disclaimer: Yadda-freakin-yadda. I unfortunately didn’t come up with the idea of Once Upon a Time. These characters belong to two very amazing people, Adam and Eddy. Although their lack of SwanQueen in the show makes me want to wrap a noose around my neck as I simultaneously jump off a speeding train going over a 1000 foot bridge, I admire them and their ability to tell their incredible tale on screen. I will be borrowing their characters for this story. THEY AREN’T MINE *grumblegrumble*
BENEATH CITY LIGHTS
“Bellevue Medical Main, Rapid Response, 8-MPCU.”
Dr. Regina Mills was nearly done seeing patients for the day when the speakers that adorned the hallways throughout the hospital she worked in suddenly crackled to life, signaling an important announcement. As she heard the first sentence flow around her, she glanced down at the onyx encrusted watch wrapped her wrist, noting the time.
“Bellevue Medical Main, Rapid Response, 8-MPCU.”
She slowly came to a halt as the call reverberated around her, looking up from her watch as a group of nurses hurried past. They were no doubt on their way to the Call. Their sneakers pounded over the white tiled floor, worry evident on their faces.
“Bellevue Medical Main, Rapid Response, 8-MPCU.”
She turned her head and watched them run down the hall way, headed for the stairwell that would lead them one floor below. She debated about whether to follow them to the Rapid Response call and offer her services, but instead slid a hand through dark coffee colored hair as she slowly turned her head back around and resumed walking to the room of her last patient. There were probably enough Nurses already attending the call, and she really needed to begin the long process of discharging her patient in Room 974. She really wanted to get home at a decent hour that night, and she was already running further behind than she preferred.
The brunette walked all of four steps further to her destination before the jolting of the Hospital wide sound system resounded overhead once more. The pristine and clear voice of a woman slid smoothly over the intercom.
“Bellevue Medical Main, Code Zero, 8-MPCU.”
Dr. Mills’ heart sank to her feet. She stopped dead in her tracks upon hearing the Rapid Response call re-announced as Code Zero.
“Bellevue Medical Main, Code Zero, 8-MPCU.”
“Shit,” she quietly said to herself, fully turning on the balls of her feet and trotting toward the stairwell that the nurses who had passed her only moments before had been running to. Her own pager began to vibrate in her pocket as the Code beckoned for her to attend. She pulled the black pager out of her white coat pocket, looking down at it as she flung the door to the stairwell open. In bold, all capital letters, a message angrily glared at her that there was a Code Zero on the 8th Floor, suggesting she respond, quickly followed by a second page wanting to know when she was going to arrive to the Nurses Station on Floor 9 to discharge Room 974. She rolled her eyes and stuffed the pager back into her pocket. Mrs. Johnson was unfortunately going to have to wait until after the Code to be discharged. Dr. Mills was going to have to direct this Code, whether she wanted to, or not.
“Bellevue Medical Main, Code Zero, 8-MPCU.”
Just as Regina hit the landing of the 8th Floor, the voice rang out one last time, never wavering in its calm but direct vocal delivery. Upon arriving, she immediately noted the large throng of people not twenty feet from the door she ran through. There were several nurses and other staff members filing into Room 832, a Crash Cart being toted in via the man she recognized to be the floor’s Charge Nurse. He nodded at her and waved her over, asking people to step aside to let the Dr. through. Dr. Mills was immediately absolute No-Nonsense. She quickly schooled her features as she pulled out her signature Mask of Superiority (the one that made any and all tremble in her wake at the hospital), parting waves of staff as she waltzed into the room. She took quick inventory of all the goings-on around her; there were two nurses with their backs to her, hovering over the patient’s bed. The female nurse clad in bright blue scrubs was already performing chest compressions, arms pumping in feverish attempt to restart the lifeless heart of the body below her.
Her dark eyes darted quickly to the Charge Nurse pulling the crash cart in after her.
“Chart!” she said, pointedly holding her outstretched arm in his direction.
The man in navy scrubs placed the dark green binder in her hands. Brown eyes glanced at the front of the binder to see if the patient had any allergies but there was nothing listed, so she quickly flipped to the current medications page. It was sparse, not containing much information.
“What happened? Who is this nurse to this patient?”
The woman standing beside the nurse currently delivering chest compressions turned and stated that she was the patient’s nurse.
“Jane Doe, roughly 25-30 years old, came into the hospital three days ago. She was found on the side of the road and Med-flighted in. Patient is non-responsive. She was in MICU for two days and transferred to us this morning. Blood pressure has been low all day, but dropped to 85/40 about an hour ago. We were trying to send Patient back to MI, but her blood pressure dropped to 70/35 and her heart rate shot up to about 150 beats per minute before a bed reservation could be made. Telemetry called to alert us of the Patient experiencing AFib, but as soon as I hung up, the Red Phone rang, alerting us that heart activity had ceased completely.”
Dr. Mills had walked to the head of the patient’s bed, still nose deep in the woman’s chart while listening to the nurse speak as she read over previous orders and gathered a brief history. There wasn’t much to go on, since the patient had not been identified, nor had she regained consciousness the entire time she had been Admitted.
“Who is her Attending?” she asked, setting the chart down on the bedside table next to her.
The air in the small room was thick and hot. Several bodies worked endlessly, restarting the blood pressure machine every so often and pausing compressions to see if the patient’s heart had resumed rhythm on its own. The PulseOx that wrapped around the patient’s finger and connected to the monitor on the wall showed no change in heart rate or oxygen level, which was currently at 43%.
“It’s Dr. Whale, but he’s been trying to get another Hospitalist to take over her case since she is a Jane Doe and most likely won’t have insurance.”
Regina rolled her large brown eyes and shook a lock of hair from her face. Dr. Whale – what a jackass. She pretty much hated his guts. They’d had several altercations over the years, constantly in each other’s faces as they argued over patient care and treatments. Since he was one of the main Hospitalists, Regina was always assigned to his cases as a Cardiac Consultant. She was curious as to why she hadn’t already been summoned to see this woman since she was clearly showing signs of heart problems, but she was grateful she hadn’t already had to endure his egotistical, sexist “I Am Man, You Are Woman” attitude any more than she was forced to.
“Fine,” Dr. Mills exhaled professionally, “Where is he now? Has anyone alerted him to his patient’s status?”
One of the nurses by the door nodded. “Yes, we paged him when her blood pressure started dropping.”
“And he hasn’t called back yet?” Regina questioned, not all that surprised.
The woman shook her head. “No Dr. Mills, he hasn’t called back. I’ll go wait by the phone at the desk, though.” The woman turned and exited, grateful to be out from under the glaring brown eyes of the famed Dr. Mills.
Regina rolled her eyes again and looked to the PulseOx monitor on the wall by her head. The patient’s O2 Level was only 40%, and dropping quickly. She realized Dr. Whale was not going to respond to this call, so she pulled herself up straighter and further took control of the situation. She raised her voice, calmly addressing the entire room.
“Let’s get oxygen to her brain, ok? Do we have Respiratory on standby to administer bedside intubation?”
The Respiratory Therapist stepped forward. He had been ready to jump the moment Dr. Mills came into the room. It wasn’t their first Code together. He knew how she operated, and quietly waited for her command, supplies in hand.
Stalking further to the head of the bed, Regina chanced her first true look at the woman whose body jostled and jolted beneath the fierce thrusting of hands to her sternum. Her face was ghostly pale, and the soft, blue lips of her mouth formed a deep frown. Long, tangled waves of gold fell from her skull and framed her head, accentuating high, chiseled cheekbones. Through her green hospital gown, Regina could see that woman’s body was lean and toned. She wondered how a person whose body seemed so fit had rendered herself into to hospital, not to mention completely unidentifiable and non-responsive, at that. She figured that the tragically beautiful form lying on the bed before her was surely being missed by several people by now.
All of this ran through her mind in less than a half second, because it was obvious the young blonde was getting no oxygen to her brain. It was time to intubate. Regina looked to the Respiratory Therapist and nodded.
“Alright, let’s do this,” she commanded, stepping aside for the Respiratory Therapist to reach the blonde’s head.
As the man prepped the patient for intubation, another nurse came running into the crowded room.
“A bed just opened in MI. Bed 5. Are we ready to roll?”
Dr. Mills swung her dark, smoking gaze to the Charge Nurse.
“David?” she questioned. He nodded quickly, and they both turned to the patient as a tube slid easily down her throat, providing her lungs with much needed O2. The monitor on the wall quickly began to change, as it proclaimed that her Blood-Oxygen Level was climbing steadily from 34%. Shortly after Intubation, the Charge Nurse David called for a pause in chest compressions. A weak pulse vibrated onto the screen of the crash cart before him. A tech standing beside the blood pressure machine pressed the “Start” button, inflating the cuff around the patient’s arm. The whole room stilled to a halt, waiting with baited breath, scared that her blood pressure would be too low or that the slow and quiet pulse of her heart would sputter out and stop, keeping them from moving her back to the ICU. After the machine relaxed its hold on the woman’s arm, numbers displayed themselves, violently flashing on the screen, alerting everyone that her numbers were critical, but high enough to move her.
Pressure: 84/45, Heart Rate: 45bpm.
“Alright people, let’s roll. MI, Bed 5!” Regina yelled over the sudden commotion that erupted through the room. Techs gathered the patient’s belongings while nurses unlocked the break on the bed and began to wheel it out of the room. Regina inwardly groaned as she looked to the clock on the wall. It was 5:45pm. It was getting late. She still had to follow this patient downstairs to MI and give a thorough description of the Code before coming back upstairs to 9 to begin Discharge on 974 who, judging by the several flashing lights on her pager, was quite anxious to leave.
She grimaced to herself as she quickly walked after the parade of Nurses and Respiratory Therapists bringing the bed to the Staff Elevators. They were larger than the regular Public elevators, enough to easily fit the elongated hospital bed and thrumming crowd people in transport. There was no possible way she was going to be home in time to kiss her ten year old son goodnight. The relationship she shared with her son had been strained lately, as Regina had been working several late hours at the hospital. It was something the boy didn’t understand. She silently cursed herself as she made a mental note to call him when she arrived back to the 9th Floor, and apologize for having to stay late at work once again. If only that douchebag Dr. Whale would respond to his pages every now and then, she could have been on her way to 9 now.
The elevator dinged as it slowed to a stop on the 3rd floor. Regina gathered herself and pushed all thoughts of her home life out of her head. It was time to take the lead once again.
“Alright everyone, let’s move,” she said, stepping off the elevator first and leading the way down the long hall to MICU. As they came closer to a set of double doors, Dr. Mills swiped her badge on a card-reader on the wall and waved her hand over the motion sensor above it. The sensor acknowledged her privileged badge with a short beep as the doors unlocked with a gentle click, granting her entrance into the Unit. A few of the ICU nurses were waiting for their arrival, smiling at friends they knew from MPCU. Dr. Mills was approached by a nurse at the desk, as the rest of the team hurried the still unconscious (but breathing) form of the blonde to Room 5.
“Rebecca - hi. Are you taking the Jane Doe from MPCU?” Dr. Mills was still all business, and just a little bit of sass. The nurse known as Rebecca nodded. She knew not to fuck with Dr. Mills in any way, because the woman had a reputation throughout the entire hospital as being a total hard ass. She didn’t dare even smile at the Dr., for fear of being reprimanded. Regina gave Rebecca a quick run-down of what had transpired during the Code. The nurse remembered the Patient from the day before when she had been in the Unit.
“She’s not under my care, but I would like to know what possessed you all to transfer this patient out of MICU and to a regular recovery floor? She’s clearly still very sick.”
Rebecca should have known this was coming. She took a deep breath and faced the stoic woman before her. “I have no idea, Dr. Mills. If it were up to me, she would have stayed here until she was more stable.”
That answer simply wasn’t enough to appease the dark haired beauty. “Well obviously the decision to move her was up to someone, am I right, Rebecca? Who the Hell decided to move this woman, and what was the reasoning behind it?”
Rebecca cowered slightly beneath the flashing eyes before her. “I think Dr. Whale was afraid she wouldn’t have insurance, and wanted to get her moved and out of the hospital as quickly as possible, even if it meant that she never regained consciousness and became a ward of the State.”
That was enough to send Dr. Mills over the edge. She turned hard, planting one long leg into the ground as she swiveled on black leather Jimmy Choo boots (with the thin gold heels, of course!) and viciously strode toward the room where the transport party had just entered.
“If that bastard can’t take proper care of his patients…” she muttered under her breath, heat vibrating off her body in angry waves. She looked in on the now still and quiet form lying on white hospital sheets. She moved closer, really studying the woman’s face, briefly wondering what color her eyes were. The woman was still pale, but a pinkness had returned to her brow and nose, and her lips were once again flushed with blood. Now that Regina really had a chance to look, she admired the sweeping planes of white cheeks, the curve of her chin, and the strong bones of her jaw. The woman was actually really beautiful. She glanced at the clock on the wall and jumped, then jerked her head down to see if the time on the clock matched the numbers on her wrist.
She tied up all the loose ends with the nurses and Charge Nurse in MI, stealing one last look at the face of the woman in Bed 5 before she turned and walked back to the elevators. When she rounded the corner, she noticed the Charge Nurse from 8MPCU was leaned up against the wall by the elevators. He looked up at her, and nodded.
She nodded and gave the man a small smile.
They stood together for several moments, waiting for the ding of the elevator. Regina could tell the man was staring at her, but she refused to look his way. He finally broke the silence, not able to stand the tension anymore.
“You did great in there, as always,” he complimented.
She turned dark brown eyes to him, softening them as she did so. “Thank you, David. I really don’t understand how that was allowed to happen.”
He snorted as the elevator dinged and the doors opened.
“Really? You’re surprised? It’s Whale. He doesn’t give two shits about patients who can’t make him any money.”
They both stepped into the elevator, pressing the buttons to their respective floors.
“That much is apparent,” Regina stated, stepping back and crossing her arms over her chest, “but what I don’t understand is how he never gets in trouble for things like this. For, well, anything he’s done.”
She shook her head, tossing her disgust for the man aside. Turning fully to David, she frowned.
“I’m going to be home late again.”
David nodded, knowingly. “Henry will understand, Regina. He’s just going through a phase right now. Don’t let it upset you so much.” He smiled, trying to reassure the brunette.
“That’s what I keep trying to tell myself,” she admitted, closing her eyes and letting her famous mask waver slightly from her face, “but truthfully he’s just becoming more withdrawn. Even when I am home with him he barely speaks to me, and he just retreats to his fantasy world. It’s just so hard when all we have is each other. There’s no one else to help raise him. It’s just me.” She shrugged, and fought the urge to cry. She had known David for a very long time, but this was not the place to lose herself. No, Dr. Regina Mills didn’t need anyone, she reminded herself. She never really had needed anyone, not since she was young. Other than her son, she vowed she would never need anyone again, either. She straightened up and smiled, Mask of Security placed firmly back on her face. David slightly shook his head, knowing exactly what she was doing. She was shutting him out.
Before he could say anything else, try to convince her that she should continue to be open and honest, the elevator halted, announcing that they had arrived on the 8th Floor. Regina nodded and bid him goodbye as he regretfully stepped off the elevator. She refused to look his direction as the doors closed around her, leaving her once again alone.
She sat very still in her Mercedes, the outer blackness of the vintage 560SL reflecting the mood brewing inside her. She was tired, and having a difficult time making herself get out of the car. Delicate hands gripped the steering wheel, knuckles white from the pressure she exerted upon the leather. The drive from Manhattan to the home she shared with her son in Westchester wasn’t really that long – maybe 40 minutes depending on traffic, but the late hour in which she had finally been able to leave the hospital had her anxious to even guess what time it was. Dark brown eyes swept to the clock on her dash.
Of course Henry would be in bed by now. If he wasn’t already asleep, he would definitely pretend to be once he heard the front door open. He was just that kind of kid. If he was angry, he wouldn’t throw a tantrum or act foolish. Instead, he found more cunning ways to let his mother know she was on his List. Denying her affection and punishing her by withdrawing himself was his usual poison of choice. She couldn’t deny that the proverbial apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
Finally, after several moments of shoving down her creeping anxiety, she reached a hand forward and shut the car’s engine off. It died instantly, along with the breath she hadn’t known she was holding. She plucked the red leather Balenciaga bag from where it sat on the passenger seat and settled it into the crook of her arm, gracefully exiting the vehicle. The short walk to her porch seemed to dredge on forever. Unlocking her front door, she stepped inside and sighed. The only light that seemed to be on in her house was coming from the kitchen. It was dim, and she knew it was just the light over the sink. No doubt Henry had assured Granny (a family friend of sorts) he would be fine left alone, and she no doubt had relented after dropping him off from school. She owned a diner in the city, and didn’t usually stay very late with Henry since she often worked the evening shift.
She set her expensive bag down on the small table below a gold framed mirror in her foyer. Without sparing a glance at her reflection, she pulled her black leather gloves from each finger, and then removed them from her hand, one by one. She placed them in the drawer of the small table, and turned, walking further into the house. Slowly, she sauntered through her home, climbing the beautiful staircase, and made her way down the upstairs hall. She paused outside her son’s room, hand on the handle. For a moment, she considered knocking and sticking her head in the door to see if he was awake, but she changed her mind, allowing her fingers to gingerly slip off the handle as she turned and walked to her room.
Entering the large bedroom, she crossed to her closet and walked inside, slipped out of her black Burberry pea coat and placed it on its proper hanger. She unzipped each calf length Jimmy Choo boot and sat them in their respective slots of her enormous shoe shelf. Her right hand wound around behind her neck to grasp at the zipper of her dark black dress. Her other hand snaked behind to pull the zipper the rest of the way down, right below the small of her back. Pulling her arms out of the sleeves and pushing it down her tan body, she stepped out of the dress and hung it a bag to be sent to dry cleaning. She sighed as she slowly spun around her grand closet, taking in all of its belongings. There were blacks, reds, some dark blues, greys, the occasional white – all in all, she woefully decided her wardrobe looked like a massive bruise. She sighed and exited the closet and walked pointedly to the en suite bathroom.
Upon entering, she slipped her hand into the shower stall and turned the knob to Warm. As the water began to heat up, she finally raised her eyes slow upward to stare at her reflection in the large mirror before her. Dark eyes analyzed every part of herself, from the tallest hair on her head to the burgundy paint on her toe nails. She unlatched her bra and tossed it into the hamper beside the mirror, her underwear quickly following. She moved back to the mirror, leaning forward to inspect a few pores on her nose. Steam billowed from the shower, brushing and clinging to the edges of the ornate reflective glass. Her eyes flickered back upwards to stare deeply into themselves, darker thoughts replacing the ones of scrutiny that her physique had been under only moments before. The steam curled and licked over the smooth surface, seeping closer and closer to the center of the wide expanse before her.
No one will ever truly love me.
At that moment, the steam enveloped the glass entirely, cutting the brunette’s vision off from sinking further into the depths of her black eyes. She shook her head, throwing herself from her reverie. She stood tall, throwing her shoulders back, and turned to step into her shower. The hot water ran over her scalp and down her shoulders. She turned and lifted her face into the water stream, running her hands over her delicate features, removing all traces of makeup and relaxing the strained muscles in her forehead and jaw. Her hand ran through her hair, slathering it with lavender scented shampoo. Deft fingers worked the lather into each dark lock, trying to will away the day’s events.
Regina was tired, and she closed her eyes while the heavy spray massaged tense shoulders. Her head dipped lower and lower, until her chin rested against her chest. She stayed that way for a few moments, allowing herself to drift slightly. A vision slowly seeped into her mind. It was of long, tangled blonde hair, eyes shut tightly beneath a rack of thick dark lashes, face pale and unmoving. In her mind’s eye, she saw her hand reach out slowly to caress a white cheek. She leaned closer to observe the woman’s breathing – counting the respirations. The blond was breathing 14 times a minute. Just as she was about to remove her hand, the lids of the woman’s eyes popped open to reveal bright blue irises, both of which stared right at her.
Regina not only jumped in her vision, but she startled in real life, as well. She looked around, slightly confused about where she was. She noticed she was sitting on the floor of her shower, water still running above her. She shook her head to clear the waning fog of her brain. Had she actually sat down and fallen asleep in the shower? She couldn’t believe it. God, she needed a freaking week off of work. It was exhausting, and she was tired. She was tired of life, tired of fighting with her son, and damn tired of being alone. She stood up and wrenched the knob forcefully back to the “Off” position, huffing loudly.
The brunette then slid the door to her shower back and reached her hand forward to land on a soft black towel. She wrapped it around her body, and stepped forward to the mirror. Her hand came up and wiped once across the glass, revealing her face to herself yet again. She stared at her reflection, the right side of her lip curled up in frustration.
“God…” she whined, stomping her foot, balling her hand into a fist.
Throwing another towel over her head, she quickly rubbed it over her hair, bringing the collarbone length locks to a slightly damp status, before tossing both towels into the dirty clothes bin. She brushed her teeth, glaring at herself as she did so, making mental notes of the patients she had to see at the hospital in the morning. Replacing her tooth brush and paste, mouth wash and facial moisturizer, she sighed one last time at the girl in the mirror before turning and walking out of the en suite, shutting the light off as she went. She padded across the floor to her dresser drawers, pulling out a black satin and lace nightgown. She then slipped it over her head, reveling in the feel as it settled over each curve of her body.
Climbing into bed, she plucked a purple bottle of lavender scented body moisturizer from her nightstand and began rubbing small amounts of the lotion over her arms, her chest, her legs and her feet. After returning the lotion to its proper spot, she pulled back the black satin covers and slipped between the grey satin sheets. They were cool on her overheated body, and she loved the feel of the soft material running over her skin, tickling the backs of her knees. She made sure that her alarm was set to go off at her usual designated wake up time of 6:30, then reached forward to cut the switch of her bedside lamp.
Immediately following the inevitable enveloping of blackness, the brunette’s mind was suddenly electric. She mused that the bleak darkness of the now colorless room evenly reflected her life, and she held back the small tear that threatened to escape the corner of her right eye. Thoughts ran themselves a full-blown marathon through her mind, and she couldn’t help but let a few of the salty diamonds trickle down the planes of her tanned cheeks. When had her life taken such an un-organic turn? She reflected on the past year and deduced that she had simply been going through the motions of her life for quite a while now. Where was it that she had taken a wrong turn? Here she was, 35 years old and a renowned Cardiologist at a great hospital in New York City. She should be happy and proud, but instead, she just felt lost.
As exhaustion slowly overtook her, she closed her eyes and shifted her body to wrap toned arms around the pillow beside her. Her mind slipped slowly into oblivion, as sleep finally claimed its victim. The last thing she could remember was a flash of blonde hair, eyes clamped tightly closed, dark lashes lying softly over pale cheeks. She wouldn’t sleep very well that night, and the screeching blare of her alarm the next morning would come all too quickly.