This was a bad idea. It's been on my computer forever, but I never thought to put it up.
I…don't know how it happened; not really my style to be honest. I just suggest reading until the end.
The constant beep-beep-beep of the IVs gets to you after a while, but by then you've already learnt the reasons to ignore it.
Jade points this out to Cat over in pediatrics that morning while she waits for the x-rays she had requested last week. They're standing in one of the playrooms downstairs, watching the children around them shove puzzle pieces together and Jade has only had one cup of coffee.
"They give me migraines," she complains, crossing her arms over her white lab coat and frowning down at her cheery friend. "And I hear them in my sleep."
But as usual, Cat doesn't get it. She widens her eyes and flails her arms, says in her high and airy voice, "It sounds like music to me," and then starts bobbing her head and twirling her arms in the air, presumably to the song in her own head. Some of the children sitting near them giggle at the sight and copy, standing up on weak, shaky legs and dancing around to no music. It's Tori, in her magenta scrubs and tennis sneakers who raises an elegant eyebrow and tilts her head slightly, confused.
"The beeping sound is good," She explains with type of kindness and patience that could truly only be found in a nurse, "The thing that should really worry you is when the beeping stops."
It's true, Jade realizes with a soft jolt, and it shuts her up. She isn't about to tell Tori that, though.
In the seconds of silence that follow, Tori yawns widely, "Ugh, I need coffee," she whines, and Jade lights up.
"Get me some too." She demands, and Tori shrugs briefly. She slouches off towards the nurse's station, scratching absently at her cheek.
Jade leans against the doorway of the pediatric ward, and for a second she watches as Cat takes a little girl by the hands and sways them back and forth. She starts singing something sad and sweet with a "yeah-yeah-yeah" chorus and girl laughs merrily, singing along.
Jade turns away from them with a discontented sigh. She runs her left hand through her hair, but it gets snagged halfway down, and she growls, untangling it.
She doesn't agree with Cat's methods—the over-friendliness, visiting with patients even if they don't have an appointment, constantly messing around in the playroom instead of settling down in her office to finish her paperwork. This was especially irritating to Jade because anytime Cat lost a patient she was a crying mess for at least three weeks straight, always making the same "She/He was so young!" squeaks and pulling endless amounts of tissues from the pockets of her lab coat.
And Jade of course, would have to be the one to deal with her, making sure she got to work on time and filled her paperwork properly so she wouldn't, you know, get fired.
It was a pretty predictable cycle, though; and Jade did not mind it nearly as much as she let on. Cat was easy enough to get through. She was usually back to her high-pitched self in a matter of weeks and Jade always made sure to sit her down and have a brusque discussion about the cycle of life and how everyone dies, and this was a hospital, where people actually came to die, and if that bothered her too much she needed to seriously reevaluate her career options. And Cat would nod solemnly; swear up and down that this was the last time she would react so unprofessionally—pinky swear, Jade.
Then a five-year-old comes in for a routine checkup and leaves with the knowledge that he has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Cat stops eating.
That's how it went, and Jade couldn't help but think that while anyone who studies hard enough and goes to school for long enough could become a doctor, not everyone should.
Jade is broken out of her musings as she catches sight of a pair of magenta scrubs coming down the hall with—thank god—two steaming cups of coffee, one slightly larger than the other. In fact, Jade's eyes are so fixated on that lovely beverage clutched in Tori's hand; she doesn't even notice the guy walking beside her.
"Dr. West," he says with patronizing patience when they reach her, voice lilting in amusement and Jade tears her eyes away from that beautiful cup of java to raise an eyebrow at Dr. Oliver. He has a clipboard tucked under his arm and half a grin on his face. His hair is tousled and, as usual, perfect in its disarray. Passing nurses turn to stare at him blatantly, wistful sighs echoing down the poorly lit corridor as they pass.
"Yeah?" she asks, hardly caring about his response, taking the coffee from Tori's outstretched hand and holding in under her nose for a second, inhaling.
"Addictions are upstairs in Ward 12. Would you like me to show you the way?"
Tori exhales raggedly through her nose, used to this sort of behavior from them and says "I have to prep a patient for surgery. See you guys at lunch?" And hurries away towards the elevators.
Jade sneers, takes a sip of her coffee and tries to keep her face from revealing just how much she enjoyed it.
"Dumbasses are downstairs in radiology. Would you like me to show you the way?" She mocks, even though she knows it isn't true. Radiology took a rare kind if skill, working with so many machines and filtrations, always knowing that there was something wrong with someone when they came in, and not having the power or authority to do anything about it except give it a name, a grade. Very few people could actually put up with that kind of work, surrounded by the stilted silence only medical machinery could bring, and Jade had an odd sort of respect for the people who could. And besides, Andre was a radiologist and he was one of the best this hospital had.
Doctor Oliver isn't bothered by her insult, anyways. He shrugs, an easy up-down, full-bodied gesture that is somehow equal parts elegant and blasé. He hands her the clipboard tucked under his arm.
"I looked at the films you sent in last week. The growth in the kidney is pretty sizable."
Jade exhales a ragged breath and snatches the chart from between his fingers, scanning over the intricate letters. There's a familiar smiley face underneath the steady scrawl of Dr. Oliver's notes and Jade rolls her eyes when she sees it, snapping the clipboard shut again.
"God, I need to run a PET scan. This chick is as good as dead. Have you looked at that displaced patella I sent you Thursday?"
Doctor Oliver crosses his arms over his chest and gives her a stern look. He is, Jade knows, upset with her wording.
"You shouldn't say things like that," he admonishes, stepping a little closer. He flips the clipboard open again to peer at her chart and on instinct Jade takes a step back. This close she can smell him clearly, and even the harsh layer of acetone that douses the entire hospital and crawls under everyone's skin cannot mask the woody, totally male scent that is Beck Oliver MD.
"It's just a growth," he continues, oblivious to her discomfort. He takes another step closer and looks more thoroughly at the clipboard, wraps one hand around the curve of her elbow to keep her in place when she tries to step back again. "It could still be nothing."
Jade thinks, more likely than nothing, this is most probably something, something that ends this young lady's life in a few short years, but she doesn't voice these thoughts.
She can barely breathe, to be honest, with him standing over her like this.
"I'll get you the patella at lunch. Right now I have to send some blood work over to Robbie."
He looks at her then and smiles a lopsided smile, finally releasing her but still standing too close to be strictly professional.
"I mean it about the coffee though," his voice is gravely, lilting, quietly affectionate. "It makes you short."
He reaches down then and fluffs at the hair on top of her head. Jade scowls and violently shoves his arm away. Her eyes dart briefly around the mostly empty halls, making sure no one saw that before she turns to glare at him.
"Don't touch me," she hisses, which she supposes would be a lot more threatening if they weren't standing so close together. She backs away a few steps and fists her hands on her hips. "I know where all your nerves-ending are, and I can make sure you experience a slow and painful death."
Doctor Oliver just laughs, smoothing a hand through his perfect hair before placing them easily in the pockets of his lab coat. "After hearing that for three and a half years, the scariness kind of wears off."
Jade continues to glare, but she thinks, well he does have a point. She'll have to take some time out of her day and come up with more creative ways to threaten people with her medical knowledge.
More importantly though, she has to get the hell out of here before he notices how flustered she's getting.
"I have to go. Try not to kill anyone today, doctor."
"Beck!" He calls after her, the same way he'd been calling it after her since she transferred here years ago. She waves a hand behind her, signaling she heard him and that she still doesn't care.
Jade decides become a doctor back in the eighth grade, after Jimmy Fulton slips and falls down three flights of stairs right before third period. There is a crowd of people surrounding him, wincing and muttering and Jimmy moans helplessly as the paramedics lift him onto a gurney and slip him away.
Everyone is squeamish at the sight of his mangled bones but her.
Jade thinks that means she could have a very lucrative career in becoming a ruthless serial killer, or she'd be a good candidate to join the mafia, maybe. Or, her best friend at the time says with an eye roll, a fucking doctor or something.
A fucking doctor, Jade thinks, would be a nice thing to be.
No one knows this reasoning but Jade, though, so when she announces it at dinner one evening, everyone thinks she's such a smart young lady. While all the other girls her age are spinning in pretty circles and screeching to be famous, Jade gets her father to buy her the complete New England Journal of Medicine for her fourteenth birthday.
"You'd be a great OB/GYN," he advices with a proud grin after she tears the package open that day. Her party hat is askew and all her friends had gone home already.
It weighs maybe ten pounds and looks frightening with all its obscure letterings, but Jade doesn't think she's ever seen anything more beautiful in her life. Her father is just giddy at the realization that Jade was serious about this. It was the type of career move every parent prayed their child be wise enough to make, an honorable profession that paid big bucks and earned respect to boot.
But that's where Jade's father is wrong. Jade has absolutely no desire to become an OB/GYN and deliver babies or worry about the female reproductive system or any of that other shit.
She cracks the book open to the first passage, reveling in how thin and biblical the pages are, brand new and yet older than time itself, somehow. She traces a slim finger over the long, complicated words she doesn't know how to pronounce yet.
She sees one word she likes.
Oncology. It sounds, she thinks, like the name of a really kick-ass band, the sort of word a person wouldn't mind having attached to them for the rest of their lives: I'm Jade West, and I'm an oncologist.
The definition she likes even better:
(n) The study and treatment of tumors
And just like that, Jade has her life whole life put together.
Jade's late for lunch that day. It's not her fault; the blood tests she received last night came back with alarmingly high AFP levels and she had to schedule a CT scan, which of course meant she had to ask one of the nurses at reception to do it. And since her life is so miserable, it only makes sense that the nurse in question would be the gossip-mongrel and drama queen extraordinaire Trina Vega. And of course with Trina's inability to do anything right, a twelve-second task takes up nearly her entire day.
Not to mention later she has to tell a pretty fit forty-three-year old man that he needs an MRI for the questionable growth on his neck, which is what doctors sometimes tell patients when they don't know what the hell is wrong with them to buy some time to figure it out. And usually it works, but every once in a while some hysterical, banshee-of-a-wife will figure out your game and follow you around all day, warbling on and on about "But what's wrong with my husband? You're a doctor, you're supposed to know."
At around one-thirty, when Jade is right in the middle of telling Trina just where she can stick it, Andre sends an intern to find her and tell her that she's supposed to be at lunch and everyone is waiting. Jade growls dangerously and sends the poor girl back to them with a few choice swear words and a hasty—I'm busy, fuck off—note scribbled onto the intern's shaking palm.
By the time she rushes over to the cafeteria, the lapels of her lab coat brushing uncomfortably against the fabric of the black dress she's wearing underneath, the only person left at their usual table is Dr. Oliver.
Her pulse races against her will.
"Hey," he says when she resigns herself to go over there and pick through her salad anyways. He was pouring over a medical text before she sat down, but he closes it up and puts it to the side when she sits, pushing his reading glasses up the bridge of his nose from where they had started to slip downwards.
"What kept you?" He asks after she doesn't reply to his greeting. Her mouth is stuffed with romaine lettuce and dried herbs and she has to swallow thickly before answering.
"Trina," Jade says, taking a dainty sip of her bottled water, "And patients and the universe obviously conspiring against me."
Dr. Oliver chuckles lightly. The action makes him look a thousand years younger and Jade has to swallow hard again, even though she hadn't taken another bite.
After a terse second, she asks,
"What the hell are you still doing here?"
He keeps smiling, lips tilted up at the corners and Jade spends more time than she feels is strictly necessarily staring at them.
"Waiting for you," he says with his special shrug, and Jade is enraptured by the gesture. She wants to curl her fingers around his shoulders and ask him to shrug like that fifty times over.
"Shut up," Jade advices sharply, banishing those thoughts from her head. She rolls her eyes in annoyance and picks the tomatoes out of her salad. But her heart is picking up, thrumming like mad beneath her skin and she has to keep her head ducked so that he can't see the color rising to her cheeks.
His smiles widens, because it's been three-and-a-half years, and he knows when he's said something that pleases her by now.
"Anyways," he speaks after a moment, and she's glad for the subject change, "Andre stuck me with these scans he couldn't figure out himself, and there's something weird with the lymph nodes. They're enlarged and it looks like they're advancing, but I don't know for sure. And I figured since this is your area of expertise and everything,—"
Jade glances at the scans in front of Dr. Oliver, leaning over her salad to get a better look.
"Yeah, that's weird," she agrees, squinting slightly and trying to remember what her beautiful Journal of Medicine had said on the matter.
"You might want to run that by Sikowitz, a surgical consul would help. Although I wouldn't recommend actually letting him perform the surgery. He botched his last two operations, did you hear? The lunatic somehow left his wristwatch in some guy's rectum, and now the hospital's getting sued—"
Jade stops talking abruptly though, because when she looks up at him, there's a soft smile on his face and his half-lidded eyes are trained very clearly on her cleavage.
"Perv," she accuses, leaning back in her seat but not pulling the neckline of her dress up. His smirk widens and he looks at her intensely for a second, licking his lips.
"I'm going to be in the on-call room," he says in a soft voice. "My shift ends at two am today." He stands then, gathers his books and papers and fixes her with a final smile before exiting.
Briefly Jade's eyes flit around the mostly empty cafeteria. The only people still eating are the few stragglers that, like her, are forced to have a late lunch. She takes another sip of her water, a large one to help swallow the lump in her throat, all of a sudden not very hungry at all.
She clenches and unclenches her hand, nervous, and then shoves it deep into the pocket of her lab coat.
She tosses her uneaten salad in the trash on the way out.
The second Jade enters the on-call room he is on her.
Beck shoves her against the door and reaches around behind her, struggling for a second before there is a satisfying click of the lock sliding into place.
His mouth fuses with hers harshly, and she stifles a groans when he clutches her head in his hands, pressing them closer together. They stumble backwards, more like preteens than full-grown adults in their clumsiness and fervor, grasping desperately at one another. Beck tears off her lab coat, letting it puddle around her ankles and his goes a second later. Jade grasps the thin fabric of his olive green t-shirt like a lifeline in her hands as he guides them backwards until the backs of her knees hit the edge of a bed, and Beck lowers them onto it.
Jade rakes her long nails over his scalp, behind that spot on his left ear she's become very intimate with in the past, the spot she knows makes him shiver and delights when he responds by pressing his torso so firmly against hers it's almost crushing.
"Say my name," he whispers into her ear, scraping teeth there and then soothing with his tongue. He settles himself in between her legs and stops moving, leveling her with smoldering, hooded eyes.
"Beck," she calls breathlessly, wriggling uncomfortably beneath him, and he rewards her with an amours roll of his hips in the cradle of hers.
"Again," he mutters, sliding rough palms down the slope of her thighs.
"Beck," she gasps again, it tumbles from her mouth in a heady groan and she hates being told what to do, but he's hovering above her, hiking her dress over her hips and god help her, she's always had a frighteningly soft spot for him. And the way he kisses her, so deep and penetrating and heart-breaking, she's sure she would say just about anything he asked right now.
Evidentially, Beck likes the sound of his name coming from her; he growls somewhere deep in his ribs and shifts his pelvis wickedly again so that Jade arches her back and cries out. He continues kissing down the column of her neck, but his hands momentarily abandon her thighs, and instead he grapples for her own hands, buried deep in his hair.
Beck pulls away slightly then, far enough so that he can level his gaze with hers and he pulls his hands reverently through hers. Keeping eye contact, he brings the fingers of her left hand to his lips, presses soft, suctioned kisses against the length of each before entwining their hands together.
"Jade," he whispers, pleading almost, looking at her so meaningfully it makes her head spin.
He looks like he may say something; but Jade can guess what it is and she does not want to hear it. She wraps her legs around his narrow waist and uses her free hand to tug his head down to meet hers again. He goes to her, willingly, hopelessly, and they spend the next two hours distinctly not talking.
Jade tells her parents she's going to attend Northridge University two months before graduation. The girls there were ganks and the guys there were shady, but the medical program was pure gold and Jade had wanted to attend their undergraduate program since she was sixteen.
"Why there?" Her mother asks, worrying a lip in between her pearly teeth. Northridge University was in Los Angeles, a million and four miles away from home, and Jade would be lying if she said the distance wasn't part of the reason she applied.
"The oncology department is amazing," she says instead, standing in front of them after dinner. Her father has the remote in his hand and a football game is on behind her, but his eyes are trained on Jade. "And they have had some of the top researchers in the world graduate from there. So yeah. It's actually a pretty big deal that I even got in."
"But it's so far from here;" her mother wails, ignoring Jade's last sentence, "I'm sure there's a nice school you can attend right here in the state—"
She's cut off by Jade's father, who raises a questioning eyebrow and asks,
"You still want to do this cancer detective work?"
"It's not always cancer," Jade argues hotly. She had gotten her eyebrow pierced against his will, tattoos and a bad attitude. She was making a career decision he didn't like or approve of, and years ago she had fallen very hard from her pedestal of perfect little girl in his eyes. "It's research and development, and like I've told you a million times, a tumor doesn't necessarily mean cancer—"
But he cuts Jade off too, shrugs and gives her a rueful little smile.
"Ah well," he allows, tilting his head and focusing back on the game behind her, a signal that the conversation was over.
"A cruel career for a cruel human being."
"But," Mrs. Tanner argues, wringing her hands and pressing her lips together in a thin line, "Aren't you supposed to have some treatment method?"
They're in Jade's office late at night. Under normal circumstances, Jade makes sure to take all her patients' midday, during clinic hours and to leave the research and paperwork for the night shift, but thanks to one nurse Trina Vega, her schedule was royally screwed.
"Of course there's a method," Jade says. Her tone is calm and even, her eyes are half-lidded, "But, and I'm so sorry to say this, but malignant brain tumors—in your son's case, a metastatic brain tumor—they're impossible to remove without aggressive surgery. And I wouldn't recommend that at this juncture."
"Oh," the woman says from across Jade's desk. Her eyebrows furrow together and her mouth sets in a hateful frown, and Jade knows exactly what comes next.
"So what exactly would you suggest would you suggest at this juncture, doctor?" Her voice is shrill and her eyes are narrowed, and Jade has to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes.
"First we'll do a biopsy to remove a sample of the tissue," Jade recites, knowing the procedure inside and out but knowing still, whether her son makes it or not, the next years of his lives would be pure hell, "Afterwards we'll send the samples to a pathologist to check the cancer cells to find out the type and grade of the—"
The woman stands abruptly, pushing her chair back so hard it topples backwards.
"This is a life," she announces tearfully, standing in front of Jade's desk and glaring down at her, "It's my son's life. Just tell me how you're going to fix it."
Jade levels her with an even stare and stands as well, tucking some hair swiftly behind her ear.
"There are no easy fixes, Mrs. Tanner," Jade says coolly, used to explaining things like this as well, "There may not be any fixes at all, the best we can hope for—"
"You don't even care!" Mrs. Tanner screeches, pointing a finger accusingly in Jade's face, and Jade fights the urge to slap it away. "This is my son, and you don't even care what happens to him. What the hell is wrong with you?"
Jade blinks twice, and stares blankly at the woman. Something rattles hollowly in her chest.
"I don't know."
Jade meets Beck after her two years of internship at Northridge County hospital.
Her time spent there was a horrific experience filled to the brim with severe cases of chronic STDs and young ladies who had assumed cancer was just a myth—like global warming, right?—so Jade had opted to continue her career somewhere she was less likely to murder her patients in their sleep.
The only light in that almost totally dark time was her friend Andre, who sometimes helped her at rounds when she was feeling especially lazy and was always good for an eye roll anytime a twitchy sixteen-year-old wandered in hoping to score some meds.
"We need to get out of here," she moaned once when they were on-call late together, leaning against one of the musky floral sofas in the lounge, a package of peanut M&Ms between them. "Someone came in today and asked me to shove my finger up his ass, and when I told him I wasn't a proctologist, he asked if I could do it anyways."
Andre roared with laugher, going as far as to slap his knees and Jade glared, unamused.
"Seriously," she deadpanned, popping an M&M in her mouth and chewing slowly. "This place sucks."
"This place sucks." Andre agreed, still grinning, but like with everything else, he wasn't too bothered by it. He reached for an M&M at the same time as Jade, and their fingers brushed. "Well," he amended, "Not everything about it sucks," he smiled a genuine smile, and Jade rolled her eyes.
"After our internship is over," she announced, "We're doing our residency somewhere else. Agreed?"
She wasn't big on pacts, but Andre was cool and she didn't want to end up working at another shithole hospital all alone and not even having someone there she could constantly complain about it to.
He smiled and nodded easily, fishing the last two pieces of chocolate from the bag and handing her the red one.
So the next year they applied and transferred to the Hollywood Arts Medical Care Facility. It was miserably understaffed and the pay was meager, but the coffee wasn't half bad and the patients, at least, had an average understanding of how to speak the English language.
It was her fourth day there, and she had just met the whirlwind that was Cat Valentine, so her head was still reeling. She walked into the cafeteria around noon to meet Andre for lunch as usual, so imagine her surprise when their usual table was packed with people she had only ever passed in the hall and hoped to never get to know on a personal level.
"Jade!" Andre called from across the room when he saw her, and waved her over. Too bad too, because she was planning on sneaking away before he noticed and taking her lunch later, but now everyone was looking at right at her and…ugh.
"Hey." She muttered darkly, sitting down in the available seat next to Andre. There was a very good-looking boy in the chair across from her and he raised both his eyebrows at her disgruntled expression, giving her a half smile.
"Hey," the handsome guy said back easily, even though she hadn't been talking to him. He ran his hands through his hair, unsettling it and Jade found herself staring.
"So," Andre said turning to her, obviously enthused. Jade had to physically tear her eyes away from the boy so she could properly glare at Andre.
"Everyone, this is Jade. Jade, this is Nurse Vega,"
"Call me Tori," offered a perky brunette on the far right. Jade raised an eyebrow at her and Vega smiled, tilting her head so her lengthy hair spilled over her shoulder. Annoyed, Jade ran a hand through her own hair, frowning when it snagged. She worked the hair loose as Andre continued.
"You already know Cat from pediatrics,"
"Dr. Shapiro, he's over in pathology," he nodded toward a pale boy with a decent amount of what looked like pubic hair on his head and dorky glasses, "And that's Dr. Oliver." He finally gestured to the boy across from her, and Jade was startled to find had been staring at her the whole time.
"He's been showing me around the radiology department." Andre explained, and then leaned over the table for a fist bump.
"Beck," Dr. Oliver corrected quietly that day, for the first time ever. He withdrew his fist from Andre's but kept his hand on the table, close enough so that if Jade twitched, their pinkies would be touching. "You can call me Beck."
But Jade knew, even then, just looking at his listless eyes and tousled hair and half-smile tucked into the corner of his cheek, that she wouldn't.
When you're working at a hospital, a day can feel like a month.
Jade considers this as she walks out the double doors and into the parking lot. Her shift isn't over yet, she still has a good hour-and-a-half left, but while she supposes she has more time, she is truly out of sanity, so she decides to opt out early.
She walks out to the curb, stands along the sidewalk and looks out to all the cars parked along the lot. It's the middle of the night, nearly two am, but diseases don't do nine-to-five, and people just kept coming in by the dozens, faces ashen, hands clasped together, expecting to be saved.
Jade doesn't care, really, she doesn't, but there are only so many accusations and questionable MRI scans and renal cell carcinomas you didn't catch in time a person can take before you really start to wish you'd chosen to become an accountant instead.
She sighs out a ragged breath, annoyed, and runs her fingers smoothly through her hair. The curb beneath her feet is slick from the rain they'd had earlier, shiny and glittery from the streetlights way above. She knows the concrete is probably pretty unsanitary, but she sinks to the ground anyways, keeping her legs pressed together and pulling them up to her chest as the wetness below sinks in through the layers of her clothing.
She sits there for maybe a full ten minutes before she hears him padding towards her.
"Every day," Jade murmurs without preamble when he's close enough to hear, "I have to tell people that there's something in their own bodies trying to kill them. And then they look up at me with these stupid, pleading eyes, like I can just reach in there, pull it out and send them home with a full bill of health."
She looks up at him, her eyes are slightly hazy from exhaustion and the streetlight behind him traces a beautiful, blurry halo around his head like a celestial crown, lighting him up. He looks like an angel, Jade thinks.
"And you know what's weird?" She asks as he settles down beside her on the curb, the dampness of the sidewalk seems to be seeping into her very bones and she struggles not the shiver visibly. When he exhales harshly through his mouth, Jade can see the puff of his breath curling into the cool night air.
"I don't even care," she admits in a hollow voice, "It doesn't bother me, it never has. Last week a woman called me the grim reaper and I had to hold back laughter. God, what is wrong with me?"
"I mean," she continued, not allowing Beck to speak, even though she notices his open mouth and furrowed eyebrows. Now that she's finally said started talking about it, it was like the floodgates had come open, and she couldn't stop. "I yell at Cat all the time for getting too attached and too involved and for crying when someone dies, but god, that has got be preferable to total indifference, right?"
"Well," Beck starts, but she interrupts him.
"I am," Jade mutters softly, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands, worn and tired and a hundred years old somehow, "A terrible human being."
And she doesn't just mean about being apathetic towards dying patients either. Jade, on some obscure unacknowledged level, at the point of herself she keeps locked up so tight even she isn't aware of it, Jade realizes the way she is and what she's done—and hates herself for it. She wonders if he knows that.
Beck stays quiet. He leans towards her slightly so that their shoulders brush together and despite everything, Jade takes comfort in the gesture.
"You're not a bad person," he murmurs, tucking his nose into her hair. Jade doesn't know if she's imagining it, but she swears she feels him inhale a little. "You're not." He insists, and it sounds to Jade like he really means it.
She swallows hard, nervous for some reason and leans into his touch, curling their fingers together.
It has been three and a half years—three and a half years of this—this soft, slow bantering back and forth, smiling lips and waiting up for her when she's pulling fourteen-hour shifts. Three and a half years of PET scans and secret smiley faces scribbled onto clipboard corners and late-night rendezvous in the on-call room and Dr. Oliver and Dr. West and feeling something so distinctly deep and penetrating for each other, but having to keep it hush-hush and hidden and—
"Hey," Andre calls walking over to them. He has a soft grin on his face, and Jade wills her entire body not to stiffen. Furtively, she slides a little away from Beck until there is only a friendly distance between them. "Did you finish up early?" Andre asks, oblivious.
"Yeah," Jade says, offering him a small smile and standing. She ignores the way she can hear Beck grinding his teeth from below.
"Awesome, that means we can go home together." He grins at Beck, puts an arm around Jade's shoulder, "That literally almost never happens." Andre tells him, and Beck smiles back, although it's strained.
"Oh, I know," he answers confidently, standing as well. It sounds to Jade's ears much more like an insinuation than an innocent comment. Andre doesn't notice though, he just nods solemnly and pulls Jade a little closer.
"She works too hard, man." Andre tells him, as if Beck doesn't already know, and when Beck's face hardens, Jade decides it would probably be prudent for them to get the hell out of there.
"We should go," she tells Andre quickly, avoiding eye contact with Beck, even though she can feel him looking right at her, "I'm tired."
"Yeah," Andre agrees, rubbing his hand fondly up and down Jade's arm to warm her up. "Do me a favor though, since you guys are best friends and all." He says, speaking to Beck but smiling down at Jade, "Help me convince her to take my last name, would you? I know she likes West, but Jade Harris has such a nice ring to it, you know?"
Jade is positively mortified, she bites down hard on the inside of her cheek and grabs Andre's hand, trying to tug him away. When she sneaks a glance at Beck though, she sees that his face is perfectly blank. He smiles at Andre and then turns slowly Jade.
"Sure," he says with a shrug, but unlike the usual easygoing gesture Jade so loves, this one is rigid and subtly irate, a quick up-down motion that looks more like a dangerous twitch than anything else. "Anything you want." He stares right at Jade and she swallows hard, pulling Andre away.
"Later!" Andre calls behind him as Jade tugs him into the parking lot. She feels like water is rushing to her ears, and she has to force herself not to look back to him.
"He seems weird today, right?" Andre asks once they're out of earshot.
"Whatever," Jade responds, moody, but Andre is more than use to this type of behavior so he takes it all in stride. She can feel his hand still in hers, and when he squeezes, Jade only has three and a half seconds to realize it before he does—
"Where's your ring?" He asks, eyebrows furrowed. Jade tears her hand away from his, digging in her coat pocket.
"Took it off earlier, it gets in the way sometimes." She answers gruffly.
She doesn't have an explanation beyond that, she is usually so much more careful. She slides the ring back into place, right on the knuckle of the forth finger on her left hand. The hand that people spend so much of their lives worrying over. The finger that talks.
"I don't like it when you do that," Andre tells her, an edge to his usually composed voice and Jade swallows thickly, thinking how Beck hates when she keeps it on.
"I know, god." She runs a hand through her hair, trying to calm herself and momentarily the ring gets caught in it. She sighs angrily, tearing it out anyways, losing a few curled strands in the process.
Andre turns to face her. He grips Jade just above the shoulders and she has to fight the urge to fidget under his strong hands.
"Jade," he says seriously, looking right at her. His eyes are big and earnest, his face is full and beautiful, but his mouth smiles too often and his skin is a couple shades too dark and he never waits up for her at lunch.
"Please stop taking your ring off." He requests evenly and Jade stares up at him for a second, swallowing hard. The ring feels very heavy on her finger, and she has to clench and unclench her hand a couple of times to get the feeling back in it.
"Okay," she says quietly, and he grins at her slowly, wide and lovely with a straight row of teeth, believing her.
"Thank you," he murmurs. He pulls her a little closer and presses his lips to her temple, lingering there. And Jade closes her eyes tight, has to physically restrain herself from wishing it was a different pair of lips, a different embrace, the same request from a totally different person.
It isn't right. It isn't fair to any of them, but she knows Beck and she knows Andre, and she really, really knows herself, and so she knows that nothing will ever really change.
She will never really change.
Jade West wishes she was a better person.
I don't know how this happened. Andre wasn't even supposed to be involved, but I needed a reason for them to not be together publically so…
Guys, I'm really unsure about this one. I've never done an AU in this fandom before, so little feedback would truly be appreciated.
Also, just to clarify, every time Jade ran a hand "smoothly through her hair" she had taken the ring off. But when the hair did snag onto her hand, that means she was wearing the ring then.
Whatever, this is so weird ask me questions if you need to.