AN: Ideas occur to you at some of the oddest of times, don't they? This one sprang fully formed to mind when I was conditioning my hair. Go figure. I had to write it, even though I am months behind on my main fic, My Someone Else's Life, and left the people reading that on yet another cliffhanger (two in a row, I do apologise. In my defence, I knew this was going to be one of those ideas that just would not leave my head until I wrote it. Rest assured, I have been working at MSEL. I just took a couple of days hiatus to complete this.
I hope you like it, and any comments you have would be very much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. They belong to Bill Lawrence.
My Step Into Adulthood
He smells it as soon as he steps out of the elevator – her home baked cookies. It's an instant comfort after an emotional day. After all, he left Sacred Heart Hospital today.
His forty-minute car journey back home was filled with thoughts of doubt and realisation and cold feet. He had prepared himself for that last day, for that last shift, but not what it would be like the minute after he clocked out of Sacred Heart for the last time. The minute he officially didn't work at Sacred Heart anymore.
He walks the short distance to his front door. Their front door now, he supposes, since she has been moving her things in and subletted her apartment. JD doesn't mind though, he wants her there anyway.
Sure enough, Elliot is standing in their kitchen, a tray of half-baked cookies held in her oven-glove wrapped hand. She looks up at him and flashes him a smile. It's not just any regular smile, however. It's like an 'I'm there for you' smile. No words have been exchanged yet, but so much has already been said.
JD walks over to her and plants a sweet kiss on her lips.
"How was it?"
A heavy sigh. "It was… surreal. How can you just walk out of a place that's been such a big part of your life?"
Elliot doesn't answer, but gives him an affectionate arm rub, before attending to the cookies again.
That's what he hadn't prepared for, the finality of it all. He was practically still a kid when he started out at Sacred Heart. He was shy and scrawny and easily startled. And look at him now: an smart, confident doctor about to take up a new job as Residency Director at St Vincent's Hospital.
Truth be told, he is absolutely terrified about starting at St Vincent's. He's been at Sacred Heart too long. He knows the ins and outs of Sacred Heart, how to get along with the nursing staff (although it has always helped that the head nurse is his best friend's wife), the other weird staff and their quirks, where to hide, the canteen menu off by heart, which barista at Coffee Bucks makes the best mocha latte, which seat in the doctor's lounge is most comfortable. He knows Sacred Heart. St Vincent's is new and daunting and unknown.
Walking out of Sacred Heart for the last time today, it felt normal. It didn't feel any different from any other day. The whole day barely felt any different from any other day. Sure, he had his moment with Dr Cox (Which. Was. Awesome.) and he had his goodbye with Turk, but he still had to treat patients and teach the interns. He had to tell a patient's son that his mother had Huntington's Disease and that he had a fifty per cent chance of developing the disease too.
JD had tried to make a big deal about it being his last day, his finale. But finales never live up to your expectations, do they? They're never as great as you build them up to be in your head.
It only occurred to JD as he was driving through the hospital gates – the threshold that he isn't going to cross again – that life at Sacred Heart was going to continue like it had the day before, and the day before that, and every other day he had worked there for the past eight years and all those years before when he didn't work there. The patients that were in the wards when he left them would still be there tomorrow. They would still need to be treated. They would still be sick. They're not going to care that he doesn't work there any more. The staff he worked with for so long are going to go into work tomorrow and do their work the same way even though he's not there. Tomorrow nobody will care that he doesn't work there any more. It probably won't even cross their minds. The man who he gave such bad news to today will always have to deal with that fear of being struck down with a neurodegenerative disorder at any time. The world that is Sacred Heart Hospital will keep on spinning but he just won't be there.
"JD," Elliot cuts into his thoughts – not an unwelcome interruption. "You're not going to become some faceless, nameless doctor who used to work there. I mean think about it; I'm still there, Turk's still there, Carla's there. Dr Cox, The Todd, Doug, Ted. All the people that have been at Sacred Heart since the start, you're not just suddenly going to vanish from their memory just because you don't work there any more. You spent eight years with these people. And you'll come back to visit, you'll pick me up from work or we'll all meet up in the bar. It's not the end. If anything, it's just the beginning. Like, the beginning of your real life. You're moving on, starting your own life. It's your step into adulthood."
"How did you know that's what I was thinking?"
"The look on your face," she answers, frowning. "You just had that look of someone who's scared of losing what he knows."
Elliot couldn't have been more right if she'd tried. "You know I love you, right?"
"I know. And I love you," she smiles, as he lays another kiss on her. "Cookies will be ready in a half hour."
Maybe Elliot's right. Maybe this is just the beginning. Think about it. His career has barely begun yet. He's been a doctor for eight years. He's got at least another twenty-five to go. Who knows what he's going to achieve in that time? He could teach part time at a medical school, become Chief of Medicine, get involved in research and make some miraculous discovery, who knows? The world's his oyster or some other clichéd saying. But he knows that his heart is always going to lie with Sacred Heart Hospital. Sacred Heart will always be his 'home'.
It's like school, he thinks. You spend your whole life waiting to get out of there, itching to get to that point where you can walk out and never look back. But when you get there, you can't help but look back and you realise that the people that you've spent that time with, even the people you hate, have made that time what it is. They're all part of your memories there and they've directly or indirectly shaped your experiences. Those moments that you'll never get to experience again.
Dr Cox, Dr Kelso, Doug, The Todd, Ted. They're the people that made Sacred Heart what it is. Was.
JD remembers during his time in high school how he couldn't wait to leave. He couldn't wait to get away from all the jocks and cheerleaders who used to push him around and make fun of him and call him a nerd (which, in fairness he was. But he's a doctor now and the last time he went back home, one of those jocks who pushed him around served him a McChicken Sandwich). He wouldn't be scared to leave, he had thought. What was there to be scared of? But when it happened, when he actually got to the point of no return, he was terrified. He was terrified of the unknown, terrified of leaving the safety and security of what he knew, but ultimately he knew he had to take that step into adulthood.
JD knows that going to St Vincent's is the right thing to do. It's closer to home; the pay is better and most importantly it'll make it easier for him to spend time with his son. That doesn't stop him clamouring for the safety and security of Sacred Heart, though.
But then he thinks about the feeling of relief he got when he stepped out of the elevator, and that sweet smell of Elliot's home baking filled his nostrils and how when he saw her, Sacred Heart and moving to St Vincent's didn't seem so scary.
JD's mind goes to something the Huntington's patient's son said. JD can't remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of 'If I knew what was going to happen in the future, I'd go crazy.' JD's different, though. He would quite like to know what's up ahead. He'd like to know if things are all going to work out in the end. And if they were not going to end well, at least he would be able to prepare for it.
JD did look into his future today as he left Sacred Heart today. Rather he had a look into what he hoped his future would be like. And here's the funny thing: he didn't see his future.
He saw their future.
And as she walks through to the living room to sit beside him, he thinks again of the smell of cookies as he stepped out of the elevator.
"So, it's your first day at St Vincent's tomorrow. Scared?" She asks, even though she thinks she already knows the answer.
JD sighs heavily. "Yeah. I mean, I know it'll be okay and it's for the best. But it's still a whole new place. I'm scared."
"I thought you might be," Elliot says, "which is why I made this extra batch of special cookies for just for you." She reaches over to the table at the side of the sofa and hands him a Tupperware tub.
JD opens the tub and sees that on all the cookies are chocolate chip smiley faces.
Maybe the feeling of safety and security isn't about knowing the ins and outs of where you work, JD thinks, but what's you've got to go home to. And for JD, that's Elliot.
That brings JD to think again about how far they've come since they started at Sacred Heart eight years ago. He had a crush on her instantly, and over the years they tried to have a relationship several times. Every time they would give up at the first hurdle or hurt each other in some other manner not worth thinking about anymore. JD doesn't know how they've managed to survive over all these years and all the things they did to each other. Maybe they had that same fatal flaw that they freaked out as soon as things got real.
Maybe they were always meant to be, but they were just too damn immature to be.
But they've grown up. He's grown up. He left Sacred Heart hospital today.
He thinks about stepping out of the elevator and thinking that he could accomplish anything if he was coming home to that smell of her homemade cookies.
Elliot blinks at him, unsure if she heard him correctly. "What?" she asks, talking through a mouthful of cookie.
He knows why she's surprised. They haven't talked about marriage; they're supposed to be taking things slow. But they didn't talk about Elliot moving in either, and that just happened.
Everything that has led to this moment has been on an impulse. It was an impulsive decision to move to be closer to Sammy; it was an impulsive decision to take the Residency Director's job at St Vincent's. Hell, even getting back together with Elliot was unexpected.
"Did you just ask me to marry you?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Oh my god." The look on Elliot's face, it's a strange mix of shock and… something else JD can't quite place. "Are you serious?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm serious."
"Oh my god."
"I know that was sudden and unexpected, and I don't even have a ring. I didn't know I was going to do this. But all the best things that have happened to me have been the things I didn't plan in advance, and the best thing of those was you."
"JD, it's so soon," Elliot says.
"I know, but you know what, I don't care. I love you, Elliot, and you love me, and we wasted so much time when we were younger. I don't want to waste any more time now."
Elliot's silent, the surprise obvious over her face.
JD watches her intently, hoping he hasn't scared her off. That's the last thing he wanted to do. When Elliot clears her throat, the butterflies flap in his stomach.
"You're not going to wake up in the morning and decide you don't want to be with me, are you?"
"Absolutely not. I've grown up so much in the last few years. I don't even let that voice in my head control me anymore."
"And you realise that you're a crazy person, right?"
"I'm well aware of that, yes."
Elliot laughs, and for a second the butterflies in JD's stomach subside.
"Then yes," she says, as a grin creeps across her face.
And this time it's JD wondering if he's heard correctly. "What?"
"Yes, I will marry you, JD."
He leans in to kiss her, and knows he's got all the safety and security he needs.