Thanks: I honestly don't know what tangent I'd go off on if it wasn't for Paula, a charming older lady who takes time out of her garden bed to be my beta. Love you, darling!
Notes: Well, it's back? And guess what - some semblance of a plot! I can't believe people are actually reading this weird, character development piece, but I'm so glad you are; thank you, and on with the show!
P.S. Also, if you see the name Carter jotted around, it's because I originally had another character called Carter who dropped in every now and again, but I decided to not make any OCs and gave most of his lines to Sirius. I've tried to edit it as best I can, but one always seems to slip through. Apologies in advance!
Chapter 3 - John Keats
Sirius relaxed in his chair. After being ordered by Minerva - after completing his rounds of his supposedly only patients - to go and help in paediatrics until his lunch break, he was glad to get a rest. As much as he loved screaming kids... he hated screaming kids.
"Rough day?" Nurse McKinnon - he really had to learn her name - asked, joining him as he munched on a ham and cheese panini from the Pret a Manger across the road.
"You could say that," Sirius said tiredly, rubbing a hand over his face. "More like a hectic two hours. Complete with finger paint."
Nurse McKinnon winced.
"Well, I had an insane bloke chanting my name over and over." Sirius perked up. "Literally. I'd just walk past his door and hear Marlene, Marlene, Marlene over and over again! It was as creepy as anything." Marlene. He had been close with Kristy and Karen.
"Bad luck," he told her sincerely - he knew insane guys, and while some were lovely, others were... not so lovely, to say the least.
"I'm probably going to need a drink after my shift," she commented idly, but she looked up at him through her eyelashes and Sirius groaned. Great. "Would you-"
"Sorry Marlene," Sirius cut her off, smiling sadly, and desperately trying to hold his panini together. "I can't tonight. I've got a complete sixteen hour shift, and... well, I'll probably want to sleep, you know, catch up for the next day."
"Oh!" Marlene exclaimed loudly, her hair bouncing on her shoulders. "Oh, right, of course! Yeah. Sorry, Sirius, I-"
"It's fine. Maybe another night, yeah?"
"Yeah. Yeah!" She smiled at him, collected her papers and files, and left the room.
Sirius looked down at his half finished panini and suddenly didn't feel very hungry. He chucked it in the bin on the other side of the room, and left too - he wasn't going to be doing anything else this lunch, so he figured he might as well sit outside.
He made his way down, deciding to take the stairs rather than the elevator, and made it to one of the half decent benches just outside the hospital.
Sirius peered out over the car park - ambulance sirens could constantly be heard in the distance, and cars came and went, taking patients with them. Sirius sighed and leant his head on his hand.
He didn't know why he had become a doctor; he'd always been alright at science, though music was more his thing, and it seemed the natural path to take. He wasn't going to get anywhere playing those goddamned instruments of his. Musicians never made it far unless you relied too heavily on luck - everyone knew that.
So Sirius had gone to med school and passed with relative ease; he'd made friends and lost them, and had an alright time along the way, even though his family were constantly hovering over his shoulder.
He hadn't talked to them since the obligatory family dinner. Being the firstborn child, they had piled all of their hopes and dreams and aspirations onto Sirius' shoulders from a young age; he was very close to resenting them for it now.
"Melancholic thoughts always make me crave chocolate," a voice said from behind him. A bar of chocolate was being waved in front of his face.
"How d'you keep doing that?" Sirius asked as Remus joined him on the bench. He shrugged.
"I'm secretly a ghost; I died on the operating table and have come back to haunt you." There was a shocked silence. "Sorry, sorry. Inappropriate joking about death, not a good idea around doctors."
He whipped out his aging copy of 1984 and scribbled something on page 165.
"Do you just carry that around with you everywhere you go?" Sirius wondered as Remus tucked his biro back into the front pocket of his hospital gown. The man flicked through a couple of the pages; a few of them were falling out, but held in by cellotape and glue and care.
"Pretty much," came the muffled reply as Remus wrapped a scarf around his neck.
"It's autumn," he said, looking around at the orange trees and rare sunshine.
"It's winter," Remus retorted, "and I'm ill. I get cold easily; my immune system is practically hibernating now, though it'll be up to duff as soon as I get the transplant."
"I forget," Sirius replied, looking out at the trees that are starting to gain more colour. "You seem so healthy a lot of the time... but I forget how much you must be suffering." He shook his head, mindful of the person next to him. "Sorry, I just-"
"Hey, it's fine," he assured him, leaning back and stretching out his legs. "I'm kind of used to it. And if I have to put up a few appearances for family and friends to make sure they're happy, then I'll do it. No question."
"It shouldn't be like that," he said, frowning. He kicked a stray leaf on the ground.
"Well." Remus shrugged. "I don't want to worry them. Worry doesn't help anyone, least of all me." He looked up at the sky, and growled low in his throat, obviously frustrated. "I could kill for a fag."
"They'll kill you, you know," Sirius told him without thinking; it was his normal response, as a doctor. He never saw the appeal, after all. "God, here I go again. Sorry."
Remus smiled. "You say that a lot. And I figured, I can't do much more damage. My heart's already given up, my lungs might as well join the parade. But then I got on the transplant list, and..." He spread his arms wide. "Cold turkey. Two years. Quite impressive, in my book."
"Mine too," Sirius agreed. "No nicotine patches or anything?"
"Nope." He grinned. "They affect the nerve system too much. But that doesn't mean I don't have my weak moments."
"What, like mere hours before you go into surgery?" He commented sarcastically, but he quickly found that Remus' grin was infectious - he almost couldn't stop the twitch of his lips as the tawny-haired man laughed at his own misfortune.
"Does seem rather ironic, doesn't it?" He shook his head in amusement, his feet swinging below him.
"Just a bit," Sirius acquiesced, watching the man's legs swing like pendulums in a slow and steady rhythm.
"My eyes are up here, Sirius." His head snapped up, and he blushed deeply. But Remus was still laughing, the corner of his heavy eyes crinkled and his shoulders attempting to ease their shaking.
"You're an odd one," he told him honestly, and Remus - again - opened up his little journal-ish book, and wrote a few words in between the thin gaps of the lines in the text. He squinted down at it then nodded, satisfied. He had closed the book again by the time Sirius had thought to look over.
"We'd better go back," Remus said sadly, looking defeated. Sirius nodded.
"If you have to wear a scarf in the hottest October for a century, it's definitely time to go back." Together, they wandered back into the hospital, Sirius waving to his various co-workers and Remus waving to his co-patients, whether he knew them or not.
"You like doing that, don't you." Sirius phrased it as a passing comment, rather than a question; he already knew the answer after all.
Remus smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. He didn't reply.
They reached the elevators, and once again, Sirius pushed the up button and waited for the ding.
"Do you ever wonder...?" Remus started, but he trailed off, studying the waitress; the same one who had given Sirius his hospital-cafeteria-coffee. He motioned for him to continue. Remus cleared his throat. "Do you ever wonder if you're not where you're meant to be?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you ever think that you don't belong where you are - that you should be off, seeing the world or writing a novel or becoming Prime Minister or something."
"... All the time," Sirius answered honestly, because he didn't see any point in lying.
"Me too," Remus whispered, and the elevator doors opened once more. They both stepped inside the cramped space, and pressed the same button - level 1. "Me too." It dinged, and they stepped out onto the word.
It still smelt like vinegar.
Remus walked back to his bed relatively easily, but his shoulders were hunched forward more than they were before, and his steps were ever so slightly slower. Sirius watched him with worried eyes, then remembered what he had said.
"Worry doesn't help anyone, least of all me."
Sirius squared his shoulders and marched over to Lily, who was finally back in her own bed after a few hours conversing with James.
"Sirius," she drawled. "I do believe you've been neglecting me in favour of the strapping young blond with 1984 attached to his hand." Sirius smiled guiltily.
"And would you, my Lily flower, deny twoo wuv?" He pouted down at her and she reluctantly sniggered, in a rather unladylike fashion. Then again, Lily didn't exactly seem one for knitting and tea parties. "How are you feeling?"
"My arm hurts like a bitch, my leg's had an argument with my nerve cells, my head feels like a bulldozer got angry with it, and the monster growing inside of me is attempting to eat my uterus."
"... Relatively normal then, that's good. I've got your results back, and your head seems alright, just a slight concussion. You shouldn't put any weight on your leg for another hour or two, and then let's see if we can't get you properly walking around the ward."
"Joy," she said drily.
"Hmm," Sirius hummed, looking down at her notes. Freelance journalist, lived with a woman older than her (family friend?), bad relationship with her family... "Lily?"
She looked up from where she was playing idly with her fingernails. "Yes, Sirius?"
"Do you ever feel like you should be somewhere else? Like, not just in this hospital, but with your life as a whole?"
Lily seemed to be thoughtful for a few moments before she finally answered, "I think everyone does, on some level. But I've always felt a little out of place in my life, like it's not really mine and I'm just borrowing it until I can get my real one back on track. Does that sound weird?"
"Not one bit," Sirius said surely. "That made a perfect amount of sense."
"I think that just means we're psychos together, Sirius," Lily stage-whispered, rubbing her stomach and grinning like a shark. He grinned back, then left with a nod; with a flick, he inserted the notes back in the holder.
"Pete! How are we doing, my man?"
Peter, who had been thumbing through a collection of photographs obviously from his lone salvaged bag, looked up with a small smile.
"I'm going alright; my head's still - well - doing my head in." He gave a weak chuckle. "My camera-"
"I was literally just about to ask," Sirius reassured him, resting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm pretty sure that the police, or at least the paramedics, would have found it by now." He gave him a brief nod, then hurried back to the nurses' station and dialled the number rapidly into the phone.
"Hi, this is Dr. Sirius Black of St. Mungo's, and I was calling on behalf of Pete - Peter Pettigrew. Yeah, that's right. I was wondering if you had found a camera in the car wreckage? You have? Yup, that's it. Cheers, that's brilliant. I'll tell him straight away. Okay. Thanks again!"
"Pete! Brilliant news, mate!" He came to stop at Peter's bed to find the curtains closed. Frowning, he threw them open and found - that it was empty.
"Pete?" Sirius called out weakly, as though he would be hiding under the bed.
"Fuck!" He cursed. He quickly fumbled out of the curtains, and raced towards the nurses' desk again. He wrote a quick note, then, after a quick sweep of the ward, he raced down the steps leading, once more, to the main lobby of the hospital.
"Peter!" He yelled into the wind. A few people turned round to stare at him, but most carried on eating their godforsaken ham sandwiches and soups of the day.
"Have you seen someone called Peter? He's shorter than me, with blonde hair, blue eyes, a bit podgy round the middle? No? Dammit, PETER!"
Sirius sprinted to the back of the hospital, where the gardens were. He did a quick scan and found nothing, and was about to turn back and search the car park properly before he heard a noise. Click, something went. It whirred and sounded oddly like a mini terminator. Click and repeat.
He turned round the corner, and sure enough, Peter was lying on his stomach with an old fashioned camera, taking a picture of god knows what.
"Peter," Sirius begged, and the man looked up with a shy, toothy grin.
"I'm sorry, Sirius, it's just that you started talking about cameras and I still had this one in my bag, and I had to photograph something, you know? And I saw this place from the window, and it's really perfect for using translucent materials and light manipulation..."
"Alright, Pete," he said reasonably, but he crouched down next to him. "We can take more pictures next time, okay? I just need to make sure your head's alright before you can go. Let's get you back to bed."
Peter nodded, and slowly, unsteadily rose to his feet. He swayed a bit, but stayed upright.
"And no more running away," Sirius added as they started walking back. "You scared the shit out of me, Peter."
"I really am sorry," he told him sincerely, sniffing against the sudden wind. By the time they had made in back to the ward, Sirius' heart rate had calmed to a normal level, and Peter's had increased dramatically. He sighed.
"Now, I'm going to need you stay in bed, and take some of these-" He prepared a syringe of 10mg of morphine, and found a vein. It went in easily. He re-did the IV drip, causing Peter to whimper, and re-fluffed his pillows for good measure.
"You won't send me away, will you?" Peter begged, holding onto Sirius' hand with a strength he didn't know he possessed. "Will you?"
"No, of course I won't, Pete," Sirius whispered to him, and his eyes began to fall, heavy from the sudden dose of morphine.
When he was finally asleep, Sirius stumbled back and groaned; this was dangerous territory. Caring about patients. That's what made him almost fail as a med student. He'd learnt by then, surely?
"It won't work, you know."
Sirius blinked slowly. He'd almost expected Remus, but he was in bed, hastily scribbling into his little book. James, instead, was looking at him from over the top of the sports section of The Sun.
"That's a crap newspaper," he commented absent-mindedly, walking properly over to the bed. "No decent content. Too many celebrity scandals and not enough cats being saved from treetops." Sirius sat down in the chair next to him; basically all the consultants and residents were in theatre, performing miracles, so the ward was empty, save for the nurses and him, it seemed.
"Maybe so, but it has the scores. I missed them last week." He held the paper aloft. "Arsenal won one: nil, against Queens Park Rangers. Bloody sadists. They sell their half decent players and then they're surprised when they barely scrape through their matches."
"Wasn't that a few days ago?"
James shrugged. "I was training. Too busy to properly check; I knew we'd won, though, but still: Queens Park Rangers. Jesus."
"That is a bit pathetic," Sirius agreed, though his level of football knowledge basically surmounted to David Beckham, the ginger one who looked like Shrek, and teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U. "Are we ready to get into your wheelchair?"
"Yeah!" James shouted enthusiastically, sitting up straighter. "It's been lonely since Lily's been told to stay in bed. Until she can walk, that is."
His ears turned red. "Oh, she's brilliant, Sirius. Really ace." He looked past Peter's bed to watch the red-head, who was, again, arguing with the nurse, this time about the bangles on her wrists. "Completely nutters. But ace."
"Let's go and say hi then, shall we?" Sirius asked with a grin. He stood up, and rolled the wheelchair closer. "Right, careful this time..."
He lifted him up, one hand under his knees and the other just around his waist. James used his hands to propel himself upwards, out of the bed. With a bit of effort, he collapsed into the chair, smiling triumphantly.
"Told you I could do it, Doc!"
Sirius' smile fell, and he gripped the handles of the wheelchair so tightly his knuckles turned white. James was a good guy; a weird combination of arrogant, shy, enthusiastic and intelligent. He probably would have made it big time, if it weren't for the accident.
That's what they were all calling it, but no one really knew what happened. Rumour had it that Nurse Meadowes - Dorcas - had actually been driving up the M6 when it happened. Narrowly avoided the whole thing by the sounds of it.
It had been complete carnage; Minerva had cornered him just before lunch - another two had died up on Gryffindor, the floor above that dealt more with surgery. Their ward was more the investigation-types, like detectives of doctoring.
In fact, the only reason Remus and the others weren't up there with Gryffindor was because they were full, no beds spare.
"You alright, Sirius?"
Sirius looked down, and realised that James had been silently and patiently waiting for him to move. He nodded, smiled, and without needing to ask, wheeled him to the side of Lily.
"Oh, look what the cat dragged in!" Lily said gleefully, laughing as James pouted.
"Bloody witch," he muttered under his breath, but on the surface, he grinned up at her and, just as Sirius let go, he wheeled closer. He held her hand, and said, "Lily. Would you do me the honours of sharing my pudding?" From his front pocket his pulled out a rare chocolate mousse he must have been hoarding - the nurses only gave those out when Gryffindor didn't need them, and usually only to their favourite patients.
"Oh, Jamie, you shouldn't have!"
He grinned as he popped open the container, along with the little white plastic spoon it came with. Lily attempted to manoeuvre her good arm, which was on her left rather than her right, over to take it, but groaned as it pulled on her broken one.
Wordlessly, James dipped the spoon in the pudding, and lifted it to rest at her lips.
Sirius cleared his throat and made his excuses, even though neither of them heard him, and left.
"Optimists," he muttered. "I really hate optimists."
"We love you too, sunshine!" Remus called from his bed, turning the heads of quite a few of the nurses. He grinned back at them, and waved at Sirius using his 1984. He made a note quickly - one that seemed to be written upside down - then looked back up and gestured for him to come over.
Sirius made his way back, apologising to Peter, who had been woken by Remus' shout. Peter waved him off, smiling, mumbled something about the weather, and went back to sleep.
"You really shouldn't shout on the ward, you know," he admonished him lightly. "It disturbs the other patients who aren't quite as mad."
Remus' grin widened.
"What are going to do, Sirius?" He asked innocently.
"I could take away 1984, and give you the crappy sequel, 1985," Sirius warned. "I'll even write it myself for the occasion." Remus hugged the book closer to his chest, looking like a child who had just been warned about stealing out of the cookie jar and was now being threatened with the removal of his favourite toy.
"That's cruel," he growled.
"Ah, that's justice, my friend." He nodded sagely. "No more shouting about sunshines and whatnot?"
"Alright," Remus grumbled good-naturedly, and he left the book resting on the chair next to his bed, his biro still tucked into his pocket. "So what brings you to this neck of the woods? I would've thought you'd have other patients. Weren't you in paediatrics earlier?"
"I was," Sirius said, "but that was because the lioness sent me down there. They've got enough staff now... It was just the backlash of the accident - most of the people that were in it are up in Gryffindor; that's another section, the surgery ward."
"Why aren't we up there?" He asked, gesturing to himself and the other patients on Sirius' side of the ward.
"It's too busy, apparently," he grumbled, casting his eyes upward. "We usually have the harder cases - you know, the ones where we have to play detective, try and figure out. You're all quite obvious cases."
"I don't know," Remus mused, "I reckon I could have a tapeworm."
Sirius rolled his eyes.
"And have you been to the Middle East recently? Or Africa? Didn't think so. But I quite like it like this. Upstairs is still flying papers and frantic running - that's where Minnie is at the moment - but for some reason, it's quiet down here." He shrugged. "Odd."
"So why aren't you checking up on the other side of the room? There are 'bout five beds there, right?"
"They're not my 'area'," Sirius explained, framing the word 'area' with air quotes. "I'm only supposed to cover you four, and when you were all stable this morning, I was sent up to help paediatrics. And now, because Lily should be walking soon and James needs to get control of his wheelchair and Peter needs his medication, I'm here, talking with you."
"That is... ridiculous."
"No, no it isn't! I do have a purpose here. Honestly."
"If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong."
"Alright, I get it," Sirius said, raising his eyebrows. "I mean, I was going to check your temperature and get you some more pudding, but if you don't want me here..." He turned away, chuckling to himself. After Remus made a noise of distress, he chucked the pot of vanilla pudding over his shoulder, and a muffled thump signalled that Remus had caught it.
"I would've eaten the pudding!" Lily called over to him as he made his way towards her.
"I know you would've. You ate his first pudding," Sirius informed her, rolling his eyes again.
"He called me fat," she complained, sitting back against her pillows. "Completely uncalled for. He's lucky he's adorably insane, or I might've thrown my combat boot at him."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, and he would've thrown the flower vase in response, you would've torn a page out of his book, he would've snapped your bangles, and hence, I would be able to watch World War Three erupt right from the cafeteria, drinking my coffee, possibly behind bulletproof glass."
Lily sniffed indignantly.
"Right, let's see if we can't get you walking..." He held out an arm, and surprisingly, she took it. Her hands shook as she lowered her feet gently to the floor - it was odd for them not to make a huge clunk as they did when she was wearing her boots. Hesitantly, she stood up.
Her grip on his arm tightened, and she swayed where she was. She moaned, and looked down at the bandages on her leg.
"Careful, careful," Sirius warned her, and he quickly handed her the crutches that had been leaning against the wall. She smiled at him softly, half in thanks and half in pain.
Lily took a step forward.
"Oh, thank god," she breathed in relief. "I'm not paralysed!"
There was a silence. Sirius sucked in a breath, and Remus looked up from his book. Peter watched with nervous eyes, and James... James just stared.
"No, James, I really didn't mean-" Lily's voice was cut off as, with great difficulty, James leant forwards to attempt to close the curtains. Sirius rushed forwards and helped, cursing himself as James' hurt expression disappeared from view.
"I didn't think," Lily whispered, and from the other end, Peter snorted.
"I didn't either, Lily," Sirius said regretfully. "I shouldn't have let you start to talk in full view of James, it wasn't fair to either of you. I'm sorry." He coughed and looked down.
"It's not either of your faults," Remus called out to them, carefully slipping out of bed and walking towards them on unsteady legs. "It's the fault of a woman who had a fit and accidently skipped three lanes without looking. It's the fault of the van driver who swerved to avoid her.
"It's our fault for getting up early, and driving on the M6 at that specific time. Basically, it's not anyone's fault."
They both stared at Remus as though he was some two-headed prophet.
"Well, it's true," he grumbled, and he straightened his hospital gown, obviously for something to do. Sirius grinned at him.
"You're right, Remus," he said energetically, and he bounded over to James' bed, which was still hidden behind the curtains. He quickly motioned for Remus and Lily to entertain themselves, or something like that, and they nodded and started a conversation about William Golding and Lord of the Flies.
"James?" Sirius murmured. He peeled back the curtain slowly, so that James would see him before he was completely visible.
"Hey, Doc," James replied, his voice dull and his eyes sad.
"You know she didn't mean it, don't you?" He asked sincerely, sitting down on the bed, carefully avoiding James' legs. "I mean, Lily's Lily. One day, and we both know what that means." James nodded with a faint smile that wasn't anywhere close to his usual hundred-watt grin.
"I don't want to be useless," he admitted, tugging at one of the fraying seams on his sleeve. "That's the one thing I always tried not to be; useless. A burden."
"You aren't anyone's burden," Sirius informed him fiercely and passionately. "And you most definitely are not useless."
"Oh, come on, Sirius. What am I supposed to do with two legs that won't work?" James asked, frustrated and upset. "How am I supposed to do anything?"
Sirius stayed quiet for a few moments before he replied, "Be yourself. Play wheelchair basketball. Go shopping and see movies and live like normal. You're going to get out of here and you're going to go to physical therapy and you're going to get one of those awesome wheelchairs, and you're going to ask out Lily Evans and recite John Keats and she's going to say yes. Alright?"
James just stared at him.
"Oh, come on," Sirius said impatiently, "You know it's true. Anyone can see that."
"Yeah," James said, and one side of his mouth quirked into a small smile. "Yeah, I can live with that."
He grinned. "Brilliant."
"Dr. Black?" A stern, but shaky, voice asked from behind the curtain. "May I have a word?" Sirius exchanged a look with James, clapped him on the shoulder, and stood up. He parted the curtains and came face to face with Minerva.
"What is it Minnie? I was going to give Pete - I mean, Mr Pettigrew - his painkillers just now, if that's what you're wondering..." His voice faded. "What?"
"Sirius, I'm sorry. There's an investigation. You need to be questioned, all of us do..."
He held up a hand to stop her. "An investigation? An investigation of what?"
She took a deep breath, and bit her lip. "Someone's been stealing the heavy painkillers, Sirius - and they want to speak to you. Now. It's a drugs investigation."