A very different kind of fic from me this time. This wouldn't leave me alone, and I just had to get it out. Hope you guys enjoy it.
For as long as I can remember, PPTH has been my second home.
Marina used to be my nanny, up till I was nine. She had to quit when her daughter got sick. Since then, I've been going to the hospital every day after school. Sometimes Uncle James picks me up, sometimes Mom's assistant, sometimes Mom. Rarely Mom, though. Being Dean of Medicine of one of the top teaching hospitals in the country means you're a really busy person.
I know probably every single inch of this hospital. Uncle James says I used to wander off to roam the hallways, often giving both him and Mom the fright of their lives when I disappeared. All the nurses and doctors know me, and they don't mind me exploring or hanging around the nurses' station. Unless I got under their feet.
I spend my time in Mom's office when she isn't meeting anyone important. When she's busy, I head to Uncle James' office. If he has a patient, I sometimes hang out with Drs Chase and Foreman in the Diagnostics Department. If they're all busy, it's the cafeteria. Sometimes, if Dr Cameron isn't on duty in the ER, I'll hang out with her.
Dr Chase and Cameron are married, and their kids, Greg and Michelle, are like my little brothers and sisters. So is Dr Foreman's son, Carl. In fact, it's like we're all part of this funny little mixed up family.
Uncle James is still my favorite though. He's been my favorite since I was little. He has these chocolate brown eyes and floppy hair. There are streaks of grey through his hair now, and his hairline is receding with each year passing by (as I like to remind him, getting a glare and a gentle rap on my head each time). But he's still extremely charming and well… attractive. He says I used to ask him why all the nurses would giggle and speak to him in that way. Apparently I used to ask a million questions, some appropriate and some just plain awkward. That was obviously one of the latter.
So now I know they were all flirting with him. They still flirt with him even though he's on the wrong side of fifty now. But Uncle James isn't all looks and no brains. He's the Head of Oncology in PPTH. Apparently, he was one of the youngest in the country when he was first appointed. He has this amazing ability to connect with his patients. Not to mention his much-higher-than-average cure rate.
Mom says that a close friend of theirs used to describe Uncle James as "someone people say thank you to, even when he tells them they're dying". I think that's the perfect way of describing just how good he is at his job.
Some of my friends who want to become doctors envy me for who I've grown up around. Apparently, Uncle James is one of the top oncologists in the country. Drs Chase and Foreman are world famous, and many would kill to become their fellows and learn from them. Dr Cameron is head of the ER. So yeah, I am pretty lucky I guess.
I still don't know if I want to become a doctor though. But one thing is for sure – Uncle James is my role model.
I wrote about him once, when we were supposed to do an essay in school. "My Role Model" was the title. I showed him the essay which had a huge 'Well Done' emblazoned across the top, and his eyes were all sparkly and I'm pretty sure he teared up.
What I remember vividly is the reaction both he and my mom had. The first thing he said after he had composed himself was, "House would so get a kick out of this."
Mom smiled at him, and said softly, "He called you the Boy Wonder Oncologist."
"Yeah." Uncle James smiled, "he did."
I was ten then, and didn't know much. But on hindsight, I think they seemed… sad.
Uncle James got married when I was twelve. It was his fifth marriage, I think. It was also his last. Thank goodness, said Mom, rolling her eyes. Aunt Jessica is really nice. Their daughter, Abigail, is the cutest little five year old ever.
The wedding was wonderful, thanks to Aunt Cameron, Aunt Jessica and Mom's meticulous planning. But there was one thing that stood out for me, and that was the fact that Uncle James didn't have a best man.
I remember asking Dr Chase about it. He was sitting next to me. I thought he would be the best man. But he ruffled my hair absentmindedly as he gazed at the empty spot next to Uncle James. "He couldn't make it," he said. "And Wilson wouldn't want anyone else."
My best friend is Jake, and his parents run the convalescent home, Meadow View. It's just a few minutes' walk away from the hospital, which it is affiliated to. In fact, that's how we met. Uncle James and Mom went over one day for a meeting, and I tagged along. I was hanging around in the waiting area, listening to my iPod when I met him.
Last week, Jake asked if I could spare the time to play the piano at Meadow View. The regular, an old lady, had left to go stay with her children in California. I love playing the piano. Mom is pretty proud of that fact. I once won a regional competition.
So of course I agreed, and so I headed over to Meadow View. It's a pleasant, homely place. Sunlight streamed in through the large windows, and the walls were painted a nice cheery yellow. Paintings and drawings adorned the walls. The nurses wore smiles on their faces, and were kind and gentle. It overlooked a large meadow that had beautiful flowers, and one could hear the birds chirping when one stood on the patio. The rooms weren't cold and clinical like a hospital's. Each private room had photographs of family and friends, and was customized to suit each resident. Families could put what they want in the room, as long as the standard medical equipment like oxygen tanks, monitors and machines were there.
It was a lovely place. One of the best in the country.
One of the staff led me over to the piano, a beautiful baby grand. The patients were gathered around, sitting on the comfortable sofa or armchairs. Those who could walk were helped and guided out by the staff. Some were wheeled out in their wheelchairs.
I looked at my audience as they were settled down. Others might have been freaked out, but I wasn't. I grew up in a hospital after all. Most of the residents were quiet. Some talked, to themselves or to their neighbors. Some wore bibs because they were drooling. Some hummed tuneless tunes to themselves, swaying to some unknown beat. Some gazed vacantly at some faraway distance, absently fidgeting with their clothes. Some of them bore visible reminders of the reason they were in Meadow View, with vivid scars on their body and even dents on their head. Many more lay in their rooms, bedridden and in deep comas, never having recovered, only kept alive by the machines around them.
I played the piano for a good hour. It didn't escape me that when I played the piano, most of the residents, even those who didn't seem all that aware of their surroundings, relaxed. I could see why Meadow View was so insistent that piano time continue to be part of the schedule, leading Jake's parents to ask him to get me over here.
The session ended when Jake whispered in my ear that it was their dinnertime. I ended off with a cheerful piece, and then took an exaggerated little bow as some of the residents clapped for me with sheer joy and laughter on their faces. I laughed along with them, as did Jake and the other staff, and the sitting room was filled with the melody of laughter. Something told me that laughter and joy wasn't rare around here, and a little part of me inside felt happy that they were well taken care of here. There were far too many horror stories of ill-treatment at nursing and convalescent homes.
I was seated on the piano bench, packing my things when a wheelchair appeared in front of me. I looked up from my backpack and the first thing that struck me was how blue his eyes were. They were wide open and gazing at the piano, and he shifted in the chair, hand reaching out towards the piano. He couldn't move his arm very much. He could only lift it a few inches before it dropped back down onto the armrest of the wheelchair, sliding off and falling to his side. It was only then I realized that he couldn't support his own head, instead relying on the brace attached to the wheelchair to keep it upright. The nurse bent over to place his arm back onto his lap. He grunted with frustration, his tongue sticking out slightly of his mouth as he tried again to reach out.
"This is Greg," the nurse standing behind the wheelchair smiled, "And Mrs White never goes off without playing for him a tune by The Rolling Stones. It's the highlight of his week, so could you…?"
I looked at this man in front of me. His blue eyes were like nothing I'd ever seen before. His gaze was slightly blank, with no bright spark, though I was pretty sure there used to be one, before whatever had caused him to end up in Meadow View had happened. But he stared determinedly at the piano, still squirming in his seat.
" 'Ano," he said haltingly. "Play."
He looked into my eyes, and I thought I saw a hint of pleading flit across in his eyes before he turned back to stare at the piano keys again.
Luckily, Uncle James listened to quite a lot of The Rolling Stones. "Never really was a fan of them," he used to say, "But they've grown on me over the last decade or so."
"Sure," I smiled at Greg as I gently touched his thin forearm. I could feel it trembling slightly in my grasp. "I have a friend named Greg too. Such a coincidence, huh?" He grunted, though I have no idea whether he understood what I said.
I launched into a version of You Can't Always Get What You Want, putting my own little jazz spin on it. Midway through the song, I snuck a peek at Greg. He was entranced, staring at my hands as they danced across the black and white keys, a little secret smile on his lips.
As the song ended, Greg sighed. I would say it was almost like a sigh of content. He tore his gaze away from the piano, and his lips curled up so very slightly as he looked at me.
"I must say he enjoyed that very much… A different spin on the Stones, but definitely one he seemed to enjoy," laughed the nurse, "Thanks for playing, hun, Or he would be restless for the next few days. Come on Greg, dinner time."
Jake came to stand beside me. "The Stones are ancient, Rach! How do you know how to play the Stones?"
I shrugged. "Uncle James loves them. He blasts them in his car."
"It was lovely."
"Yeah… Yeah, it is…" I mused, still thinking of how it had such an effect on the man with the brilliant blue eyes. "… Jake? I wouldn't mind doing this on a regular basis."
He grinned. "Just what my parents and I hoped for you to say."
So I visited Meadow View every Wednesday and Saturday, each time playing for an hour, sometimes even two. I would head there after school before going to PPTH. I didn't bother letting Mom or Uncle James know. It was after all, nothing out of the ordinary. They knew I sometimes played the piano for school events.
And after each session, a nurse would wheel Greg over to the piano. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, The Rolling Stones, the blues. The nurses seemed to have a list of music that Greg liked. So for that additional half an hour each time, I would play for Greg, the sole member of an audience listening to a private concert of his favorites.