Let anybody think you have a weakness and they'll walk all over you: that was the sum total of the wisdom he'd accumulated in his life. It had nothing to do with him being homophobic. Because he wasn't. He wasn't homophobic in the slightest, which was just as well, seein's how he was sleeping with another man and all. Still, once they'd started, he thought it was wise to keep that fact under wraps for as long as they could, because Sacred Heart was not a "no homophobes allowed" zone. Any weakness or perception of weakness would lessen his status and might endanger his career, or JD's, and he wasn't going to let that happen.
He knew that sooner or later JD was going to crack. He'd been on tenterhooks from the first morning-after, when JD went floating around the hospital with a beatific grin on his face, doing little dances when he thought nobody was looking. Which, okay, was kind of gratifying. JD couldn't hide his feelings: it made him a terrible liar and a wonderful person to be adored by. No matter how he tried to hide it, all that love and joy kept bursting out of him, leaking like light from under a door. It made Perry feel like the first time he'd saved a patient's life: wait, was that me? Did I do that?
But by the eighth day, it was beginning to look like the kid could keep a secret after all. That day, JD's patients and Perry's patients were clustered at opposite ends of the hospital and they barely saw each other; that night, JD went out with Carla and Turk and Perry stayed home and watched TV. The next morning, Perry yelled so loud at Mrs Garcia (chronic emphysema exacerbated by the cigarettes she denied smoking) that Kelso heard him from the parking lot, where he was
" -- attempting to enjoy my corned beef sandwich! I don't care what got your panties in a bunch, Perry: assign Mrs Garcia to another doctor, and if you ever interrupt my corned beef break again, I will make you wish you were never born!"
Perry grunted inarticulately at Kelso's retreating back, unable to summon the righteous anger necessary for a really good rant. He'd crossed the line, and Mrs Garcia would never trust him or be comfortable with him again, and it was all because he was so damned tense from being away from JD for a whole twenty-four hours. Pathetic.
He paged JD to meet him in the doctors' lounge and broke several landspeed records to get there before him, only to find that Dr Doug "How the hell did this moron get through med school?" Murphy was there already. "Hey, pee-pants," he said with a whistle, "I'm in a generous mood, so I'm going to give you a whole ten seconds to get out of here. Ten... nine... eight... seven..."
Dr Murphy gathered the paperwork he'd been poring over and scrambled out of the room in an undignified rush. Perry started to pace.
After five minutes of wearing out the floor tiles and scaring away anyone who wanted to use the lounge, JD finally arrived. Perry grabbed the collar of his scrubs shirt and dragged him inside, away from the door and away from the windows. "What the hell took you so long? I paged you five minutes ago!"
"I took a shortcut through pediatrics -- "
"Hold that thought," said Perry, pulling JD towards him and kissing him hard. JD's mouth tasted sweeter than usual. When he broke the kiss, he grinned and cuffed JD gently round the back of the head. "Newbie, have you been sneaking lollipops?"
JD grinned sheepishly. "The blue ones taste like raspberries."
"Cindy, I know it's easy, but trust me: taking candy from babies just makes you feel cheap afterwards."
"Are you speaking from personal experience?"
"Swear to God, you'd think Jack'd appreciate the important life lesson I was imparting, but no. Kid wouldn't shut up for four hours." He shook his head. "But I didn't page you here to give you lessons in etiquette."
"Was it for the kissing? Because I am totally up for that."
"No, that was just a fringe benefit. Here." He handed JD Mrs Garcia's chart. "This woman is a patient who requires the one skill you have that I don't."
"Talking civilly to people I despise. Room 165. Chop chop!"
JD nodded, spun on his heel and walked away, his eyes on the chart. Perry watched him for a bit, then shook himself. Couldn't let people think he liked the look of JD's ass, even if he did. Especially if he did.
After a moment's thought, he realised that with Mrs Garcia off his hands, he had nothing in particular to do for the next half hour. He had a lot of paperwork to catch up on, so naturally he went to the nurses' station to pester Carla.
Carla glanced up briefly from a stack of paperwork and frowned a little as Perry came striding towards her (all smiles; damn, but kissing JD made him feel like a king). "Don't you have patients?" she said, looking back down.
"No, as a matter of fact I don't. Hence my being here, talking to you." He leaned on the counter. "I swear to God, that woman in 165 has about two square inches of functioning lung left and she still won't quit smoking. Can you believe that?"
Carla smiled, still not looking at him. "Addiction is addiction, even if it kills you," she said. "A lot of people don't have the willpower to face life without a crutch."
He nodded vigorously. "Yep, that's for sure. Most people are pussies."
She raised one eyebrow. "And how much a month do you spend on scotch?"
"Well, now, that's just completely different. I am not addicted to scotch."
She looked up at him and did the ethnic-sidekick-in-a-bad-comedy-movie neck-twist. "Uh-huh?"
"I appreciate scotch. I sometimes appreciate as much as half a bottle in an evening. But that's not at all the same thing as -- "
Carla stood up suddenly and touched his face. "Oh my God, your lips are cyanotic! Are you cold? Have you been outside?"
"What?" Cyanotic? What the hell was she talking about? He looked around for a reflective surface, and spotted Laverne using a compact to spy on Nurse Tisdale as she flirted with Dr Mickhead; he grabbed it, ignoring Laverne's protests, and stuck his tongue out at it. It was tinged a very unattractive shade of blue, as were his lips. Which would normally mean hypothermia, except he was warmly dressed and felt perfectly fine; and the other possibility was some sort of circulatory problem, except he had no relevant history and no other symptoms. "That's weird," he said. putting the compact down. "Maybe I should -- "
"I don't know why you were so mad at Mrs Garcia," said JD, coming up behind him with chart in hand. "I told her if she didn't quit smoking she wouldn't live to see her granddaughter's fifth birthday party, and she burst into tears and begged for a nicotine patch. Honestly, Dr Cox, it's not that hard to be nice to people. Why are you all staring at me like that? Is there something on my face?" He tucked the chart under his armpit and scrubbed at his face with both hands. "Is it gone?"
WHOOSH! Carla looked over her shoulder. Perry followed her gaze: Laverne was gone, her chair still spinning. Carla turned to Perry, pointing first at JD's mouth, then at his. "There had better be an innocent explanation for this."
JD frowned. "For what?" He looked at Perry. "Oh, cool, we match! Oh crap."
Perry groaned softly and started banging his head against the counter. Through the dull throbbing in his head, he could faintly hear Carla talking fast to JD, asking question after high-pitched question, and JD's mumbled replies. On the fifth bang, he managed to hit the exact same spot he'd hit on the fourth bang, and this time it actually hurt. He snapped upright and clamped a hand over JD's mouth. "Yes," he said to Carla. "About a week ago. None of your business. Are you done prying into other people's private lives now?"
He let his hand slip. Carla glared at him, then at JD, whose eyes were bugging out. "You! You two are in so much trouble!" she said, wagging her finger at them both before sweeping away.
"Oh, God..." JD moaned. "How long d'you think it's going to be before she speaks to either of us again?"
"I don't know, but it'll be a lot longer if you don't go after her right now and apologise."
"Apologise? Why should I apologise? It was your idea to keep this thing secret!"
"One: She's madder at you than she is at me because she doesn't expect me to tell her stuff without having it tweezed out of me, while, by contrast, you have to make a strenuous effort not to tell the world at large about the size of your morning bowel movement. Two: As soon as she gets a chance, she's going to tell her husband -- "
"Oh, Turk knows."
"I didn't tell him! He just -- me and Turk have, like, a psychic connection or something. The only way he would not know would be if I'd spent the last week in Abu Dhabi. And even then, I kind of think he'd probably guess. I mean, if only because, if I were to leave for Abu Dhabi without any notice it'd obviously mean I had something to -- "
Perry whistled. "Let's get back to the part where you're going to apologise to Carla."
"Yeah, I should -- "
Perry gave him a little shove. "Yeah, you should." JD sighed, took a deep breath and launched himself down the corridor. "Newbie!" Perry called out before he could get out of sight; JD pivoted, stumbling slightly. "You free tonight?"
JD grinned fit to split his face open, and Perry got that just-saved-somebody's-life feeling again. "You bet!" JD called back, giving him two thumbs up before pivoting again, tripping over his own feet and landing face-down on the floor. Perry had to turn around and start walking just to hide how hard he was laughing.
As he turned a corner, he bumped into the freakishly tall janitor-with-no-name, who held his mop in front of him horizontally like a parking lot barrier and thrust a tape recorder under Perry's nose. "Rumor has it that you're having an affair with Clumsy Doctor," he said. "Would you care to confirm this? Or," he said as an afterthought, "I guess you could deny it, but I'll know you're lying. I have special powers."
Perry glared at him, grabbed the tape recorder, switched it off and tossed it over his shoulder. "No comment," he said, and the look on the janitor's face as he dropped the mop and dove for the tape recorder was almost worth the knowledge that Laverne had probably reached the entire hospital by now, up to and including the lab techs, the cafeteria staff, and that bald guy with the glasses from on-site property management. And Kelso, who would use this as yet another excuse to make Perry's life miserable.
Goddamn Newbie and his goddamn lollipops.
He licked his lips, which tasted faintly of raspberry. Still, there were compensations.
One morning, there was a gap between the time when Perry woke up and the time when the alarm went off and woke JD, and during that gap Perry couldn't help noticing how they were tangled up together like socks in a drawer. Which was odd, because he was pretty sure they went to sleep separately, maybe touching a little along their sides but not actually snuggling.
Which was what they were now doing. Snuggling. Ugh.
He started disentangling himself, carefully, not wanting to wake the kid, but the kid shifted towards him as he tried to move away. Perry couldn't find a way to get out of the ridiculous two-person knot they were snarled up in without waking JD, and he didn't want to do that, not when JD had a twelve-hour shift ahead of him. So he just lay there, grumbling silently to himself, until the alarm went off and JD stirred in his arms and mumbled something indistinct that sounded like "vanilla cream?"
(JD talked in his sleep sometimes, usually not in full sentences. He would mumble phrases like "gorilla cooties" or "lingerie party" or "burn my toast" against Perry's chest or neck or into the pillow, and when Perry was awake to hear this, it always made him vaguely curious about JD's dream life. Not actually curious enough to ask about it, of course, or even to listen when JD volunteered information. You couldn't let people tell you about their dreams, unless they were embarrassing enough to make good blackmail material.)
"Time to get up, there, Newbie," said Perry, nudging him gently. "Gotta go to work."
JD stretched his neck and shook his head like he was a dog drying off after a swim. "Morning," he said in a sleepy voice. He turned his head away, yawned, then turned back to Perry and smiled. "Good to see you," he said.
He said that every morning, and Perry couldn't figure out why. "You see me every day," he said.
JD shrugged. "It's good to see you every day," he said, and he slipped out of the tangle they were in as easily as if they hadn't been touching at all, and padded over to the bathroom.
(The bathroom now had an array of men's haircare products Perry couldn't even identify lined up on the vanity in alphabetical order; sometimes he would rearrange them, partly because he liked to mess with JD and partly as an assertion that this was still his territory even if JD kept half his stuff here and slept over more often than not. JD would just roll his eyes and put them back in order. Sometimes he'd bring it up; Perry would deny all knowledge. "Stephanie, do you honestly think I give enough of a crap about the private salon you've got set up in there to want to sabotage it? Because, honestly, that would be so far beneath me I'd have to be in a submarine to even see it.")
Perry yawned, stretched, and started to get dressed.
He gave JD a ride to work.
("Can I pick the music?"
"No! No! A thousand times no! You think I want the Backstreet Boys running through my head all day? And don't even think about singing along. I warn you, if you do, somebody's gonna get disembowelled, and I don't think they let you have sex with a guy after you've disembowelled him, so for both our sakes, keep it zipped!" )
Due to some uncharacteristic generosity on the part of a God Perry believed in only on alternate Tuesdays when the moon was waning, they hadn't seen each other much at the hospital lately, which meant they could spend time together outside of work without driving each other crazy. Still, their hours were about the same, and Perry expected that he'd meet JD at the cafeteria at lunchtime, as usual.
(They didn't eat together most days because eating with JD meant eating with JD's friends, and though Perry adored Carla and had some grudging respect for Turk and was no longer rendered homicidal by the sound of Elliot's voice and could tolerate Nervous Guy as long as he was nowhere near a living patient, the things they talked about made him feel... well... old. That is, on those rare occasions when he could relax enough in the presence of so many horribly annoying people that the others could talk at all without ending every sentence with a high-pitched "isn't that right, Dr Cox?" After the second attempt he'd given it up as a bad idea and contented himself with nodding at JD from his own table and occasionally butting in on the conversation when he overheard something juicy.)
But he didn't see JD while he was lining up for his hamburger, or while he was eating his hamburger, or while he was toying with his fruit cup, or while he was tossing bits of fruit at Nervous Guy's neck. By the time that got boring, he had resigned himself to not seeing JD until the evening, and was steeling himself to collect the results of Mr Johnson's tests. He was 99% certain the guy had testicular cancer, and that wasn't a conversation he was looking forward to.
(Actually, that was one of the reasons he was missing JD: they didn't really work together any more, not now that Perry's mentoring period was officially over and JD was supposed to be a responsible doctor without a safety net, but without really talking about it they'd come to an arrangement that meant Perry stepped in when JD needed his patients scared or intimidated, and JD stepped in when Perry needed his patients soothed or comforted. It made life easier for both of them not to have to do things they were terrible at.)
He got the results, and to his delight and surprise Mr Johnson did not have testicular cancer, or indeed anything more dangerous than some excess fluid that could be drained off as an outpatient procedure. He delivered the good news, and looked for JD so he could share it, but when he caught sight of him in the ICU, he was in the middle of dealing with a code, and Perry knew better than to interrupt him.
(JD was more self-assured in emergencies than he'd ever been; he wasn't ice-blooded like Barbie was, but he could cope pretty well on his own. It always gave Perry a twinge to think about the ways in which JD no longer needed him, and then he'd remember: JD loved him. So what if the kid could handle a patient going into arrest without Perry hanging over his shoulder telling him what to do? There was no imminent danger of him forgetting where the nookie came from.)
The rest of his patients were obligingly resilient: none of them died, none of their conditions worsened, three were well enough to be discharged, and one who was recovering from surgery actually thanked him -- him, not the surgeon; would wonders never cease? -- for saving her life.
By the end of the day, he was feeling pretty damn pleased with himself. Oh, he knew it was mostly luck, and that some day soon he'd have the shittiest of all shitty days to make up for it, but right now he was feeling like the best doctor in the world.
"You seen Newbie?" he called to Carla as he passed her station on the way to the parking lot.
"He's outside," she called to him, "waiting for you. Have a good night!"
"You bet your ass I will." He practically bounded through the door and down the ramp towards the bench where JD was sitting, ready to let loose with Hey, Barbarella, want to take a ride on the Orgasmatron?
But the words died on his lips when he got a proper look at JD: his shoulders were slumped and his face was pale, drawn, and exhausted. "Hey, Dr Cox," he said with a half-hearted wave.
Perry slowed down and came to a stop directly opposite him. "Shift's over, Newbie," he said. "See? Not wearing my coat or anything."
JD blinked and gave a wan smile. "Hey, Perry."
That's it? Perry thought. "So, uh... I saw one of your patients coded," he said, groping for a way in.
JD raised his right hand with the thumb folded back and all the fingers extended. It took Perry a moment to figure out what he meant. "Four? Four codes?" JD nodded. "Geez, that's -- that's rough. You lose any?" JD raised one finger. "Well, if you only lose one out of four, you're doing pretty well." JD nodded, his face still looking bleak.
Perry sat down beside him. "You okay?" he said softly.
"Her name was Rachel," said JD, his voice so weak it was almost inaudible. "She was doing this needlepoint thing for her kids, so they'd have something to remember her by. She was almost there. Couple more hours, she would have been done." He sighed, and looked at Perry properly for the first time. "I'm okay. I'm just tired."
Perry put his arm around JD's shoulders. JD curled his arm around Perry's waist and sagged against him, his head dropping into the crook of Perry's neck.
After a few minutes, Perry squeezed JD's shoulders and stood up. "C'mon," he said, "I'll give you a ride home."
He wasn't sure whether JD had heard him until JD pulled himself upright and took his hand. "Can I pick the music?" he said.
Perry snorted. "No," he said firmly. "And don't even think about singing along."
-- think Mr Gernsback could have a brain tumor, but I want a second opinion before I ask for an MRI, cos the new MRI guy is a total asshole, I mean, he just took against me for no reason from the first time he laid eyes on me, and, well, between the janitor and the MRI guy and that oncology nurse with the red hair, I seem to have kind of a curse on me when it comes to being hated by people working in this hospital, so if you could just back me up --
-- then, of course, there was that one time in soccer camp, but that was weird because I didn't really figure it out at the time, I mean at the time it just seem like a sort of intense friendship, and that's normal at camp, right? Only, with hindsight, I can't help wondering if we --
-- soap powder do you use, cos I think I'm developing an allergy to it, have you seen this? It's really itchy. Do you have any talc? Does that look like a topical allergy to you? That was my first guess, but it could be an infection. Maybe I should see a dermatologist --
Sometimes, Perry kisses JD just to shut him the hell up.
Oh, Perry, oh Jesus, fuck, yeah, like that, like that, ohh, that's so good, that's so -- oh, I love you, I love you, I love you --
Sometimes, he doesn't.
Three days after her arrival at Sacred Heart, the new blonde intern started hanging around when JD was in the room. Casting curious glances in his direction. Asking him questions when there were other doctors closer and better qualified. Not just asking, either: batting her eyelashes and twirling her hair around her finger and staring up at him worshipfully. Not so much as to seem stupid, because this girl was smart enough to see that JD wouldn't go for that, but enough to seem eager and attentive and willing to do just about anything to please this wonderful, attractive, smart, funny, compassionate young doctor with the pale skin and the coiffed hair and the big doe eyes.
Dr Cox made a note of her presence.
On the fourth day, she accidentally bumped into JD in the cafeteria. Orange juice was spilled, chests were wiped in a panic, babbled apologies were exchanged. Elliot rolled her eyes. The Todd made a lewd remark.
Dr Cox frowned over his pudding.
On the fifth day, she made a stupid, elementary mistake of the kind that every intern makes at least once and JD had made three times in his first year. Nobody died or was permanently injured or scarred, yet she seemed strangely traumatized by the affair, so much so that she collapsed, weeping, into JD's arms, leaving him no choice but to pat her back and make the appropriate soothing noises while her tears left a damp patch on his shoulder.
Dr Cox growled a semi-articulate rant about the goddamn new kid wet behind the ears fainting at the sight of blood and making the entire hospital grind to a halt because she'd broken a nail.
On the sixth day, she showed up at the nurses' station after her shift had ended, looking attractively bored. She made desultory conversation with Carla and Laverne until JD came along, at which point she perked up and started talking about something that involved a lot of smiling and gesturing and grabbing hold of JD's arms, and occasional girlish head-tilts. The Todd interjected with some comment that made Carla wrinkle her nose and Turk snigger behind his hand, and the new intern's comeback made JD laugh and do a little dance. The intern grabbed him again and they waltzed a few steps around the hall before JD got a page and broke away, apologizing profusely. The intern gazed after him with an expression somewhere between a lovesick puppy and a starving wolf.
Dr Cox shut his patient up with a curt "Fine, die of kidney failure, see if I care," and strode over to the intern, snapping his fingers under her nose. "Hey, blondie! Yes, I'm talking to you."
"Oh, Dr Cox! Can I help you? I was just -- "
"Listen up," he muttered, steering her over into a slightly less public corner, "you're new here and you don't know the drill yet, so I'm gonna cut you some slack and not eviscerate you on the spot, but here's something you'd better learn if you want to get out of this place alive: Dr John Dorian, also known as 'JD', also known as 'Bambi', also known as 'Newbie', also known as 'irritating pest', is taken. By which I mean 'spoken for'. By which I mean: not. Yours. No. Not even close. Not in your wildest dreams. Not even if you pray every night for a hundred years. Not even with the aid of pheromone-laced perfume. You will get a pony, world peace, and the ability to laugh without making dogs howl in agony before you come within sniper range of getting into that boy's pants."
"But I -- "
He held up a hand. "Did I say you could speak? Did I? -- Now, for future reference this means: no sex, no kissing, no groping, no touching, no flirting, no accidentally grazing his arm with your boobs, no playful butt-slaps, no brushing up against him in the cafeteria line, no writing your name as 'Mrs John Dorian' in the margins of your lecture notes, no dancing, no heartfelt dedicating of ballads on Karaoke Night, no sending him flowers, chocolates, or miscellaneous mystery gifts, no cute nicknames, no flashing, and no looking at him like you have a hope in hell of getting him, because, O bah-londest of blondes, ya don't. Clear?"
"Um, Dr Cox, I -- "
"And while we're on the subject, what the hell do you think you're doing? Is this what you spent all those years in med school for? Good God, woman, grow up! This hospital is not your dating agency. If you're not here to make a sick person better, you're in somebody else's way -- probably mine. So knock it off!"
There was a throat-clearing sound from behind him. Dr Cox turned around to find JD and Carla beaming at him. Well, JD was beaming. Carla just looked smug.
"Twenty bucks, Bambi," she said. JD, still beaming, handed her the bill, which she tucked into her back pocket before sauntering away with an offensively pleased expression.
Dr Cox tried to say something, but a circuit in his brain had fused and all that came out was a huff of air that sounded like "Whuh?"
The blonde intern cleared her throat, and JD handed her a bill that looked like a fifty. "Thanks, Lisa!" he said as she scurried away, grinning and tucking her hair behind her ears. "That's Lisa," he said when she was gone. "She used to be a drama major."
Dr Cox found his voice. "How did you lose that bet?" he said.
JD scratched the back of his head. "I was kinda thinking you'd crack after two days," he confessed.
Dr Cox shook his head. "Sally-Anne, you're going to pay for this. You're going to pay big."
"Oh, I know," said JD. "But it was totally worth it."