I bet no one thought I'd do it, did you?
But here it is... five years later.
The final chapter to My accident, my son, my fault.
It's been a while since anyone's talked about the incident. Partly because we've been so damn busy with our lives, but mostly because Dorian's brother threatened to bleed Doctor Cox for all he had if the young man didn't pull through. Which meant Perry and his uncontrolled temper would have taken us down with him. As chief of medicine, I could not allow that, so I dealt with matters the best way I knew how: by snuffing the issue as well as I could and hope the others took my lead.
It didn't go as I'd intended. But I suppose that's to be expected. I was never close to Dorian like the others—doesn't do well to play favorites in this day and age—so of course they gave me flack for demanding they settle this like professionals. Which unfortunately (and I say unfortunately because he's the best damn doctor we have, personal qualms aside) involved suspending Perry for a month until I could reign the other headless chickens back under control. That took longer than expected, but they began to change their tune once I introduced Doctor Phillips as part of our staff. For those who don't remember, he's the fellow Doctor Cox was supposed to pick up that day he caused this entire mess. We've been missing a decent psychologist since Doctor Clock left: people can say what they want, I can tell when this place gets into their heads. Happens to everyone, eventually. Hell I've even had my share of therapy, although my circumstances were less on the professional side and more to do with another of my son's hair-brained career moves. Ah Harrison… I love him, but he's run me around my own head more times than I care to admit.
Luckily, this isn't about me, so I'll skip the details and go back to Doctor Dorian. You see, he was damned surprised when he learned I'd apparently been paying attention to his emotional decline. That's not surprising, I hear, with depression, but coming from me I'm guessing added an extra round of confusion. Just because I hate working with people doesn't mean I'm indifferent. Blind, ignorant, whatever other labels they have for it, I pay attention. I have to. Medicine is a trying occupation. No matter how long you've been practicing, no matter how good at it you are, eventually it gets to you. And when it starts to, we with our crippling human pride tend to ignore it. We tell ourselves we're strong enough to take the world head on. An outside shoulder to lean on is an insult to our capabilities.
That's bull if I've ever heard it. Yes, I know, I've been prone to that sort of behavior myself, but I'm not the one who treats the patients around here; they do. Doctors like Perry. Doctors like Dorian. They risk others by risking themselves and when something goes wrong (because it always does, I've been here long enough to know) they take everyone down with them. I can't tell you how long it took to snap that bobbleheaded posse of his out of their volatile pity-party. The older Dorian didn't help things, but once I'd removed Perry from the equation, they were more open to suggestion. For a group of individuals who spend half their time here complaining about how I fail to provide what they need, they shut the hell up when I pulled the right strings, so to speak. Depression is a serious issue, but denial or self-assurance those suffering have what it takes to pull through on their own can be a lot worse.
Disregarding a brief interruption by the Janitor eavesdropping and claiming he suspected this whole time, I'd say it went pretty well. Once I'd screwed their common sense back on, they were able to step up and apologize. I also had them nudge Doctor Dorian towards the idea of seeking proper help; I would have done it myself but I had to bide time until I had an answer lest I lose two of my best employees—pending, for the younger of the two.
Overall, it worked. Dorian's agreed to go on leave, providing he continues therapy. I finally pushed Nurse Espinosa to contact Doctor Cox as I think they've always been close, and she's been working with him and the others on forgiveness. I've heard they're tackling the subject of blame, right now, and if it's suitable to confess what he's done to the one still in recovery. No one's told Dorian who the driver was behind his accident; if we're lucky, no one will until he's in a better place.
Allowing a small smile to curl the corners of my mouth, I get up from my desk and exit into the hall. To maintain my rule of thumb in this matter, I've been making more of an effort to walk among the masses. Never a desirable option but it's done the job, so far. No more ridiculous accusations or violence in the OR; this is a hospital, not a boxing ring. About damn time everybody realized it.
"'scuse me, Doctor Kelso." I hear suddenly, a wall clad in gray abruptly stepping into my path. Looking up, my smile falls. Did I say everyone realized it?
"Out of my way, Lurch." I don't normally resort to name-calling (few exceptions aside) but I don't remember his and this interruption's going to threaten the peace I've made around here.
"With all due respect, sir, I'm going to have to pass." He raises his mop, holding it like the parking gate out front. My frown deepens.
"Son, you've got five seconds to stand aside or so help me, I'll suspend you, too." Knowing the Janitor as I do, there's a strong possibility I'll have to follow through with that. And while I wouldn't mind having him out of my hair, no one else is going to do his job—
As quickly as my train of thought begins, it dies. I should have known he wouldn't challenge me without ulterior motive. Only Perry (and occasionally Doctor Reid) have the nerve for that. It's precisely because of this that I've stopped mid internal-explanation; unless I'm seeing things, I've just witnessed Doctor Cox slip inside Dorian's room. Dammit all, my mind growls, anger (and a slight burst of apprehension) rushing through me. I step to my left, trying to move around the Janitor. His previous behavior clicks, then; he mirrors my footwork, preventing my passage. I've a pretty good idea where this is going, but I still try a right step. He blocks me again. Frustration knits my brow, glaring up at him.
"You don't care if this place goes belly up, do you." I deadpan, trying to spark that intimidation I know I earn from him from time to time. He meets my gaze with a firm one of his own.
"Yes sir, I do. But I also think you're going about it the wrong way." There's something unusual in his eyes—for him, I mean. If I weren't so concerned with the future of this place, I might have taken him up on it. Can't expect Sasquatch here to understand: he likely sees two men n need of smoothing over differences. That would be just fine and dandy if I could count on them both for stability. As far as I know, no one's told Dorian who put him in the hospital, and I'd hoped it would stay that way until a few more weeks of therapy. If things go awry, his older brother will return, probably demand I let Cox go and there goes our name and credibility.
"I won't ask again." I demand, leaving his remark unanswered. "Let me by."
There's a slight pause on his end, as though debating what to do. Unlike some of the other staff members, I've never been able to predict the Janitor. To my relief, his head bobs forward, and he shuffles aside.
"About damn time." I mutter, storming towards the Doctor Dorian's room. That's my intention, at least. I walk about three steps before I slip, falling flat on my back. "AGH!"
My eyes squeeze shut, willing away the explosion of pain up and down my back. With a groan, they open again, only to see the big idiot standing over me.
"Floor's wet, sir."
Hearing Doctor Kelso scream brought a much-needed relief from my current situation. Seated in the chair beside me, Doctor Cox turns his head towards the glass, joining my already facing-forward gaze.
"Huh. Look at that." He muses, "guess Frankenstein over there came through."
Actually, it's Frankenstein's monster—any movie fan knows that—but I swallow the words before they leave my mouth. There are more important matters, right now. Namely this storm of I'm not even sure how to describe churning in my chest and belly.
"I guess so.." I offer a thin smile, uncertain if I should look at him. I don't, blinking and staring at my hands, instead. It's been some time since I've spoken to Doctor Cox. I don't know where to start.
"… I thought you were suspended."
He sighs, at least, I think it's a sigh, seems to be as I look up. It's still uncomfortable, but … well, I've been trying to move past the stress. Remind myself that most of what I thought was the world out to ignore me was actually uncontrolled anxiety and insecurity.
That and the numerous injuries I'm still recovering from. Turns out life without a spleen isn't as condemning as I thought, once you learn how to maintain it. Haven't tried it on my own yet, but here, I'm doing well. Finally. I can't even describe the nightmare I went through when I first woke up. That's half the reason I'm still here: body's on the way to recovery, mind took a bit longer. It bothered me a lot, at first, being transferred to the psych ward. Carla's insisted it's the only way I could stay… I still wonder if that's true, but Doctor Kelso's complained a lot less. He still wants me to take time off, but we'll cross that bridge later.
I blink, shaking out of my thoughts. "Yeah..?" I hate feeling uncomfortable around my mentor; apart from the occasional…insults I still need to clarify are in fact a form of endearment and not emotional abuse… I'll get to that later. Preferably with the counselor nearby…
"Ya still with me, Newbie?"
"Hm?" Another blink, harder this time; must've drifted off, again. "Yeah, sorry." I think I was, overall. I mean, it's not much better inside my head, but at least I'm able to control my environment. Here, anything goes.
Eyes fall to my hands again—still encased, but getting better. I wonder if that's how I should bridge conversation, talk about recovery, he hasn't been here recently, he might want to—
"…look," continues Doctor Cox, and whether he meant it literally or not, I raise my head. If he notices, he doesn't say, staring at the wall behind my bed. "I don't know much time I have before Bobbo throws me out, so I need you to listen because what I've got to say is damn worth listening to." His turn to blink, and his oddly guilt (?) stricken eyes lock with mine. "You understand?"
I nod, relieved it doesn't hurt as badly, either. "…yeah."
The older doctor sighs again, lacing his fingers behind his head. That explains the look in his eye: something's really bothering him. "What is—"
"It was my fault."
One eyebrow goes up. The other follows shortly. His fault? I haven't seen him in weeks, what could he …
It hits me like, well, like the car that put me in that coma. The yelling, accusation, stark pain and frantic beeping in my ears. You almost died. Maybe that's what he meant.
"Doctor Cox, it's not...it's not your fault." I offer with a shaky smile. "I was in a bad place. You probably saved my life."
This time, his brow knots. Worry remains glued to his features. "… what do you think I'm referring to?"
And now my stomach's coiled again. Wonderful. "The uh.. coding incident." Hold your smile. I'm trying. This 'take responsibility for my emotional state' thing is still tricky, at times.
Instead of evoking the understanding I'd hoped to, Perry only grimaces. "That's not what I'm talking about."
…it's not? "It's not?"
He shakes his head, arms falling to his sides with a thwap. "No." Now he smiles, but it's faint, and not all comforting. "You think they'd suspend me for something like that?"
"… maybe?" It's an awful answer, but I'm not the right person to answer that, right now. Plus, seeing as to how the Janitor still works here despite the numerous attempts he makes to torment me, I guess it really doesn't make sense to force time off for a month. On the other hand, Janitor's grander schemes have never been caught, so he might be an unfair example.
I look back at Doctor Cox, confused. He remains morose and when he next speaks, I realize why.
"I was the one who hit you with that car, Newbie."
"It was an accident," Perry hastens on, before I can say anything more. "Kelso wanted me to pick up this new doctor who, wouldn't you know it, turned out to be your therapist" Here I wondered how he knew that, until I remembered I'd missed at least a week unconscious and another few days in severe distress "which is ironic because the whole reason I wasn't watching my speed limit is because I was… " Holy crap is he actually going to say it? "…I was worried you'd go out and do something stupid like you usually do when you're unsupervised."
…it's a partial compliment, but I'll take it. He was worried. About me. He does care. I know, I know, I probably should've come to that conclusion on my own—Turk, Carla, Elliot, they were easy enough once I sat down with my thoughts—but neither myself or Doctor Phillips could be sure for certain if I wasn't wasting my time. I mean, he (Phillips) offered good suggestions about stress and other things causing this constant berating I usually received, which is why I didn't page a nurse when Doctor Cox first entered, but…there's nothing like hearing it from the man, himself.
"… anyway," concluded said other Doctor, hunching over with the weight of the world, "you saved my son's life, JD. I owe that to you. And I'm… sorry I almost took yours away."
Again, he looks away, awaiting, I'm sure, my retaliation. Instead, I do something neither of us expect. I smile.
"It's alright." I reply, and I mean it. Sure, I lost my spleen, have a long while yet until my bones heal and went into cardiac arrest, but thinking back, almost dying was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I wasn't thinking straight, that day. I might have gone too far.
Doctor Cox, however, gawks at me. "…beg pardon?" He asks, with a definite incredulity. "I almost killed you, it is not alright."
"'Almost' being the key difference." I informed him. "I'm still here, and I'm doing better than I've been in a long time." I paused, wondering if my next words would cross a line. Ah, to hell with it. "I have you to thank for that."
Disbelief morphs into a sneer. The older man leans forward, irritation (desperation?) behind his scowl. "I spent the last month putting up with callous interaction and a broken nose since word got out I was responsible, and you're thanking me? I gotta ask, didja hit your head a little too hard on the way down?"
The moment his rant concludes, he pales, sitting back, as though… afraid. "I didn't mean that."
I'll admit, the inconsideration hurts, but I don't let it cripple me. Phillips was right, in that way. Circumstances make a man: Doctor Cox can't express himself, healthily. But he does, at least to some degree, care for my well-being.
However smaller now, my smile stays in place. He's trying, he apologized, forgive him, JD. "…I know."
We remain in a mutual (if not awkward) staring contest for some time. Eventually, Perry exhales, slowly getting to his feet. ".. .you take care of yourself while I'm out, you hear?"
"I will." I reply, grinning a bit more. He rolls his eyes, but his own lips curl upwards as he heads towards the door. No sooner does he reach for it, he's got to stumble back, lest a very angry Doctor Kelso smack him with it in the face.
"Perry, I want to see you in my office." He barks, then glances at me. "I'm sorry, sport, I don't know how he got in."
Thrown a little off guard, my words take a second to come back. Perry grabs the opportunity, answering instead. "It's fine, Bob, I was just leaving." He hastens through the doorway, an angry chief of medicine on his tail. Before he disappears, however, Doctor Cox clasps the frame with one hand, pointing at me with the other. "I'm holding you to that, Newbie. You get better, understand?"
I don't know why I do it, but a laugh bursts free, and a light I haven't felt in forever fills my chest. "I will, Doctor Cox, I promise."
A/N: I know JD is a little out of character here. I took a gamble and tried to imagine what he'd be like after weeks of constant therapy. Trying to imagine him growing at ease with the insecurities that follow him around the hospital is a challenge, but hey, you win some, you lose some.
I'm sorry this took so long to finish. I've been wanting to for years, but I couldn't stand my original writing style, and I didn't want to leave with just an author's note. Finally, I gained inspiration last night, so I hope this chapter satisfies at least some of you.
Thanks for being patient, everyone :)