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Behind Closed Doors

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'We've got another one.'

Piper hated the emergency room, especially at night. Very rarely were there good cases. Usually, she was stuck with drunken idiots who needed the poison pumped out of their veins, cuts and bruises, or, even better, the obsessive parents and their screaming, snotty child. On a good day, one of these cases might turn out to be more serious than it looked. Piper remembered one of her colleagues treating a man who had come in with what seemed like the common cold, only to discover he also had a tumour growing in his brain. As sick as it sounded, those were the exciting moments in medicine.

Grabbing the chart a nurse handed to her, she skimmed over the notes, and refrained from rolling her eyes. Perfect. Another waste of sperm who offered nothing to society, and would rather waste away her life injecting drugs into her body. How many had this been now? Six patients in the past four hours had been sent in, with symptoms of overdosing. Fortunately, this patient wasn't all too severe. She was lucky; all that was required was rest, she needed to drink, eat something, but then she could go. The girl was just taking up room, and someone who had actual purpose in life might appear and need her bed.

Several months back, when Piper started out as an intern, she wouldn't have thought like this. Being a doctor was everything; the adrenaline and rush to help people was everything she could ever want. Slowly, though, the months of constant work, the never ending beeping of pages, and the continuous cycle of treating the same patient after the next, managed to distort the young doctor slightly. Her fiancé had noticed; he claimed she smiles less, and whenever she did come home from work –– which was rare in itself –– work was all she talked about.

Reaching her patient's bed, she didn't even look at her as she examined the patient's chart. 'You're lucky. It's not common for people like you to enter the hospital, and come out still alive.'

'Aren't you just a ray of sunshine?'

Piper glanced up. She was surprised to discover the girl –– no, woman –– was older than she thought. The black glasses shadowed her eyes somewhat, and Piper found her appearance quite startling. Pale skin, black hair, around 5"10. She was sitting upright and showed no symptoms of suffering an overdose of drugs. In fact, she was smiling at her, a funny glint in her eyes, brows raised. She looked well. Piper frowned at her, confused. 'Uh, Miss... Alex––' She glanced at the chart, '––Vaus–ey...?'

'Vause.' She chuckled. 'I honestly don't feel all that safe around a doctor who can't read my own name.'

'It's been a long day,' Piper sighed.

'I can tell. You look like you're about to collapse any second.'

'Thanks.' Piper lowered the chart. 'Since you ODed, we need to keep you in for a few more hours––'

'ODed?' Alex frowned, the smile was gone. 'I didn't OD.'

'Well, it says so on the chart.'

'Then your chart is wrong.'

Piper rolled her eyes. 'Who's the doctor here? Your chart clearly states that you ODed approximately around 1734 today–– or yesterday. In your own home. Although, frankly, I don't expect you to remember that.'

'Hang on a minute, kid.' Alex straightened a little more, and there was an edge of confidence about her which almost made Piper shrink back. 'I don't give a shit if you're the doctor or not. Big fucking woop for you, by the way. But you just have a chart –– I know I didn't OD. Go get that chart checked on, because it's not right. Or, maybe, your brain is so fried from all the work you've been doing you just can't readanymore. You certainly proved that when trying to pronounce my name.'

'Doctor.'

'What?'

'It's doctor. Not kid.'

Alex laughed. 'How old are you?'

'T––Twenty four.'

'Twenty nine. So yeah, kid, go fix my chart because I did not OD.'

Scowling, Piper wanted to kick Alex off the bed here and now, but risking her job over some street junky wasn't worth it. This woman was nothing but a pain in the ass, and Piper had more serious patients to attend to. Slamming the chart onto the edge of the bed, she walked away briskly, pissed off beyond belief. How outrageous! How rude, too! Piper hated her jobs sometimes. How could patients be so ungrateful for the treatment they were given? She didn't make an effort to correct Alex's chart.

Fortunately, treating a boy with a broken ankle managed to distract Piper from the incident, and from that point on her pride was healed. However as she left the emergency room and headed for one of the nurse's stations to skim through her notes, she was greeted with an unpleasant surprise. 'You should be in bed.'

'And you are not the first girl to tell me that,' Alex smirked. 'Just wanted to check on you. You seemed rough back there. You all right?'

Piper blinked. 'I––' She closed her mouth. Turned to her. Folded her arms. '––I should be asking you that. Why are you out of bed anyway?'

'Because I am not sick. Nor did I OD, thank you very much. Actually, I came over to tell you that you're shit at your job. The chart got mixed up with another patient.'

'I appreciate you informing me of this,' Piper muttered through jarred teeth.

'Is that how you usually treat ODed patients?' Alex snorted. 'Trust me, they'd rather go through the whole trauma of being sent in here again than having to see your grumpy mug.' Then she laughed, and Piper wasn't sure if she was laughing because she wasn't serious, or if she was laughing at Piper's current expression. Probably the latter. Because Piper did not look happy.

One peeve Piper had with patients was their uncooperative nature when being treated. With some patients, one had to go through discussion after discussion on how a certain medical procedure was to be taken. It took hours, sometimes days. What miffed Piper even more, though, was when patients, like Alex Vause, had the audacity to criticise how she treated people.

Especially after a long, long fucking day.

'You know what? No. No, I'm not okay! I've been rushing around here for the past sixteen hours, and I haven't eaten anything since lunchtime which was ages ago. Not only that, but I've had to deal with vomit, screaming children, sutures bursting open, a violent cancer patient, another patient who thought it was fucking reasonable to slap my ass every time I walked by –– it's not funny! Oh, what else? Hm. Oh, I know! Let's not forget the imbeciles who think it's perfectly okay to drown themselves in alcohol, and then take up beds in the emergency room so we can pump out all of the poison they literally tried to kill themselves with. Do they care? Do they even say thank you? No. I actually have to work my ass off day in and day out, to treat people who don't even give a flying shit. So, I'm not okay!'

Alex's brows were raised. She waited for Piper to calm down, and it took Piper a moment to realise Alex hadn't laughed. She hadn't walked away, and she hadn't teased her. She listened and, despite everything, Piper had to appreciate that. No one in this damn building cared to listen, with good reason. Every doctor and nurse in the hospital had enough on their plate to listen to their colleagues' problems. A mere intern whining about her day would be the last thing they wanted to hear.

'Why did you decide to become a doctor?'

The question took Piper off guard. 'Uh.' She stumbled on her answer, because she realised she didn't know. More accurately, she had forgotten and it shocked her. Yet, it came back, eventually. Her voice was calmer, 'Because I wanted to help people.' It sounded stupid, pathetic even, but it was the truth.

'Figured as much,' Alex replied. 'You're doing all right, kid. I know this sort of profession can kill you, but if you keep reminding yourself why you took this role on in the first place, you'll keep at it.'

Piper sighed. 'How do you know?'

'I know a lot of things.' There was that glint in her eye again. She had gone back to teasing again, but there was still a hint of sincerity behind her tone. 'I also know a good person when I see one.'

Piper smiled. 'Thanks.' She felt better, and she wasn't sure if it was because she finally cracked, or because of what Alex had said to her. 'What do you do, then? Except offer constructive criticism to fellow doctors?'

'Drugs. I sell them. Well, I do more than that.' She raised her glasses, as if proud of herself. 'I work for an international drug cartel.'

There was a long pause between them. Suddenly, Alex laughed, easing the uncomfortable tension, and Piper laughed with her, albeit nervously. 'I thought you were serious then.'

'Hm.' Alex raised her brows, smiling crookedly. 'Charming as you are, I should be off. Try to not get anymore charts mixed up. It could get messy.'

Piper rolled her eyes, but she smiled. 'I'll try.'

It was only when Alex had gone down the hall, and vanished around the corner did Piper wonder what was wrong with her. She had come in with some sort of problem. Apparently, it wasn't drugs, and she doubted it was anything more serious than that. After all, it was unlike a patient to be walking around so soon after enduring trauma. It didn't matter, because she doubted she would meet Alex again. Maybe for the better. Alex might have a nice side to her, but she seemed like a handful.

Shoving a patient's chart under her arm, Piper returned to the emergency room and remained there until the end of her shift five hours afterwards.


 

The following morning, Piper was relieved to discover she hadn't been assigned to the emergency room. Her attending gave the interns quick, snappy orders, and warned one of them might be paged if any serious cases showed up. Naturally, each intern was eager to know who would be the lucky devil, but Piper wasn't feeling as enthusiastic as usual. Her fellow intern and friend, Polly, happened to notice. By lunchtime, Piper still looked glum, munching on a salad and flicking through a medical book.

Slamming her tray of food down onto the table, Polly sat beside her, 'Hey,' she nudged the blonde. 'What's got you in such a mood?'

Piper looked at her, expression blunt. 'He hates me.'

'Who?'

'Larry.'

'What, why?'

'Because I spend more time in this fucking hospital than I do at home.'

Her best friend snorted. 'If I were him, I'd appreciate you being away. You look horrific.'

'Really? Is that meant to make me feel better?'

Polly grinned. 'Okay. You don't look that bad, except for the dark rings under your eyes, and the frown. Have you been sleeping?'

'Take a wild guess.'

'Well, Larry's a sweet guy –– he'll understand if you just tell him. You're an intern. You can't risk skipping out on the job.' Her friend offered no response, not even a blink. 'Okay, you're freaking me out. Go to the on-call room and sleep. I'll cover you––'

'Yeah, and steal all my patients. How generous.'

'Fine. Be an ass. But when you collapse from exhaustion, don't expect me to be the one catching you,' Polly said, biting into her sandwich.

Returning to her food, Piper muttered, 'You're a good friend.'

'I know.'

A few seconds later, both interns were disturbed from their lunch when their pagers went off. Without a second to waste, they jumped off their seats and hurried past several wards, before reaching the area their attending was. Immediately the attending shoved the patient's chart into Piper's chest, 'Your favourite,' he said, cocking a brow. 'Nichols is a frequent visitor. Be nice.'

Piper quickly skimmed over the chart, Polly leaning over her shoulder to read it as well. Once she was finished, Piper looked at the patient. Nicky Nichols stared right back, a twisted, amused smirk slowly reaching her lips. 'I love interns. They always look like they're gonna shit themselves. What's your name, Blondie?'

For some odd reason, Piper felt a tad intimidated by the other woman. Her hair was, no doubt, a reflection of her nature. Nicky obviously didn't know what a brush was, or didn't care to use one. An IV had been inserted into her wrist, and she appeared relatively at ease. Piper turned to her attending, who just shrugged. She faced Nicky again. 'Uh, P–– Chapman. Doctor Chapman.'

'Doctor Chapman,' Nicky repeated, lowering her voice. 'No offence, but I'd rather have the brunette poke me around. You barely look conscious –– what's wrong with these kids? Fucking obsessed with your jobs, you don't even consider taking showers or nothing.'

Piper gaped. The attending snatched the chart from her and passed it to a stunned Polly. 'Off you go, then, Chapman.'

'I––' She frowned at Nicky. 'I don't need a shower.'

'Oh yeah? Have you seen yourself lately?'

'Have you?'

'Chapman!'

Piper flinched at her attending's raised voice. She ignored Nicky's smirk. 'Sorry, sir.' Lowering her head, she avoided Polly's gaze, and brushed past, red in the face. Before she could collect her thoughts and go into another spiral of rage about how shitty some patients could be, she bumped straight into someone.

'Whoa, watch it!'

'Sorry––' Wait, she knew that voice. Piper widened her eyes in horror. 'Oh God, not you.'

Alex stared at her, then remembered. She smiled, frowned. 'That's not nice. And here I thought you were starting to warm up to me.'

'Why are you here?'

'Visiting a friend. The one who ODed yesterday.' Alex let that hang.

'... it was a mistake. I didn't mean to mix up the charts,' Piper said quietly. 'Anyway, you can tell your friend if she ODes again, she might end up as a vegetable. In fact, she will.'

'Bedside manners are clearly your strongest suit. I'll tell her. Don't worry, kid.'

Piper looked at her. 'Don't worry? Is that a joke?'

'This is the first time she's gone overboard. Nichols might get a little too involved with what she likes to snort up her nose, but she's responsible.' Alex paused, raised her glasses higher up her nose. 'It won't happen again. I'll keep a good eye on her.'

'Good luck with that.'

'So, how's the fiancé?'

Piper frowned. 'What?'

'Didn't you say you had a fiancé last night? Or was I hearing things? I hope the latter.'

'I––' The blonde cleared her throat awkwardly at Alex's last statement. 'Yes, I have a fiancé and he's fine. Y–– You're very forward, you know?'

'You haven't seen anything, kid,' Alex smirked, stepping past her. Piper thought she was leaving, until she realised Alex was only circling her, eyes drifting up and down her figure. It made Piper feel even more awkward, and very self conscious, but she also quite liked it. She wasn't sure. Either way, this sort of behaviour wasn't appropriate and she had little tolerance right now.

'What are you, a vulture?' Piper pulled a face.

'You manage to make scrubs look good,' Alex shrugged, catching her eye. 'Which is impressive, because they're the most unflattering attires I've seen.'

'Being a doctor isn't exactly a fashion parade.'

Alex smiled crookedly, then raised her glasses over her head. It was the first time Piper had seen her without them, and, she had to admit, there was an improvement. Alex had a nice face, which was neither gentle or stern. Somewhere in the middle. When she smiled, there was a dimple in her left cheek, and the dark eyeliner around her eyes made her look like someone who wanted to be taken seriously, and whoshould be taken seriously. She had an interesting appearance; one Piper found pleasure in studying.

'Has your fiancé ever told you that for someone with such a fancy education, you have shit manners?'

'What makes you think my education was fancy? And, no, he hasn't told me that, because I'm well-mannered to kind people, and he happens to be kind.'

She was chuckling, 'It's cute, how you try to scare me.'

Piper felt the heat in her cheeks rise again. She looked away. 'I have a job to do. Go see your friend.' With that, she walked past the older female, and Alex didn't stop her.

The remainder of her shift could have been worse. Fortunately she managed to avoid that Nicky Nichols; she was Polly's patient now. Which also meant she didn't have to run into Alex Vause again. While their conversations were far from boring, Alex managed to make Piper's head spin; she asked too much, mocked her when she shouldn't, and called her kid which pissed Piper off immensely.

By 1815, Piper was busy fixing a patient's sutures when Polly came over. 'I'm so glad that addict is out of the hospital. She just would not let me concentrate and examine her.' Dragging over a stool, she sat beside Piper and sighed heavily. 'I tell you what though, her friend was even worse. First she got my name wrong more than once, then she started asking me personal questions which Nicky found hilarious. Pft.' She glanced at Piper, who had a faint smile on her lips, eyes focussed on the patient's arm she was sewing up. 'Glad I could make you laugh, too.'

'I'm sorry,' Piper said, looking at her. 'It's just –– I met her, that one asking you personal questions. She was here last night. I got her chart mixed up with Nichols' apparently––'

'Oh my God, Pipes.'

'It wasn't my fault! It doesn't matter anyway; it got sorted. Not that Alex cares. She won't let it go.'

'You know, I've seen her come in before.' Piper returned to her sutures, and waited for Polly to remember. Suddenly she clicked her fingers, 'Oh yeah! She's a TB patient. Active TB and all. Last time I saw her she was in a right mess; I suppose it's good to know she's up and about taking the piss out of everyone she sees.'

Piper stopped. She frowned at Polly. 'She has active TB?'

'You wouldn't think so, would you? Guess she just doesn't like to put on a show about it.'

'Harper! Chapman!' At the sound of their attending's voice, Piper instantly resumed to her sutures, and Polly shot to her feet, whispering a quick good bye before hurrying off.

As Piper finished her work, she was admittedly a tad distracted by what Polly had informed her. The last thing she expected Alex Vause to have was active tuberculosis. How long for? Heck, why did it matter anyway? For all Piper knew, Alex wouldn't be showing her face anytime soon. Upon thinking about it, she hoped she wouldn't.

If Alex did return, it only meant bad news.