A/N: Merry Christmas! Well, it's still Christmas Eve where I am, but you get me. Seriously though, I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday so far. As for this story, it's based off of "The Book of Love" scene at the end of "My Finale," when they showed footage from their future Christmas party. I really adored that part of the show, but writing it out intimidated me a little, since I really thought it was such a spectacular moment from the finale and felt like writing it would somehow ruin it. Anyway, I hope I've succeeded in making this an enjoyable read while still accurately capturing the moment. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own a very large nothing.
Their Christmas to Remember
Dr. Cox walked casually beside his ex-wife, trying to process what it was he was doing and how he'd gotten there to begin with. Oh, that's right. Newbie decided to not go home for the holidays, and was even lucky enough to get Sammy, since Kim was flying home and figured that the little Dorian was just too young to accompany her. Since Gandhi and Carla wanted to start creating their own traditions with Izzy and Gale, they decided to take a break from going home for Christmas as well. Of course, that meant that Newbie had to call their apartment, all a flutter, and ask if they would join them at Milk Dud's place for a Christmas evening get together. Jordan, of course, had said yes without even asking, thinking that it was a nice idea to have all of the kids together for the holiday.
But while a part of that may have been true, Dr. Cox knew her real reason. Jordan missed them; she wanted to see them, and while he would have pounced on the opportunity to throw it in her face just a number of years ago, a horrible, horrible truth had settled over him ever since JD had left Sacred Heart; a truth that he could no longer deny.
Dr. Cox missed them too.
It had started the day after JD's departure, and he could remember it like it was yesterday. He came into work, ready to go, and yet the whole damn time, it just wouldn't register that the stupid kid wasn't going to pop out from around the corner. It wasn't registering that JD was really gone, gone. It wasn't until Milk Dud walked past the nurses' station, pout in place, and when he noticed the Janitor actually cleaning instead of stalking, that it really and honestly hit him.
Newbie wasn't coming back.
It had sent him into something like that of a panic, which had only caused him to panic even more. It didn't exactly help that Carla's announcement about retiring to be a stay at home mom came only weeks after Newbie's exit either. Of course, no one could tell he was panicking. He'd chosen to rant at any passing intern, but that was how he dealt with everything anyway. Still though, it had scared him; the realization that he was losing the same people who had managed to worm their way into his heart.
Of course, he'd forgotten who it was he was dealing with.
Leave it to Newbie to make sure he stopped by Sacred Heart at least once every couple of months, just to see how everybody was doing. Leave it to Newbie to call him almost every day leading up to his wedding, asking for advice non stop and making sure that he would actually be there for the ceremony, since he hadn't shown up for Carla's… Leave it to Newbie to invite him to his bachelor party, which was both very frightening and very amusing, actually. And leave it to Newbie to set up play dates for their kids at least once a month; to throw barbeques, birthday parties, New Years parties, and now, apparently, Christmas parties as well.
There was just no way JD was letting any of them grow even a centimeter apart, and quite frankly, Dr. Cox didn't feel like preventing him from doing so. Not anymore, anyway. Whether he liked it or not, he missed the stupid kid. He missed their – dare he think it – group. They were more of a family to him than his real family growing up had been, that was for sure, and, well…he didn't want to lose them…
Of course, that didn't mean he was going to say it out loud. Sure, JD had caught him confessing their friendship, but that was different. He hadn't voluntarily given himself over to the kid, which made it okay. And, quite frankly, it was oddly refreshing now that the doe eyed doctor knew that he really did care. While it was obvious that JD had always known the truth, the kid having overheard him made it officially, well, official. Perry didn't have to pretend nearly as much as he used to, and when he did serve one hell of a good rant, he didn't have to feel too guilty over it afterwards. JD knew what was really going on through his head. That was good enough, wasn't it?
A sharp set of knocks pulled the Irishman back into the moment. He was fairly surprised to find himself in front of Gandhi's door; his ex-wife looking oddly at peace while his kids bounced excitedly in front of the still closed exit.
"I'll get it!"
Mr. and Mrs. Cox-Sullivan shared a simultaneous eye roll at how excited JD sounded over just being able to answer the door. Yet, as his footsteps grew closer, Perry couldn't help but take one giant step to the side.
Jordan turned to him, eyebrow raised in question. "What are you doing…?"
"And you can't wait in front of the door why, exactly?"
"Because I haven't seen Newbie in a grand total of – wait for it – three months. And that's definitely enough to get him to do something that he ra-ha-ha-heely shouldn't have done, and taking into account that this is the first time we're getting together like this for what society has deemed the Grand Poobah of all holidays? No way he doesn't have something up his sleeve. I'm waiting until I'm sure the coast is clear."
Jordan just shook her head, but was cut off from doing anything further when the door before them swung open.
Cox peered into the doorway, eyes searching, as his protégé and ex-wife shared both a rare and sincere hug. Jack and Jenny greeted their Uncle JD, all smiles, but were quick to move into the living room with their mom in order to go play with Sammy and Izzy, excited to hear what it was Santa had bought for them.
Perry now stood in the doorway, a bit more relaxed at the scene playing out before him. No balloons, no confetti, no choirs singing him into the entrance. Okay, the coast was clear. He could come in. "Hey there, Newbie. Are you going to let me in or am I going to have to stand out here all night and –"
"Wait, wait! Stay right there!"
Dr. Cox stared, eyebrows raised in question, as JD kept his place in the doorway, hurriedly ushering somebody over. He wasn't particularly surprised when it was Gandhi who came running, grin in place, nor was he surprised that the front of their sweaters read "Merry X-mas," when they stood together the way they were now.
"Fantastic," Perry commented dryly. "Now can I come –"
But whatever Dr. Cox was going to say next was soon forgotten, as the two doctors in front of him whirled around on their feet, allowing him to read the message stitched onto their backs. A cheerfully written, "Perry!" stared him straight in the face, causing the older man to close his eyes in quiet restraint.
They turned around again, clearly proud of their creation, but all Dr. Cox could do was give a disgruntled sigh before pushing his way into the apartment.
"Thought he'd like that one…" he heard Newbie mumble.
"Better than a singing choir," Dr. Cox answered back.
The Irishman went to take off his coat, surprised when he felt someone helping him along the way. "Be careful," he started before turning back around, "Gumball might see and get jealous."
His suspicions were confirmed when a hand swatted his shoulder playfully. Grinning, Dr. Cox turned around, letting the Latina nurse pull him into a hug.
"Hey, you," she greeted warmly. "How's your Christmas been so far?"
"Surprisingly tolerable," he answered as they pulled away from the embrace. "You?"
"Exhausting. I mean, part of it's exciting, you know. Since Izzy's four, this will probably be the first Christmas that she'll remember, and of course we're excited to be celebrating Gale's first one too. But from having to handle dinner, the kids almost knocking over the tree, JD and Turk bouncing all over the place, it's been, well, an adventure…"
Perry nodded, though the grin hadn't quite left his expression. Perhaps it was for this reason that made Carla say what she said next.
"Look at you," she commented suddenly, voice soft and sincere. "It's Christmas, but you're…happy."
The older man's grin vanished immediately as he stared down into the brown eyes that were currently looking him over. "No," he corrected in a hurry. "I'm merely enjoying the story that has been your horrible day so far."
Carla rolled her eyes as she made her way towards JD's room. Dr. Cox followed suit, mind racing with excuses, as he watched the former nurse throw his coat onto Newbie's bed with everyone else's. "C'mon, Carla," the Irishman started up again, "I la-la-la loathe Christmas. You know it, I know it, Jordan knows it –"
"But I also know that you're a lot happier than you used to be. I don't think Christmas will ever succeed in giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling, but will you stop pretending that you're not enjoying yourself? As frustrating as your Scrooge persona used to be, I could understand your behavior to a certain extent, because back then, well…back then, I knew why this time of year made you so unhappy… But honestly, Dr. Cox, it's just tiring to watch now. I know you'll never love Christmas, but I know you take joy in seeing Jack and Jenny get so excited. I know there was a significant part of you that wanted to come here tonight, and I know there was even a part of you that liked those ridiculous sweaters Bambi and Turk made. Which, by the way, was JD's idea, just in case you didn't already know. Poor thing poked himself five times with the needle while stitching…"
Dr. Cox shook his head rapidly, the image of JD poking his fingers over that stupid sweater, of all things… "Listen, Carla…"
The Latina put her hands on her hips, lips pursed, as she waited for him to continue.
Perry closed his eyes and inhaled slowly, preparing himself for what it was he was getting ready to confess. "I don't… I mean, I hate Christmas."
"Yes," she said in agreement.
"But maybe – and this is strictly hypothetical, mind you – but maybe I just hate what Christmas used to be."
"And…?" Carla coaxed.
"And maybe now it's not that, well, you know…horrible?"
Carla removed her hands from her sides, lips suddenly finding themselves against Perry's cheek. "There you go, Dr. Cox. I don't expect you to ever bubble over with joy, but there's nothing wrong with finally finding that peace that has managed to pass over you for years now. It's a good progression. Don't let it escape you just because the feeling is unfamiliar."
"Yeah, yeah," he answered quickly. But his response was spoken half heartedly, it's usual dismissive tone laced in an odd sort of softness that so few were privileged enough to hear from him.
"Now come on," the mother of two started up again. "You haven't said hi to everybody else yet."
"Oh, poor me…"
Carla grinned as the two of them walked out and into the living room, where Elliot sat on the couch, bouncing her newborn baby on her lap with an expression of absolute glee. It was hard for Perry not to stare upon seeing her. He couldn't believe he was looking at the same girl who was so anti-babies upon his first year of meeting her. He couldn't believe he was staring at the same woman who used to throw herself into supply closets and cry when things got too crazy. He couldn't believe he was watching the same doctor whose confidence used to be only a notch above Doug's. Barbie – the fast talking, frick screeching, doctor – wasn't really Barbie any more, was she? Or if she was, she was the kind of Barbie that Jenny liked; the ones that came with the entire set: a house, a family, a job – and yet, somehow or another, that same damn doll kept on smiling.
The baby – Molly Dorian – let out a happy squeal as her mother lifted her up and into the air. It was only then that the woman's eyes drifted over to where both Carla and Perry stood watching.
Dr. Cox was surprised by how quickly she stood up; at how easy it was for her to walk over and hug him. "Hi, Dr. Cox!" she greeted cheerfully. It took Perry a moment to register what was happening, surprised that his arms had instinctively hugged her back, even if the embrace had only lasted for a fraction of a second. "I'm so glad you and Jordan could come. Izzy and Sam have been dying to show Jack and Jenny their toys, and I know JD really wanted you to be here tonight."
"Yeah, well…we figured it was better to come over here and have our sugar induced kids wreck this apartment instead of ours."
Elliot smiled playfully; a smile that clearly said, "Not buying it."
"Hey, Carla!" Jordan's voice called from the kitchen. "Are we making those peppermint schnapps or what?"
"Oh!" Elliot intervened excitedly. "Let me help!" Dr. Cox hadn't prepared himself for the small Dorian to be placed gently into his arms. "You be a good girl for Uncle Cox, alright?" the blonde cooed lovingly. "Mommy will be back in a little bit."
The older man let out his famous, demanding whistle, doing his best to get Barbie to turn around and pick up her daughter, but he was stopped from continuing when the baby squirmed at the sound. Without thinking, Perry looked down at the child currently nestled in his arms.
Wide, blue eyes gazed up at him; curious, innocent and attentive. She continued to stare at him while her hand reached out to clutch at his shirt; a happy, little gurgle escaping her in the process. The Irishman swallowed. The last thing he needed was another Dorian to hook him in and not let go, but all be damned if this kid wasn't doing that already.
Perry startled as a flash of light burst before him, capturing a soft moment that he would have ra-heely preferred to stay hidden. He put on a glare as he looked up at who he knew would be standing there, beaming.
Newbie stood in front of him with a camera, grinning from ear to ear at the sight that was his mentor holding his little girl. "She's adorable, isn't she?"
Perry looked back down at the girl in his arms, swallowing a small grin as the baby almost immediately looked back up. "Yeah, actually, she is. Wonder how that happened, what with her sharing your genes and all."
JD simply rolled his eyes as he reached forward, taking the baby and adjusting her so that the girl's head rested comfortably against his shoulder. "You're right though; she does have a lot of my genes. She already has my amazing, brown locks, see?"
JD nodded. "Yup! Amazing."
Dr. Cox had been getting ready to retaliate, but a sudden tug on his pant leg had him looking down at the person in question. He couldn't help but grin at the face that now stared up at him. Oh yes, this Dorian had long ago pulled him in, whether he wanted him to or not. Of course, it only helped that they shared the same name…
"Uncle Cox, Uncle Cox! Come see ta' twee."
"Sure thing, Sam."
The older man pretended not to notice JD smiling as Sammy took Perry by the hand, leading him over to his favorite part of the apartment.
"This is Izzy's twee," Sam stated matter-of-factly.
Dr. Cox nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"And dose are what Santa got me."
Perry looked over to the pile of unwrapped presents, trying not to grin upon seeing the small pretend-doctor set. "What about that present there, Sam. Do you like that one?"
The boy turned to where he was pointing, nodding enthusiastically when he realized what it was his uncle was referring to. "Is my favwit. Dat an' my teddy."
Perry was surprised when he turned back to the pile of presents to notice a lone basketball sitting amongst the new toys. Not being able to resist, Dr. Cox asked his next question without hesitation. "Who gave you that one?"
"Uncle Tuwk, but I don' weally like bas'et ball."
Perry chuckled softly. "You really are your father's son, aren't you?"
Having quickly lost interest in their conversation, Sam toddled over to where Izzy was currently standing. It wasn't until they were actually next to each other did the older man hear excited whispering. Curious, Dr. Cox turned towards the living room couch, not particularly surprised to find Gandhi completely draped over Newbie's shoulders, their attention focused solely on Izzy and Sam. "I can't believe I'm actually getting ready to ask this, but why are you two staring at your kids like they're keepers of the Holy Grail?"
Both doctor and surgeon were pulled out of their trance upon hearing Perry's words, staring at him like the answer should have been an obvious one. "You see," JD started in an explanatory tone.
"No man, let me," Turk cut in. "We're starting our kids out early; letting them play together whenever they want for however long they want. See, they're going to grow up together, you know, so they'll already be pretty close, but then when they really grow up and start, you know – 'getting interested' – they'll automatically gravitate towards each other."
Dr. Cox moaned. "Fantastic, just what this family needs: another Dorian and Turk bound forever by borderline creepy love."
Maybe it was because Carla had called him only seconds after Perry's comment, but Turk didn't seem to notice anything particularly unusual as he stood from his place on the couch, walking over to the kitchen with a bounce in his step. JD, however, would not stop staring at Perry; blue eyes wide and disbelieving.
Dr. Cox flicked his nose and crossed his arms. There was something very knowing in JD's stare, and it was leaving him with that, "you've been caught" feeling in the pit of his stomach. "What?" he asked sharply.
Newbie blinked, as if realizing what he just heard wasn't his usual over active imagination playing tricks on him yet again. "I just…I can't believe you just said that!"
Perry's eyes widened slightly as JD stood from his place on the couch, his stunned expression now a full blown grin. "You referred to us as your family! Like…all of us! Dr. Cox, I'm so happy!"
The older man took a giant step backwards as JD reached out to hug him, causing the brunet to almost fall face first into the coffee table. "No, Newbie, nya-uh. No trying to hug me tonight, do you hear me? I'm here and – God save me – sort of, kind of enjoying myself. That doesn't mean I want your Newbie paws all over my not so very-merry ensemble."
"I have another one of these sweaters in my room, if that's what you're –"
"Okay… Well, I'm glad you're here, Perry. I really am."
The Irishman rolled his shoulders. If these happy-go-lucky moments kept on coming, he wasn't sure how long he would last before having to leave the apartment.
He was cut off from his train of thought when a drink was suddenly pressed into his hand. Jordan placed her palm over his abdomen before walking away; a small, quiet gesture that said exactly what he needed to hear. Relax. Silently, Dr. Cox brought the peppermint flavored drink to his mouth. No where near what he really preferred, but he wasn't going to not drink it, that was for damn sure.
Deciding to take part in the rare occasion of actually following his protégé, Perry let his feet wander over to the kitchen counter, where food was piled high. Grabbing himself a paper plate, he went about loading it up with shrimp, cheese and crackers, pepperoni, and pieces of fruit with conveniently placed tooth picks sticking out of the top. It wasn't long at all before he found himself on the loveseat, enjoying his meal.
Of course, it didn't take him too long to finish it either, which left him with nothing other to do than watch in quiet awe at the scene that played out before him.
And what a scene it was.
Perry stared, eyes transfixed, at the group of people who he was once so sure would eventually leave him; the same individuals who he had once been so adamant about not letting into his life for that very reason. Yet here they were, all of them, happy and content to be with him on a holiday he had always just assumed he would never be able to enjoy.
On the couch, Barbie and Carla sat playing with Molly, while his own daughter sat against Elliot's side. Over by the kitchen, Newbie and Gumball sat next to one another; Gale looking wide eyed and curious, but happy enough to be on his father's lap. By the tree, Izzy and Sam stood peacefully, though the younger Dorian seemed to be preoccupied with a new toy. And Jack –
Perry didn't stop himself from smiling as his son bounded over and up onto his lap. Almost immediately, Dr. Cox wrapped his hands around the young boy's waist, hoisting him up and into the air; enjoying the giggles that emitted from his son in the process. When Jack settled back down onto his father's lap, Perry realized for the first time that evening that he didn't really care if people were watching. It wasn't the first time he felt not-that-horrible on Christmas, but it was definitely the first time that he didn't want to fight the feeling that swelled beneath his chest; that feeling of serenity. He enjoyed it, and he was sick of pretending that he didn't.
So for the rest of the evening, he talked amiably enough with the rest of them. He let himself be caught under the mistletoe as Jordan pulled him in, their kiss showing all who watched that they were unquestionably and undeniably in love. He let the kids pile on top of him, even if he refused to look at the camera when he saw the flash go off out of the corner of his eye. He let Elliot stick a candy cane in his pocket while Carla threw a crumpled up piece of wrapping paper at his head. (Which inevitably lead to a wrapping paper fight between the kids – plus JD and Turk – but that was expected). He let Gandhi talk to him about last Saturday's game, and he even let Newbie interrupt with a series of surprisingly not-so-stupid questions.
But more than just that, he let himself have fun. Like Carla had told him earlier, he was never going to bubble over with joy over an occasion like Christmas, but he was no longer going to stop himself from finding that peace either. It was a good progression. A progression he didn't want his kids – any of the kids – to look over. He didn't want them to think of their Uncle Cox as Uncle Scrooge. No, he would never be able to fully capture that whole Jolly St. Nick routine, but he wanted the kids, his family as a whole, to grow up happy; to get excited around Christmas time. He didn't want them to grow up the way he did.
And yet, despite this new revelation, he was still surprised to find himself oddly disappointed when it was finally time to go home.
As Jordan and Turk hugged one another, he accepted Carla's embrace without pause. He didn't cringe nearly as much as he did the first time when Elliot went to hug him goodbye after making what appeared to be hug sandwich with Newbie and Milk Dud. Yet, for one very stupid reason or another, he hadn't prepared himself for turning around to see who he was staring at now.
Across from him, JD stood smiling, arms outstretched and patient. But why wasn't he lunging forward? If he wanted a hug, which wasn't at all unusual, then why wasn't the kid coming towards him the way he normally did?
"No, Newbie, nya-uh. No trying to hug me tonight, do you hear me?"
Ah, that's right…
Perry, still at a loss as to how he should proceed, watched as JD nodded in encouragement, his hands beginning to silently coax him into taking a step forward. And yet, JD still wasn't making the first move. What he was really doing, more than anything else, was allowing him the chance to step away; to reject the gesture completely; a reaction that had become a borderline habit. And as the seconds ticked by, Perry still couldn't bring himself to move. Amidst the goodbyes and the hugs and the farewell exchanges, Dr. Cox stood and stared at his Newbie, his mind a whirlwind of thoughts.
He already knows that you're friends. Is this really that big of a deal?
But that was different. I didn't know he was listening. If I do this, I'd be voluntarily stepping into this…this…
Dare you think it: hug? Get over it, Per.
But it's Newbie.
And the kid is, I mean…come on!
If by "the kid" you mean JD: the very same person you almost had a panic attack over when you realized he was actually gone, then what're you arguing for? If this is the very same JD that has kept you grounded on more than one occasion through the years, then what's your case? If this is the same individual whose existence has greatly affected your own, then what exactly is the problem here?
His thoughts could have gone on forever, but it wasn't until JD's quietly spoken, "Come on, Dr. Cox, its Christmas," did Perry finally allow himself to move forward. Because more than anything – more than acknowledging that he and JD were friends, more than knowing full well that he missed him – it was the realization that he was just so tired of pretending otherwise. So when JD met him halfway into the embrace, filling the space between them, Dr. Cox let the kid's arms wrap around his middle. He didn't fight as JD practically nuzzled his face into his shoulder. He didn't pull away as his fingers sunk even deeper into his back, nor did he scream when he heard JD's softly spoken, "I miss you, Dr. Cox," into the corduroy of his jacket.
Instead he nodded; a silent gesture, but a gesture that said so much more than his usual, angry rants. A gesture that he knew would say to Newbie what it was he'd yet to say since the kid left Sacred Heart. From there, it would have been easy to pick up the now sleeping Jennifer. It would have been easy to say one more goodbye to the room full of people before leaving the apartment and heading for home. But instead, when JD finally did pull away, Dr. Cox nodded yet again, his next six words lacking any and all traces of his usual sarcasm and malice. "Yeah, kid. I miss you too."
It was only then that Dr. Cox finally chose to turn away, not quite knowing how he would react if he continued to watch JD's eyes glisten over completely. He didn't miss the kid quickly wiping one of his eyes with the end of his sleeve before closing the door though, nor did he miss the opportunity to allow himself one more "Merry Christmas," before heading out and into his car; Jordan and the kids behind him.
A/N: It was admittedly tempting to write this whole thing as a strictly father/son bonding moment between JD and Dr. Cox, what with that fantastic hug at the end, but the clip as a whole isn't just about them. I took it as showing that they were seriously going to stay together – their "group" – as Dr. Cox was afraid to call it, so I wanted to show all of them in this, not just JD and Perry. Anyway, guys, I just wanted to say thank you so much for all of your support this year. I really do appreciate all of the encouragement you've given me, and I can only hope that whatever I manage to post during 2010 will also be able to hold your interest and keep you entertained. That being said, Happy Holidays, and I hope you guys have a good New Years!