple bob up and down as he swallowed. It was only when JD began speaking did Perry turn his head, attention set entirely on the young doctor.
"Strawberry," he muttered.
Dr. Cox's eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Newbie…? What about Strawberry?" he asked softly.
"The cake. The cake was strawberry. Dan…Dan hated strawberry. Chocolate. Chocolate would have been fine. He liked chocolate. Vanilla even. But strawberry. The cake was fucking strawberry."
And then JD laughed.
It was a short laugh, high in pitch. It was void of any and all humor, but Dr. Cox couldn't help but feel slightly relieved. That laugh, that little rant – it was a fracture, not a break, but it was definitely on its way. It was coming.
And it was his job to encourage it along.
"That pissed you off?" It was a sincere question, asked in a gentler tone, but he knew it would keep JD talking. He knew it would encourage the breakdown he desperately needed to have.
He watched as JD clenched and unclenched his fists once more before responding. "It's a flavor. Just one simple flavor. They couldn't even get that right."
JD was shaking now, his gaze still firmly placed on the television set before him. The kid's eyes were glassy from unshed tears, while his teeth found their way to his lower lip, biting down hard. Perry swallowed. It was time.
JD turned to him for the first time since he arrived at the kid's apartment. His eyes were desperate, pleading. He sat there, waiting for some kind of instruction; some kind of guidance on where to go next, how to proceed. Dr. Cox gave it to him.
He curled in on himself, legs pulled up to his chin as he buried his head into his knees. His arms wound tightly around his shins as he tipped over, pressing his weight against his mentor's steady side. Dr. Cox didn't hesitate. He embraced him, feeling suddenly ashamed that it took the death of his older brother to finally give him that hug, but JD seemed more than willing to accept the offer. He pressed into him tighter, sobbing uncontrollably as he repeated Dan's name; repeating how moronic he was to have forgotten to wear his seatbelt. He listened as JD cried mercilessly, tears soaking through the older man's shirt and onto his skin, about how that damn car his brother had been so fond of wasn't meant to handle the roads during rain. How it had never been a safe enough vehicle.
Dr. Cox listened through the whole thing, rubbing small, comforting circles into the kids back. It occurred to him midway that despite how emotional and sensitive JD was, something the older man had never failed to tease him for, he had never once seen his Newbie cry. This was new. An unexpected occurrence in both their lives, but it was most definitely needed.
JD finally calmed, his head resting against his mentor's shoulders as his body continued to give out small little twitches here and there; aftershock of the situation at hand, now that he had finally acknowledged what happened. "That was hard," he finally mumbled; face still buried in the older man's shoulder.
"I know," he responded quietly.
Minutes ticked by, and Dr. Cox was debating on whether or not to break the silence until JD broke it himself.
"Do you think…am I gonna be okay?"
"Yes," he answered promptly, and JD looked up at him then, surprised at the confidence his mentor's response held.
"How do you know?"
"Because something needs to break before you can go about fixing it, and Newbie? You broke. You let yourself shatter, and now that, that is said and done, we can finally start collecting all the pieces."
JD buried his face back into the man's shoulder, and Perry was surprised when he felt the kid grin against him. "Vintage Cox," he muttered drowsily.
Perry allowed himself to grin then, his arm giving JD's shoulder yet another gentle squeeze. "Of course," he responded.
The older man let out a sigh as he felt JD's breaths become deep and even. He knew that when he woke, there'd be pieces to reclaim; to fix and mold and mend, but he was going to get through this. And Dr. Cox, though against his commonly known nature, was going to be there. And Newbie? Well, Newbie would be just fine. After all, he had his mentor to lean on.
A/N: Out of character? Maybe, but I really wanted to do this. And yeah, maybe Cox was nicer than usual in this one, but I can't see him barging into the apartment and lecturing JD when he was in such a state. I tried to make him a comforting presence, but not overly sensitive either, so hopefully that came off okay. Well, that's about it. Remember to stop by my profile and vote! Thanks again for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time! :)