AN: The story switches occasionally between JD POV chapters and Perry POV chapters, although it's mostly all Perry. The chapter titles distinguish the difference; chapters that start with "My..." are JD's and then "His..." are Perry's, kind of like they do on the show. That will help avoid confusion. And the italicised parts at the beginning are the voice-overs at the beginning that summarise the theme of the chapter.
AN2: This is set around the early parts of season 8, but the timeframe is a little AU because Dr. Cox is the Chief of Medicine, but JD and Elliot are not back together.
Disclaimer: I, to my great misfortune, do nawt own the awesome wonder that is Scrubs.
Chapter 1 – My Bad Day
Life at Sacred Heart has a certain rhythm that doesn't take all that long to learn. After you've been around this place for a while you can usually predict exactly how your day will go from the moment you step inside. It's like the building has its own energy that warps you when you walk through the doors. No matter how good your day is outside, if the energy is bad then you feel it the very second you step in. And I knew as those automated doors slid open that today was going to be one of those days from hell.
I jogged into the lobby of Sacred Heart, my backpack over my head to protect myself from the pouring rain. I groaned when I was finally safe inside, realising that my carefully styled hair had been completely deflated by the weather. I was already going to be late when I left, but I'd spent that extra time to gel my luscious locks and was even later for nothing. Shaking my head, I slipped my backpack on and prepared myself for what I could already tell would be a super day.
A sharp whistle cut through the air before I'd taken a single step. Great. Dr. Cox was leaning against the admissions counter, staring down at a clipboard disinterestedly, but his expectant stance made it clear that he was waiting for me to come over. It was ban enough that I was late, but the fact that Dr. Cox just happened to be standing around when I got there was not helping my case any. It was almost like he'd been waiting in the lobby all morning for this very reason. Which I reminded myself was so very possible. "You're late, Mandy."
Today was not the sort of day that I was prepared to deal with this first thing. I'd gotten almost no sleep all weekend except in fifteen minute naps because Sam had an ear infection and had hardly stopped crying the whole time. When I'd woken up this morning I was already late and had to rush to get my son's things packed up so he could go to Kim's for the week, forgetting half of it with the hurried promise that I would bring it to her later. The terrible weather had only lengthened my commute, as well as getting me nearly murdered by a hydroplaning minivan, and on top of it had ruined all the hard work I'd put into my hair. More burnt out than I could remember having ever been in my life, and with a thirty hour shift ahead of me, I was simply not in the mood.
"Just leave me alone," I spat bitterly.
This finally made Dr. Cox look up from the chart he'd been pretending to read. "Whoa there, you sure those little lace panties will still fit if you grow a pair, Belinda?" he said in his usual bitingly sarcastic tone. Without waiting for the reply he knew I wouldn't bother giving, Dr. Cox continued, "Now listen here, Polly, because I re-heally do not want to repeat myself and have to prolong this conversation with you. Ever notice those pretty little schedules we make up? Well we have those for a reason, and it is nawt so you can ignore them and come in whenever you damn well please. Now I know just how important your beauty sleep is, but-"
Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself saying a phrase I'd heard a million times but never dreamed that I would actually use myself.
"Blow it out your ass, Perry."
With this I left the stunned-silent Chief of Medicine and made my way to my locker to get dressed, too irritated to even feel any pleasure in this victory. Although I might have been just a little bit nervous. Or possibly mortified, it was hard to tell. My brain was sort of blank with what I think may very well have been pure panic.
The rest of my day never got any better. One of my patients coded before I'd even finished jumping into my scrubs and we never managed to resuscitate him. Later I nearly broke my neck when the Janitor tripped me (yeah, I know, real shocker, right?) and I ended up against the wall buried beneath a gurney and a full shelf of medical equipment. Not just the equipment but the actual shelf too. When I went into the on-call room the coffee machine was empty, but after setting it up I got paged away before I could get any of that much needed caffeine. Turns out it was a moronic intern who had given a patient the wrong dosage of sedative and caused him going into respiratory arrest. Not in a forgiving mood, I promptly ended his internship in a berating way that I knew sounded much like the mentor I'd been determinedly avoiding all day.
On top of it all, by the time I managed to make it to the cafeteria all the pie and pudding cups were gone. Groaning loudly, I dropped down into the chair opposite where Carla was sitting by herself, since it was Turk's day off.
"What's the matter, Bambi?" Carla asked, her voice instantly going maternal as she surveyed me concernedly.
"Bad day," I answered, picking unexcitedly at the soggy vegetables on my tray before abandoning the idea and taking a bite out of the dry sandwich. You'd think people as important as life-saving doctors deserved slightly better grub.
"You look exhausted."
"Sam has an ear infection," I said by way of explanation.
Carla made a soft humming noise as she nodded. "Yeah, Izzy had one a few months ago. Do you need me to find someone to cover for you so you can go sleep?"
I shook my head firmly. "Nah, I'll be fine," I assured her. Without much effort, because it never took a lot of effort when Carla was involved, I brought back my smile. It was more genuine than any other smile I'd put on all day. Carla's attention always made me feel warm and fuzzy, like the way I imagined Rowdy felt when I let him sit in my lap while we watched a movie. Oh god, now I'm comparing myself to a dog. That'll make Dr. Cox's insulting easier. Oh, speaking of him... "I yelled at Dr. Cox."
Carla's eyes widened. "Wow, what happened?" she asked, her voice divided equally between worry and amusement. When I finished there was something almost like pride in her eyes. "Good for you, Bambi. What did he think about it?"
"I don't know, I haven't seen him since," I admitted and fidgeted nervously, glancing around the cafeteria to make sure he wasn't hovering in some corner waiting to pounce. "I've sort of been keeping as far away as possible. But he hasn't hunted me down so I think I'll be okay." I buried myself in my lunch, aware that I didn't have much more time before I had to get back to work.
So obviously it startled me when Carla suddenly reached over and brushed her thumb over a forming bruise above my right eye. "Ow!" I hissed accusingly, drawing away from the pain and batting her hand away, pushing out my lower lip in a pout.
"Sorry. What happened there?" she asked, and even while sitting her hand planted itself on her hip, pursing her lips in that Carla-from-the-block pose that meant there was no way you could not answer her and still live.
"Janitor," I confessed with a shrug. "He tripped me with his mop and I fell onto his cleaning cart, which rolled down the hall and into this empty gurney, which I got flipped over and fell against a shelf of medical equipment, and the whole mess came down on me." JD frowned and gently prodded the bruise. "Thankfully it was mostly towels and bed sheets and such, the bruises all came from the cart and the gurney. This one's from the shelf falling down on me."
"You know it's remarkable what that man can come up with," Carla said, shaking her head in wonder. "Maybe he really did go to Harvard. He seems he might really have been that smart. Even if he does talk to stuffed squirrels. I know he's mean to you, Bambi, but I always wonder what he'll dream up next."
My head tilted to the left and for a moment I left my eyes go unfocused.
Janitor was sitting behind a table that was covered in vials filled with glowing chemicals. He was wearing a high-collared white lab coat and huge black gloves that covered half of his arms. "I will get my ultimate vengeance," the Janitor said in a deep, echo-ey voice. He picked up a vial that was florescent orange and stared at it almost greedily. "With this potion I will turn him into the most despised creature on the planet." He poured the potion into a pan and put it in the oven.
"Here, kitty," he said and he fed a piece of the pie to a kitchen sitting on the table. When it swallowed there was a puff of smoke and suddenly the cat was gone. Ted was sitting in its place, looking around, and he let out a confused, "Meow?"
"Ha ha, it works!" the Janitor said, laughing menacingly. "Now I mist find Scooter and make him eat it as well. Then he will become a sweaty, creepy lawyer-man that no one really likes. It will ruin his life." And the Janitor broke down in a wild, mad-scientist laugher...
"Must never eat the pie," I said, shaking my head as I came out of the fantasy. Man, even my day-dreams aren't up to par today. I still found myself grateful that I hadn't gotten a slice of pie because now I was certain I wouldn't have been able to make myself eat it, no matter how delicious it looked.
"What was that?" Carla asked, having clearly turned her interest to her lunch when she figured out I wasn't really paying attention to her anymore.
"Oh, nothing," I said. "Man, I hope I get to sleep a little tonight."
Quite suddenly The Todd was in the seat next to me, appearing, as usual, out of nowhere. With that ridiculously wide smile on his face, he held up a hand and said, "Yeah, Banging-All-Night-Five!"
I stared at him for a second before deciding I was not in the mood. "Go away, Todd."
The Todd's smile flickered. "Ouch, Rejection-Five!" Knowing the surgeon would never go away unless I did, I held up my hand and let The Todd hit it with an unnecessary amount of force. His grin back in place, The Todd disappeared again. Rolling my eyes, I returned to my lunch, massaging my stinging hand beneath the table where I hoped Carla wouldn't see.
"You sure you're going to be okay, Bambi?" Carla asked, setting down her fork and fixing me in her wide brown-eyed stare. Oh no, not that soft Mama Bear look! She knows I can't lie to her when she looks at me like that. "You really don't look so well. Do you-"
"I'm fine, Carla," I said, a little harsher than I meant to. Oops. But I was an adult and an accomplished doctor after all. I could take care of myself. Still, she meant well and I instantly felt bad. "Sorry."
"Okay," she said, silently accepting my apology with a nod and a smile. "You come find me if you need me, okay?"
"Yeah, thanks," I said, a lot calmer. Carla always had that effect on me. She was certainly more adept as soothing and comforting me than either of my parents had been, or any of the various step-fathers I'd had. Carla smiled at me sweetly, patting my cheek lightly, and then walked away, but not before setting her pudding cup on my tray. I smiled, looking over my shoulder to watch her head for the elevators. Well at least one good thing had happened today. Pudding!
A few minutes later I had wolfed down the rest of my lunch, even the limp vegetables, not realising just how hungry I'd been. With all the chaos this morning I think I might have forgotten to eat breakfast, and a stale coffee was just not all that filling. The pudding cup was devoured last and a little slower than the rest to savour it, until of course I realised that I was due back to the ICU three minutes ago. Swallowing the rest of the pudding in one enormous spoonful, which I desperately fought not to choke on - although death by pudding would definitely be a great way to go - I got rid of my tray and jogged back up to the nurses' station to look over my charts.
Now sufficiently relaxed, fed, and caffeinated, I found myself in a little better of a mood as I began flipping through my clipboards. I visited a few of my patients and it seemed like maybe the day wouldn't be a total train wreck. The optimism made me feel a little more like myself again. A bit of hope in my chest, I went back to the nurses' station and Carla handed out a manila folder to me. "Lily Marks' lab results," she said and then had to turn her attention to the ringing phone on the counter.
I took the folder and headed for the familiar room. Lily was a twelve-year-old girl who had come in two days ago after having a seizure. She seemed to be doing better at the hospital, but she still had a strange nervous tic in her one arm that she said hadn't been as much of a problem before the seizure. I had honestly become a little attached to her. I think it as hard not to love her, because she was always grinning and joking with everyone, and it turned out we had really similar personalities. I was looking forward to being able to fix her and send her home. It was always the most gratifying experience to be able to send a healthy child home; in a way it was the best part of the job. I loved helping people but helping little kids was even better, especially now that I'm a father too.
Glancing down through the lab results, I scanned to see if any of the tests had come up positive. I was only a few feet away from the room when my eyes found that affirmative next to a name that sent a thrill of horror through me. Oh God no.
For a few minutes I couldn't move, just stood staring at the window to her room. Lily was sitting up in bed, talking to her parents animatedly and ignoring the way her left arm kept fidgeting on her lap.
Now that I saw it, I knew that the diagnosis made much sense to explain away. I instantly found myself wishing that Dr. Cox's first guess diagnosis had been right. I would owe the older doctor twenty dollars, but at least it wouldn't be this. How to tell them, though? No, I couldn't do this. I'd given this sort of diagnosis to older people before, but never to someone even close to her age.
Lily glanced out the window and spotted me, grinning brightly and waving. She looked so young, so fresh, so bright. Even in this place that was so filled with illness and death, she was always smiling and happy. Life wasn't fair. Well there was no backing out now, not with her parents also looking out of the window at me expectantly. Steadying myself, I walked into the room with as much of a smile as I could fake. "Hey there, Lily," I said, probably a little overly-bright. She didn't notice but it looked like her parents might have.
"Hi JD," she replied, beaming up at me.
Feeling something in my chest starting to ache and knowing the lump in the throat would follow quickly if I didn't get out of the room - and fast - I glanced over at her parents. I was usually pretty good at being a professional and keeping my composure, especially after so many years of practice, but this had to be one of the hardest and most heartbreaking diagnosis' I'd ever given. Scratch that, the hardest. "Mr. and Mrs. Marks, could I have a word with you in the hall?"
The Marks' exchanged nervous glances but nodded and, after telling their daughter they'd be right back, they stepped out into the hall and I closed the door behind them. "What is it?" Mr. Marks asked, boldly even though he was visibly trembling. "You know what's wrong with Lily?"
I drew on every ounce of strength I had before letting the words come out. "Your daughter has Huntington's disease," I finally said and felt as though I brought the medical axe down over the little girl's neck myself by doing so. Her parents looked concerned but confused, so I was resigned to explaining. "It's a rapidly progressive, degenerative brain disease. It causes the nerve cells in the brain to die, which is what's causing her involuntary muscle movements, as well as her seizures. Normally the disease does not manifest until adulthood but it does occasionally appear in children. And unfortunately because her body is still growing, it is not ready to handle the symptoms, which is why they came on so fast and so strongly."
"Can you fix it?" Mr. Marks pressed on. His wife seemed to be far beyond words as she clung to her husband's side and stared through the window at the young girl blankly.
"There are medications that can ease the symptoms a little but I am afraid there is no cure," I said as calmly as I could. There was a painful moment as the man's face seemed to collapse in on itself and he struggled to keep his composure. I had to look down before I joined him in his mini-breakdown.
"How long?" the other man finally choked out. "Until she-"
"Judging by the speed of the progression, I couldn't say more than two months, but even that is a stretch," I said, forcing myself to look back up. They deserved that much from their doctor. "As the brain cells continue to die off she will lose the ability to control her basic movements such as walking and speaking. Her systems will continue to shut down until–" I stopped, a large knot in my throat stopping me from saying those few final words. I cleared my throat and gave them a few seconds before continuing. "You should also know that Huntington's is a genetic disease. Although it seems likely in this case that the disease was formed by a unique genetic mutation when she was conceived, it is also possible that she might have inherited it from one of you. We can have you tested here if you choose."
"Thank you, Dr. Dorian," Mr. Marks said. Inwardly, I flinched. I hated it when people thanked me for giving them bad news. It always seemed like when I told people that they or someone they knew were going to die, they thanked me. I would have felt more comfortable if they had yelled and hit me, although with the already throbbing bruise above me eye, as well as some hidden ones on my ribs and legs, I would have been content with just yelling today. However the parents just held each other and looked in at their child, who was reading a magazine, completely oblivious to the fact that she was dying. "We'd like a moment to be with our daughter," the father said in an emotionless voice that I recognized. That empty nothing before the truth of it really sank in.
"Of course. I will be by again later." I watched as they desperately fought to clear their expressions, which wasn't too difficult because they both had a very vacant look in their eyes, and then went back in to sit on either side of Lily's bed.
Feeling as though I had been kicked repeatedly in the chest and stomach, I went to toss my charts onto the nurses' station and then collapsed on a couch in the nearest doctor's lounge. For a long while I sat there, struggling to regain control of myself. It was a relief that there was no one in the lounge with me, and the one person who entered only filled up a coffee cup and left without a word. I wasn't crying but when I thought about those crushed parents or that bright, cheery girl who was going to die I came very close. Just when I had thought that my bad day might be turning up it had taken a very fast, kamikaze-style nose-dive into the ground.
It was fifteen minutes later, and a good several extra seconds of scrubbing my hands roughly over my face, when I felt composed enough to return to work. I needed something to distract himself or emotions would get me and I couldn't do that. As often as I got teased about it, the J-Dizzle does not cry. Stopping at the nurses' station, grateful Carla was elsewhere because she would have seen through my false smile and made me tell her what happened, I grabbed the charts of only those patients who I knew would recover and devoted the next part of my shift to checking on them before dealing with the bad news again. Sometimes I needed that little bit of hope and promise to save me from the death that seemed to hang around us all here.
The end of my regular shift finally came and I readied myself for the ultimate nightmare that was an on-call night. Completely exhausted, I trudged into the on-call room, after wishing Carla good night, in hopes of catching a few minutes sleep before I would undoubtedly be summoned for one thing or another. However when I opened the door I felt my heart stop in my chest for a second. Dr. Cox was stretched out on a bunk, his arms under his head as he stared up at the ceiling with as much focus as if it were one of those sporty games he was always talking about. It was the first time I had come face-to-face with my mentor since my arrival and I prepared myself for the condescending lecture.
"Hey, you wanna shut the door there, Gladys? I'm trying to sleep."
Surprised but grateful, I closed the door and then climbed into an empty bunk. I didn't even have time to think about the possibility of Dr. Cox quietly murdering me in my sleep because almost the instant my cheek touched the pillows I was out.