A/N: Just a fic that I wrote about a year ago, and never got around to convincing myself to post it. And reading the shameless battering now, I'm still not sure how well it's going to go over... but hey, why not give it a go?

So let me know what you guys think, and whether or not I should go ahead with a follow-up chappy, just for some extra fluff :)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

By: thebondgirl

Sasha... I love you girl, but I'm really starting to think I need to look into buying something with a roof and a real windshield, 'cause this is just brutal.

Gritting his teeth to keep them from chattering hard enough to break, JD tried his best to see clearly through the shroud of fog that covered the street in front of him, glad that he still wore his jeans, sweater and jacket rather than having changed into his thin scrubs before leaving his place. He tightened his grip on the handles of his scooter as he cursed the previous day's freezing rain for having knocked out the power to nearly three city blocks, including this one. Concentrating on navigating the road when he could barely see ten feet in front of him was made much harder by the fact that the temperature hadn't seemed to have gone back up since the freezing rain hit, and every gust of wind that blew head on into his face felt polar, like he was riding through the Arctic to get to work.

He suddenly had an image of himself dressed in furs like an Inuit, icicles growing off his handlebars as a team of sled dogs pulled his scooter over patches of ice and snow. He passed by the snow version of Turk, Carla and Izzy, and could've sworn he saw two bunnies off to the side that looked an awful lot like Elliot and Keith, but he didn't have any time to look closer before an abominable snowman with the Janitor's face ran up beside him and started swinging a club (that looked suspiciously like a mop) at his head...

With a small yelp, JD shook himself from his daydream and focused all of his attention on not crashing into something or someone - the last thing he needed right then was to end up in the ICU, on Christmas Eve of all nights.

He couldn't help the goofy grin that lit up his face as he thought of what awaited him at Sacred Heart that night; the halls and nurses station would have been decorated for the occasion with garland, holly, mini Christmas trees, and Christmas drawings donated by the kids in the pediatrics wing. Turk and Carla would be wearing matching sets of reindeer antlers (by Carla's doing, obviously), and Elliot would have Keith dressed up as an elf, after which she would try to convince the Janitor to dress up as Santa - of course he would agree, seeing as he'd had his own version of a secret crush on her since they'd all started there six years earlier.

I wonder what those two would look like as a couple? JD frowned at that, unable to keep himself from picturing Elliot serving dinner to not only Janitor and their several Janitor Juniors, but to an army of stuffed squirrels as well.

He shook his head to cut that daydream off before it could start, not wanting to picture such a disturbing scene right then, and found himself looking forward to the traditional gift exchange that would happen between all those on the night shift that night. He had already dropped off presents for Chocolate Bear and family at their apartment, but in the backpack he wore, he carried several more, including one for Elliot, and even one for Dr. Cox, though JD couldn't be sure if he'd actually take it, or if he'd just call him a girl's name and toss the present in the trash. Either way, the night was going to be a great one, and to top it off, there was plenty of mistletoe hanging around, plus JD had brought his own pile, just in case a certain new (and smoldering) nurse happened to be trapped in the elevator with him. After all, all he really had to do was make sure she took the elevator with him around midnight since, according to a reliable source, the Janitor planned to lure him into an elevator and shut it down at that time... Who said there couldn't be an up side to everything?

JD was once again pulled from his daydreaming as an even colder blast of wind hit him from the side, making his scooter swerve a little in the opposite direction, nearly ending with him tipping over on the side of the road. The close call had his heart pounding in his chest and his breaths came out fast and shaky, a shiver completely unrelated to the cold traveling up his spine and making his teeth chatter even harder than before. After a long period of smooth driving though, he allowed himself to relax a little back in his seat, but resolved to avoid his trademark imagination all together, at least until he arrived safely in the parking lot at Sacred Heart - it was either that, or become a very colorful, very flat JD-tattoo in the middle of the highway, something he knew was sure to spoil his holiday plans. Plus, if he got himself splattered in traffic, he wouldn't have the lips or the height to kiss New Nurse under the mistletoe, something he'd been looking forward to doing since she'd transfered there the previous month.

Never hurts to plan ahead, especially when I know she'd be up for it - she was totally flirting with me when she spit in my coffee last week...

The smile came back to his face at the thought of how cute she looked when she got mad at him for his eyes gravitating to bellow collarbone level, and he almost didn't notice it when a small red car pulled into his lane in front of him - a combination of wistful thinking and the cover the fog and lack of streetlights provided. When he did take notice, he was careful to slow down enough so that he wasn't tailgating them, and it was then that he caught sight of the little girl smiling at him through the backseat window, illuminated by his scooter's headlights.

He'd always thought that kids were cute, but this little girl took first place. Her hair, held out of her face by two clips on either side of her head, was perfectly straight and white-blond, long enough that it touched the shoulders of her white dress; her face, small and heart shaped, was rosy-cheeked and smiling widely, her bright blue eyes twinkling accordingly. She looked just like an angel, and when she waved cheerfully at him, her beauty took his breath away and made his eyes burn with tears that always came when he was reminded of just what he could've had with Kim, had she not had a miscarriage

His heart ached at the thought, but he forced himself to smile back and give her a small wave and nod as he pushed aside his thoughts and regrets, not willing to let them drag him down. After all, it was Christmas Eve - now was not the time to dwell on old hurts, it was the time to laugh and smile with his friends, and flirt with New Nurse - moping could wait until New Years. If it were possible, the girl's smile brightened further in response, helping him to push aside his sadness and remember that there was no telling what the future held, and that he would no doubt have another chance at that kind of happiness - his life did not end with his premature child's.

The outline of a street sign could be seen a dozen feet in front of him, and he strained his eyes, able to make out the name of a street that was little more than two blocks from the hospital, a fact that came as a relief; he was fine with driving at night, but tonight's conditions were extraordinarily bad and making him a little nervous. Right then, he just wanted to be at work already with his friends and patients, enjoying the holiday atmosphere and what would hopefully be a calm, peaceful Christmas Eve.

Looking back on the incident later on, JD would see it only as a blur of images, sounds and emotions, moving too fast to remember clearly. Right then however, time slowed to a crawl. The sound of squealing tires reached his ears above the rushing wind, then... the sound of metal impacting on metal, the grating, the distinct shattering of glass. Slowly, his eyes returned to the back window of the little red car, and he could see that the little girl's face was twisted in a shriek that he couldn't hear before she was whipped out of his sight, the car going into a fast spin. Panic didn't have time to settle itself in his chest before the wheels of his scooter hit a patch of ice that was as black as the pavement beneath it, sending him skidding as he tried desperately to keep the front tire straight and the bike upright.

More glass breaking, metal collapsing... a muted, shrill scream that could only come from a little girl, abruptly cut off...

The wreckage of the cars loomed suddenly and without warning through the fog, directly in front of his bike, which he hadn't been able to slow down at all since he'd first begun to skid. Fear tore through him then and, unable to steer out of the way, he could only squeeze his eyes shut tight as his front tire smashed into the side of one of the cars, the impact sending him flying through the air. Dazed from the impact and his unexpected flight, JD's only thought was to hope that the blond girl, that angel in the back of the little red car was all right. He hit the ground then, and pain flared all over his body before he succumbed to unconsciousness.

"Silent night... Holy night... All is calm... all is bright..."

The low soothing voice permeated the silence that engulfed him, and JD groaned, wishing that it would just go away so that he could sleep off whatever partying he'd done to get a hangover headache this bad. Unfortunately, the voice persisted and he was pulled even further awake, enough to realize that the surface he was lying on was rock-solid and freezing... and wet, with a metallic-smelling substance that donated a slight warmth to the front part of his otherwise unnervingly numb body. What the...? Where am I?

He opened his eyes and nearly threw-up at the dizzying pace with which the world was spinning, having to squeeze them back shut and swallow hard several times to keep the nausea under control. Slowly and with more caution this time, he reopened his eyes and was gradually able to make them focus enough that he could make out the pavement on which he lay, only then feeling its rough texture against his cheek. A cold breeze blowing harshly across him confirmed that he was in fact outside for some reason, and for the moment, he couldn't for the life of him remember why.

Just what kind of crazy night did I have? Hm... Is it New Years already? Maybe me and my Chocolate Bear went a little overboard on the spiked punch this year... must've passed out on the way home.

However, that theory didn't last long as his gaze wandered back over the pavement, and this time to the hundreds of shards of glass that lay in front of him, continuing on to the overturned car whose shattered back window allowed the Christmas carol playing on the car's radio to make its way to his ears. His eyes widened in disbelief as he took in the damage that had been done to the vehicle's frame, remembering with sudden clarity the terrifying reason that he was now sprawled on the pavement. The event played through his mind in startling technicolour, and he couldn't help the gasp that escaped his lips as the memory halted with a child's scream, and his sharp return to the ground. Oh no...

Sooner than he would have liked, JD reached the point of consciousness where the pain was allowed to return, and it crashed into him like a runaway freight train, hitting him solidly and head on, ripping a sharp cry from his throat as he curled into a loose ball on his side in a fruitless effort to shield himself from the sensory overload. Wave after wave crashed down on him, coming so quickly in succession that the only reaction he could manage was a long, agonized moan as he prayed for the feeling to dull down. Just ease up a little bit... at least enough so that I can see straight... please.

"...Christ, the Saviour is born..."

JD wanted to scream at the radio to shut up, to tell it that it was only making his already splitting headache worse, but found that he lacked the motivation and the breath to do so, his lungs having been compressed when the pain had struck without warning like that.

It was a seemingly endless few minutes before he was able to bring the pain a little more under control so that he could breath properly again, and when he finally managed, his eyes came back open and he ignored the throbbing in his skull as he tried to think of what to do next. He knew that he had to get to a hospital, just like he knew that Sacred Heart was the closest, which unfortunately meant that he would be checking into a place where he would be wide open for a Dr. Cox rant while he was being treated, something that was sure to make his pounding head implode under the pressure.

Now there's an image...

JD bit his tongue and gave himself an internal shake; now was so not the time for a daydream. In fact, he couldn't think of a time that was any less suited for one than this moment was, right now.

Unless you count Great Aunt Tessie's wake...

He allowed himself a faint snort at the somewhat painful memory of being caught cautiously poking Tessie with a long stick constructed of drinking straws, standing at a safe distance as he tried to convince himself that, contrary to what his mind would show him, the elderly woman would not be sitting up and inflicting the dreaded cheek-pinch on him, something that was sure to scar him for life given the circumstances.

Laying there on the ground, a little afraid to move given how much everything hurt, JD eventually remembered two things at once: first, that the cellphone that was normally attached to his hip was still sitting cozily in his locker at work, and second, the fact that he was not alone on this street - other cars had been involved in the accident, and as a doctor, it was his responsibility to help them so long as he was breathing and in one piece.

With that in mind, he sucked in as deep a breath as he could manage and then pulled himself up into a sitting position, only half managing to muffle a scream at the fiery pain that ripped through his body in response. Ignoring the scant tears that trickled down his face, he forced himself to his knees, bracing his hands against the glass-covered ground and pushing his body up to stand, hardly feeling shards that bit into his skin, in comparison to everything else. It was a struggle to remove his helmet and drop it by his feet, his entire body trembling non-stop. His shaking legs barely held him up as he staggered over to the nearest vehicle, a large blue pick-up truck to his right whose front end was entirely demolished, the windshield covered in a spider webbing pattern of cracks.

A quick glance in through the broken window of the driver's door was all it took to tell that the driver was dead, the reason for the window being broken suddenly obvious at the sight of the man's ravaged face and head. All the same, he reached a shaking hand inside and felt for a pulse that predictably wasn't there, sighing wearily as he pulled his arm back to his side and turned in the direction of the other car. His breath froze in his lungs as he stared at the overturned red car, remembering suddenly the little blond girl in the back seat, seeing in his mind's eye how terrified she had looked before the car had whipped off into a spin on the same ice he had met.

Fear for her made his heart clench painfully in his already aching chest, thoughts of his own hurts and the pain that accompanied them pushed to the very back of his mind as he moved as quickly as possible to stand beside the car whose radio continued to let out a soft stream of Christmas carols. He dropped back down to his hands and knees in the glass and searched the dark interior desperately until finally he caught sight of the small white dress, the girl who wore it suspended in the air by her seatbelt.

Without a second thought, he scrambled into the vehicle, crawling along it's ceiling until he sat in front of her, one arm releasing her seatbelt while the other supported her until he could lower her gently down. Gentle hands first found a sluggish pulse, and moved carefully along each rib, happy to find that all were in tact. However, when he pushed gently on her unnaturally firm abdomen, the girl's eyes shot open and she cried out in pain, startling him enough that he jumped back. He was quick to return to her side, gently stroking her hair back from her face in an attempt to calm her down and keep her from moving too much. As far as he could tell, she was bleeding internally into her abdomen, a condition that he knew could prove to be fatal.

This girl needed a hospital.

Almost as an afterthought, JD leaned into the front of the car, staying long enough to confirm that this driver had suffered the same demise as the other, probably having died on impact, or at least a few minutes afterward. Sighing, and trying hard to quell the nausea that rose back up at the gruesome sight, he returned his attention to the little girl, clearing his throat in an attempt to make his voice work again.

"Hi..." he said hoarsely, cringing at the lack of strength behind it. All the same, the word caught the girl's attention, and she focused pained eyes on him.

"It hurts," she whispered, eyes welling with tears. "Please... make it stop." A lump in his throat threatened to make his vocal cords useless, but he swallowed it back down.

"What's your name?"

Pause. Sniffle.

"Lindsay." He forced what was hopefully a friendly, reassuring smile to his face.

"Mine's JD. Now, I know it hurts Lindsay, and I'm going to get you to the hospital where I work, and the people there are going to make you better. Just... try to stay calm, and don't move around on your own. Alright?"

She nodded her understanding, and he wasted no time in moving her gently over beside the broken back window, climbing out himself before reaching in and carefully picking her up and forcing himself back to his feet. Resurrected adrenaline kept the pain at bay, for which he was eternally grateful as he cradled her in his arms, tight against his chest to keep her from bouncing with each of his uneven steps as he began what was sure to be an achingly long walk the rest of the way to Sacred Heart.

"Baby, please..." he began, his voice hardly more than a whine. "I've got plenty of Christmas spirit already. Honest."

"Turk, there's something very important that I need to tell you," Carla said, eyes narrowed slightly, hands on her hips. She motioned with one finger. "Come closer." Expression more than a little weary, he took a step closer to the desk she stood behind. "Closer." Now outwardly nervous, Turk stepped close enough that he could lean against the counter, and lean forward a little over it. She leaned in half way to meet him, and held his gaze with a steady one of her own that made him gulp audibly. "Now listen carefully: I am in charge - you know it, I know it. So if I give you a pair of antlers to wear..." She shook the accessory at him. "...then you are darn well gonna wear them. Comprende?" His shoulders drooped a little as he sighed in defeated and nodded, accepting the felt antlers from the triumphant nurse, inwardly crying as he nestled the attached headband onto the top of his head.

A sharp, mockingly appreciative whistle sounded off to his right, and the mournful tears in his head turned to great, globing rivers as he turned resignedly to face Dr. Cox. As was his custom on Christmas Eve, Cox had handed off all of his patients to whatever interns were unlucky enough to be stuck there that night, and so had little else to do other than wander the halls, looking for excuses to torment people. 'He's a lot like the Janitor in that way,' Turk thought to himself. 'Especially since both of them seem to enjoy going after my Vanilla Bear waaayyy too much.' Dr. Cox's taunting words interrupted his thoughts.

"Now that right there Ghandi was an impressive display of manhood. Bra-ha-haaa-vo!" the older doctor said, clapping loudly and exaggeratedly, a shit-eating grin revealing all of his pearly whites. Before Turk could defend himself, Carla glowered on his behalf, crossing her arms over her chest.

"You're the one to talk, Mister 'My-wife-makes-me-and-our-son-wear-matching-outfits-and-I-take-it-without-complaining'." Her comeback earned a cocked eyebrow, before Cox turned an amused smirk towards Turk.

"Letting the Misses fight your battles for ya, Baldy?" Turk opened his mouth to defend himself, but was cut off by the dismissive wave of a hand. "I honest-to-God couldn't care less about what you have to say, really. Now, where's your whiter, more girly half? She was supposed to start her shift over half an hour ago."

"You mean JD?"

"If that's what she's calling herself nowadays, then yes." The surgeon rolled his eyes before giving a tight-lipped answer.

"He called me a while back and said that he was on his way but that he'd be taking his time 'cause the weather sucked." He gave a bitter snort. "He was actually the most worried about how you would react if he was late, rather than whether or not he would crash if he drove too fast." Dr. Cox looked entirely unimpressed, shrugging and turning to pour himself a cup of Coffee Nurse's latest batch of java.

"Well, if Sheila goes and breaks a nail trying to please her latest crush, that's not my problem, now is it?" he said with a sneer, taking a long, appreciative sip. Without another word he stalked off down the hall, no doubt to find some helpless intern to degrade. Turk glared wholeheartedly at his back.

"I swear, I'll never understand why JD idolizes that jerk so much," he grumbled, shaking his head. Carla smirked, sitting back down in her chair to continue organizing the charts that she'd been given earlier that night.

"It's called a love-hate relationship, baby - you're not supposed to understand it."

"What, you're saying you do?" he asked, looking doubtful. She smiled sweetly.

"Of course I do. I'm a woman - we're very intuitive in these departments."

Hardly a second after she'd spoken, the hall was plunged into darkness, the power going out for the second time in as many days, and the emergency generators kicked in a moment later. Doctor Kelso's yelled words carried to them all the way from his office.

"Will somebody get on the phone with the power company and find out just how many power outages we're going to suffer before they get the damn transformers fixed!" The married couple winced in unison, and Turk shook his head despondently.

"This is gonna be a long night."

For the umpteenth time, JD tripped over his own feet, just barely managing to catch himself before he could send himself and Lindsay sprawling across the pavement. Up until then, he'd been pushing his body to work as though nothing were wrong, and though his mind and adrenaline boosts still pushed the pain aside, his body was slowly wearing down on him the longer he forced himself to move. He stood up as straight as he could and focused for a moment on simply breathing and staying upright, careful to keep the breaths shallow and as steady as possible while he tried to blink away the threatening darkness at the edges of his vision. A slight shift in his arms brought his attention back to the small form in his arms, and he studied her face for a moment, watching as she struggled to keep her eyes open and on him.

"You doing okay there Lindsay?" he asked quietly.

"'M tired JD..." Her eyes fell closed and his heart leapt into his throat.

"Hey, Lindsay... Lindsay!" They popped open again at his alarmed voice, and he sighed a little in relief as he continued. "It's very important that you stay awake for me. We're almost at the hospital... you can sleep when we get there, alright?" She nodded tiredly, bitting her lip as the lines of pain on her young face deepened. The sad sight gave his exhausted body another boost, and he steeled his nerves as he forced his feet to start moving again.

The sidewalk seemed to stretch endlessly in front of and behind him, the heavy fog combined with the threatening unconsciousness making it impossible to see just how close or far away his destination was, but he plowed on regardless. As time passed, his mind retreated into itself for respite from the exhaustion and looming pain, leaving his body on sluggish autopilot that allowed his feet to keep moving forward. The only sounds on the empty street were his uneven steps and breaths, the time of night and condition of the roads having motivated most people to settle down inside their homes, warm and safe... where Lindsay should be, and where he would have been, had he not been called in for the night shift that night due to the hospital being shorthanded.

'Shorthanded enough that they'd even call in Turk and Carla who are new parents, and who have both worked enough extra shifts that their babysitter could legally start charging them for overtime pay.'

Thoughts of his friends made his feet falter, but the autopilot setting they were on swooped in just in time to correct the mistake and keep them moving as his mind wandered even further, traveling into random moments in time over the past weeks... months... years even, unable to help itself in its concussed state. He saw himself and Elliot, engaged in their many failed attempts at a relationship, then he saw himself meeting Kim for the first time, darted over memories of their time together - the day she told him she was pregnant, right through to the day she told him she miscarried. He saw the day Turk and Carla got married, darting forward to when Turk became a father, Carla a mother, and then he jumped all the way back to when his father had died and Dr. Cox and his brother had been there for him... in their own roundabout kind of way. The images kept coming, faster and faster until they were just a large, colorful blur, some moments sad, a lot of them happy... and all of them ending with them being together, like they should be.

That thought froze him in place at long last, and he blinked owlishly against his somewhat blurred vision as he returned to himself suddenly, trying hard to remember why it was that he had been walking in the first place. He felt numb all over, and could still feel the faint thrums of adrenaline that had been coursing through his system. He knew that he had somewhere he was suppose to be... at the hospital... wasn't he on shift tonight? What time was he suppose to be there? Was he late?... Why did he need to be on time?... His friends... they would worry about him... Dr. Cox would of course be pissed... Why the hell was he walking instead of driving?...

A soft moan in his arms startled him and drew his gaze to the little blond angel he was cradling against himself, and he remembered with a jolt that there had been a crash that had left two dead, and this little girl in desperate need of medical attention... what about him? He tried to give himself a mental once-over, but the self-imposed ignorance to pain made such a feat impossible and he soon gave up, and focused on studying his surroundings, trying to gauge where he was in comparison to where he needed to be. The sight of the hospital that stood not twenty feet away from him was a shock to his previously wandering mind and he took a moment to praise his feet for bringing him here before he forced his led-filled legs to carry him across the remaining expanse of parking lot and up the ramp, walking slowly through the automatic doors and into the main floor waiting room.

The floor was dimly lit with what he recognized to be the emergency lights, meaning that the hospital was running off of its emergency generators that came on during a power outage. In the poor lighting, the busy room was made even more cluttered and confusing, and it took a great deal of effort to make his way through the crowd to a lab-coated surgeon he recognized from Turk's rotation.

"This girl needs help." His voice came out surprisingly hoarse, but luckily the man heard him all the same, and turned to face him, eyes going wide as they zeroed in on the bundle he carried. Immediately he summoned a gurney and carefully removed her from JD's secure grip, not looking up while speaking as he began the usual checks.

"What happened?" he asked, and JD had to give himself a hard shake to get his scrambled memories in order so as to answer.

"Uh... there was a car accident a few blocks from here. This girl... Lindsay... was in the back seat during a head-on collision. I checked her over before I pulled her out - no broken bones or lacerations that I noticed, but she definitely has internal bleeding... I'm a doctor, I work here," he added as an afterthought, hoping that it would ensure that his assessment was credible, thereby getting the little girl treated faster.

Thankfully, the surgeon nodded at his report and began barking off orders to a few nurses as they prepared to find the girl a room where she could wait before going into surgery. Satisfied that she was being properly taken care of, JD shuffled over to the nearest elevator, hitting the upwards arrow.

'Supposed to be on shift... I think... Don't know what time it is... Hope I'm not late...'

Just as the doors were opening and he was slowly entering, the surgeon, who had been about to help the nurse remove the girl's dress to get her into a gown, caught sight of a dark stain all along her one side. Frowning, and cursing the dim lighting, he moved in for a closer inspection, cursing under his breath as he recognized the deep shade of crimson to be blood. He cut the dress away, leaving her in the slip that had been under it, and searched quickly for the source of such a large amount of blood, frowning deeply in confusion when he found not a scratch.

What the hell?...

It was then that he remembered that the young doctor who had brought her in had been cradling her in his arms so that her side was pressed up against his abdomen... meaning that all of the blood staining the girl's dress had come from him. Most likely he'd been involved in the same accident, and had apparently walked here with her afterwards, bleeding all the way. He whipped his head around in search of him, and spotted him just as he was getting into an elevator. He quickly ordered the girl up to the OR and ran after the man, cursing again, though louder this time, as the elevator doors closed just before he could make it over. His eyes found the floor numbers above the elevator doors and he waited until the light settled on one number before he took off for the stairs, determined to get to the injured doctor before it was too late.

JD stood unsteadily in the hall beside the elevator he'd just vacated, even more weighed down by the exhaustion that was finally catching up with him as he struggled to stay on his feet, and tried his hardest to remember which direction the locker room was in. The lighting on this floor where he and his friends usually worked was just as dim as the lighting downstairs, making his dimming vision even harder to see through, and he shook his head in an attempt to clean it, nearly falling over as the action set him off balance. He stood very still for a moment, trying to reorient himself, until he heard an indignant voice behind him.

"Hey! I just washed this floor, and here you are, dripping mud, or whatever, all over the place!" The janitor's voice seemed oddly far away, even though as JD turned, he saw that he was almost directly behind him. He blinked slowly, then mumbled an apology before stumbling off in what he hoped was the direction of the nurses' station.

Still grumbling avidly about the new mess, Janitor took his flashlight from his cleaning cart, hoping that the extra light would allow him to identify whatever JD had been dripping so that he could figure out the best thing he could use to clean it. As the white beam lit the small puddle and splatters, he found his mind froze for a moment at the sight of the familiar deep red color Blood. Shocked, his mouth dropping open, he shifted the light and saw bloody spots and footprints leading away from where JD had been standing, trailing away down the hall in a smearing, crooked path.

He would later deny having ever felt anything remotely resembling concern or fear as he leapt to his feet and struggled through the crowded hall, following the gruesome trail all the while.

By the time JD finally made it to the counter at the station, his vision had completely tunneled, his head feeling light as air, his limbs seemingly weighing tons. He placed one hand flat against the counter top, trying to steady his swaying and keep himself vertical The countless voices and alarms and ringing phones surrounding him were little more than a dull roar, indiscernible from one to the next... until a distinctly annoyed, familiar voice sounded directly beside him.

"Well well well, what have we here? Did Clarice finally decide she was ready to get some work done tonight, rather than stay at home to cry over her latest ex, and get twenty pounds heavier on her subsequent ice cream binge?"

Turning to face his mentor, JD found he didn't have the energy or presence of mind to actually come up with an answer, and so simply stood staring at him, blinking slowly. His response, or rather lack there of, earned him the telltale flick of the nose as Dr. Cox crossed his arms over his chest and glared at him, practically snarling now.

"What's the matter Matilda? Did someone finally glue those girly little lips of yours shut? Was it your creepy, freakishly tall Janitor pal? If it was, remind me to bake him the mother of all 'thank you' cakes." When JD still didn't utter a word, instead bracing his other hand as well against the counter to steady himself, a flash of concern flickered across his face, but was quickly replaced by a deep scowl as he took a step closer to him. "Newbie, I'm warning you now: tonight is so not the night to be messing with me for, despite it being the holiday season, I would feel absolutely no guilt at all in tossing you out one of the many windows in this godforsaken dump if you so much as breathe on me. Is that understood?"

Just as he was beginning to summon the energy to force out an 'aye-aye, captain', the world began to tilt startlingly to the right, at the exact same moment as an intern carrying a large stack of charts elbowed his way past. Losing the last shred of will he had to stay standing, JD fell directly into Dr. Cox, who braced him out of instinct before growling and shoving him off. What the older doctor did not expect however, was for his young prodigé to simply collapse into a heap on the ground. Blinking his surprise, his attention was drawn to his oddly saturated-feeling shirt, and he recognized the deep stain as blood just as its powerful smell hit him full on, making him gag, and his gaze darted back to JD's lightly trembling form.

"Someone get me a gurney and gauze over here, and I mean NOW!" he bellowed, snatching up the industrial flashlight from the counter beside him and dropping to his knees beside JD, ignoring the stares and small audience he'd drawn to the scene.

As carefully as possible, and with the help of another nurse, he removed JD's backpack and turned the younger man over. He had that same nurse turn on the flashlight and aim it at JD, and was stunned at what he saw. The entire front of JD's dark jacket was soaked in what could only be blood, which wasted no time in beginning to stain the floor beneath him. JD's face was extraordinarily pale and his eyes were glazed and staring up at the ceiling, lids at half mast, his mouth slightly open and his chest barely moving with the sparse, shallow breaths he was taking. He pressed his fingers to his neck, and was dismayed to find the pulse there to be slow and thready; he couldn't even begin to guess how much blood he'd already lost, or how long it'd been since he'd been injured.

He had just opened the shredded jacket, and was about to peel back the equally shredded zip-up sweater when three simultaneous gasps sounded from beside him, and he tossed a glance to his left to see the gurney he'd requested, accompanied by Carla, with Turk and Elliot standing frozen behind her. All three of them were staring with wide, horrified eyes at their friend who continued to stare at the ceiling, seemingly unaware of the commotion that was going on around him as another intern pushed through to the scene, bearing an armful of gauze pads and tape. Once she recovered from her shock, Carla was quick to position the gurney no further than a few feet away before dropping down beside Dr. Cox, the other two hovering by as close as they could get as he finally opened the sweater, and tore away what was left of his T-shirt.

"Oh God..." Elliot's whispered words voiced everyone's thoughts at the sight that met their eyes.

JD's chest and stomach were a bloody mess of deep gashes and nearly black bruises, which rose and fell in tiny, trembling movements with each breath he took. The most terrible of all were the three, jagged white ends that were protruding from his left side where the ribs had broken and torn through the skin. Blood oozed steadily from all the wounds, and for a split second, they could only gape at the damage before them. It was a soft moan from JD that snapped them out of it, and Cox immediately began checking his vitals, and enlisted Carla's and the intern's help in getting pressure on the worst of the cuts, for the moment avoiding touching the ribs. Hardly half a minute into their working, JD blinked slowly, seeming to come out of his haze a little, and strained through the fuzziness of his vision to see Elliot, who was half-knelt beside his head, staring anxiously at his exposed abdomen. It took a lot of swallowing before he could get his voice to work.

"E-Elli-ot?" She drew in a sharp breath at the barely audible voice, and looked down at his face, startled but relieved beyond words to see him looking up at her with at least a small bit of coherency Forcing on a reassuring smile, she stroked his disheveled hair from his forehead, noticing only then the myriad of scrapes dotting his pallid skin, and the nasty looking lump near his hair line that was a deep shape of purple against his forehead.

"H-hey there," she said, drawing the attention of Turk and a sharp, somewhat desperate glance from both Carla and Cox before they continued to work. "We'll get you something for the pain..."

"It... it doesn't... hurt..." he said whispily, unsure what to make of the frown that creased her face, or of the muttered curse that came from somewhere near his legs. He paused for a moment, frowning himself then. "Except for... my hands.... think I might've scratched them..."

Continuing to stroke his hair with one hand, she used her other to turn one of his hands over, feeling her stomach churn a little at its condition. Turk knelt down beside her then, and he fought to keep his face at least semi-calm as he took in all of the bleeding gashes, and pieces of glass that were lodged into his palm and the pads of his fingers. A quick inspection of his other hand turned up the same result, and he yelled for someone to bring wraps for both hands before settling back down, and meeting JD's gaze. He shook his head to clear some of his shock.

"Man, what in the hell happened to you?" Before JD could even think of answering him, a doctor none of them recognized knelt down beside Turk and answered for him.

"Apparently there was an accident, a few blocks from here. It was a head on collision involving a few cars, and your friend walked here from the site, carrying a little girl with internal bleeding into my ER." His frown deepened. "He failed to mention, however, that he'd been involved in that same crash, and so I didn't realize the situation until I found all the blood on one side of the girl's dress. By then, he'd already gotten into an elevator to come up here."

"He walked here, in this condition? Carrying a little girl?" Carla asked in disbelief, looking up briefly from her work. The doctor nodded solemnly.

"That's right - even walked right up to me with her still in his arms and outlined the nature of the accident and her injuries. No call had even come in yet about the accident..." Having needed a moment for the man's words to sink in properly, JD's eyes suddenly widened as his thoughts were brought back to his young charge, back to the little blond girl in the red car. Instant panic rose in him as he remembered how much pain he'd seen in her expression, how much he'd known that she needed help as soon as possible, and he just couldn't get it to her fast enough...

"Lindsay!" he cried hoarsely. And before anyone could move to stop him, he lurched halfway up into a sitting position, the action bringing the pain crashing back and tearing a sharp scream from his lips before he fell back to the ground, gasping and beginning to shake tremulously from head to toe.

"God dammit Newbie!" Cox yelled, trying to ignore the stabbing in his chest that the scream had caused as he crawled over to sit beside JD's head, effectively shoving Turk out of the way.

For once, the surgeon didn't object to his roughhousing, choosing instead to watch numbly as Dr. Cox checked his pulse and peeled back his eyelids, using his penlight to check dilation.

"Pupils blown - possible grade three concussion." JD's shaking worsened to near convulsions, his breaths now harsh gasps and his face an unhealthy shade of gray. "Shit, he's going into shock - we gotta set up transfusion and get him into the OR, right now. Carla, Turk, help me lift him. On the count of three - one, two, three!"

They each chose a part of his body to support and as one, they lifted him off the ground and over to the waiting gurney, their stomachs twisting and their hearts racing at the weaker scream the action brought from their friend. Immediately they rushed him off down the hall, Carla and Dr. Cox by JD's head with Turk and Elliot on either side of his torso, keeping pressure on the worst of his wounds as they ran. Elliot's eyes never left his face, and her left hand never left his ice-cold cheek.

"JD!" she said loudly, trying to be heard over the din that surrounded them. JD's eyes, glazed and dulling in the paper white backdrop of his face, slid over to focus on Elliot as he continued to tremble viciously. She forced a reassuring smile onto her face, running her hand gently through his hair. "You're going to be just fine, you hear me? Just hang in there - you're going to be okay, stay with me." She was shocked to see him smile slightly in return and his lips parted as he took in a shuddering breath, and seeing that he wanted to say something, she leaned in closer so that she could hear him.

"Mer... Merry Christmas E-Elliot." Her eyes burned and she choked on a sob as she leaned in and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Merry Christmas JD."

In a matter of minutes, they were pushing through the swinging doors into the OR, coming to a stop next to the operating table where they quickly transfered him once more. This time, the pain was too much for him to handle and with a final whimper, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, his trembling body going limp under their hands. With renewed urgency, they began preparing for emergency surgery, and Dr. Cox turned to one of the nurses that had followed them in.

"Go and get Dr. Wen!" he growled, and she nodded, turning to run from the room, only to stop abruptly, eyes going wide. About to demand to know why she was still there, Dr. Cox followed her line of sight and his mouth dropped open in shock at the sight of the towering janitor practically sprinting into the room, skidding to a stop in front of them and quickly lowering Dr. Wen to the ground from where he'd been slung over his broad shoulder. The surgeon seemed to have handled his partial kidnapping from his nap in the on call room extremely well as he took only a second to straighten his scrubs before he strode forward and was brought up to speed on the situation.

Once they'd done all they could, and were ushered out of the room, they all stood staring through the observation window as the last of JD's clothes were cut away, exposing the multitude of gashes and bruises that covered much of his body. Now that their participation was over, they each seemed to sag under an invisible weight, Carla and Elliot wordlessly embraced, clinging tightly to each other while Turk kept focused on what was going in the other room, too stunned to do anything else.

Standing beside JD's best friends, it took all of Perry's willpower to keep from pounding his fist into the wall, choosing instead to wind both hands tightly in his hair at the back of his head, unable to get the image and cries of his battered colleague out of his mind as he watched the surgeons rush to save his life. He suddenly felt a presence off to their left and he turned his head to find the janitor standing there watching them work on JD, an un-nameable expression on his grim features, his arms crossed defensively across his chest. When he noticed Perry's gaze, his arms fell to his side as he rapidly blinked suspiciously bright eyes, shoving both hands into his pockets before turning and walking slowly away and disappearing soon around the corner, leaving as silently as he'd come.

The sun had begun to rise by the time JD was brought out of recovery, and wheeled into a private room near the nurse's station, still frighteningly pale but breathing much easier, with his chest and both hands wrapped tightly in equally white bandages. Given the fact that only one person was allowed into his room at a time until he was more stable, Dr. Cox was careful to beat everyone else through the door and closed it tightly in the face of their angry protests. That done, he turned and walked over to the chair beside the bed, sitting down heavily with a long, drawn-out sigh.

He couldn't be sure how long he sat there, doing nothing outside of watching JD's bandaged chest rise and fall steadily, and listening to the strong heartbeat on the monitor, but after a while his thoughts drifted off inevitably back to when the surgery had first begun. Once it had become clear that his friends couldn't take seeing him like that much longer, while at the same time not being able to leave, Cox had ushered them back to the lounge to wait. All in all, it had turned into agonizingly long hours with intermittent periods of crying from all three... he definitely wasn't involved in those - he got dirt in his eyes dammit! He did not cry!

He sure as hell did not do any cheesy-ass reminiscing about the quirky doctor... and he so did not start thinking about all the times he yelled at and/or berated him when he didn't need to, and get all freakishly emotional at the idea that he might never get to talk to the kid again, or tell the imaginary him that he was sorry for all the crap he'd pulled over the years... 'cause he just wouldn't be the infamous Perry Cox if he did - he would've turned into a hybrid of JD himself, practically his freakin' twin. Now there was an idea he'd never live down...

Scowling at himself, he finally tore his gaze away from JD's motionless form, and found his eyes wandering down to the backpack that someone had had the presence of mind to deposit next to its owner's bed. He debated with himself for a grand total of 0.2 seconds on whether or not he should be digging through JD's stuff before reaching down and pulling it up into his lap. Unzipping it quietly, he groped around inside, stopping as his hand bumped against something that had what felt like a bow attached to it.

Too curious to help himself, he pulled it and his hand out, revealing it to be a carefully wrapped present, the wrapping paper smattered with smiling, googly eyed snowmen. Raising an amused brow at the choice, he sought out the tag and scoffed out of instinct when he saw that it was addressed to him, before reluctantly acknowledging the warmth that filled him at the idea of JD having bought him a Christmas present. Not bothering to quell the spark of innocent excitement, he tore the wrapping paper off, laughing softly and grinning widely at the small, plastic, toy doctor's kit that now stared back at him. Somehow, the goofy, typically JD-styled gift reaffirmed for Perry more solidly than any chart could that they would all pull through this in fine form - JD's condition would improve enough for him to wake up, his friends could stop crying, and Perry could take great joy in teasing him about the gift, although gently and not for long, after which he might even consider thinking about buying him something in return...

"Excuse me, Dr. Cox?" He jumped slightly in his chair, not having noticed the intern's entrance, before spinning around and leveling him with a seething glare, brought on by the interruption as well as for startling him. Visibly gulping, but putting up a grand effort at not trembling in fear, he continued. "There's, um... there's a... a phone call for you f-from your... uh, wife, um... sir." After he'd skittered away, Dr. Cox sighed quietly, standing from his chair and placing his gift carefully down upon it before turning back to JD, who hadn't moved an inch since he'd first arrived.

"I'll be back soon Newbie," he whispered, and headed out the door, which he closed gently behind him, fully intending on keeping his promise.