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The Hand that Breaks the Fall

Chapter Text

 


Doctor David Washington, known to his friends as “Wash”, was fairly certain that Blood Gulch Hospital and Medical Clinic might actually be the worst hospital ever. Of all time.

The building he found himself approaching was old and badly in need of repairs. Wash wasn’t sure it had ever been in good condition, but now it looked like it had survived a war or two. Or, he amended as he drew closer, a few decades of urban living.

It was faded yellow brick that was crumbling in places. The parking lot was littered in pot holes, and there was a large circle painted in the center with an H in the middle, indicating that it also served as the hospital’s helipad, which Wash knew they probably used to send urgent cases to larger, more capable hospitals.

Wash felt overdressed as he walked through the back door, using the doctors’ entrance instead of the one the general public used. He’d worn normal office wear—grey collared shirt, charcoal slacks, and a yellow tie which he’d grabbed by accident instead of a more formal one, and hadn’t realized his mistake until he’d glanced at his reflection in the rearview mirror, halfway to the hospital.

Carolina was waiting for him on the other side of the door, a clipboard tucked under one arm. She wore a lab coat over a turtleneck in her favorite shade of aqua and black dress pants. The sight of her was almost enough to make Wash think he was at the Medical Observation Institute again.

But there were changes; she’d cut her hair since he’d last seen her, cropping it to a sharp pixie cut that drew attention away from the lines that had started to form on her forehead and around her eyes. But the smile she greeted him with was familiar and comforting, and Wash breathed out slightly upon seeing it.

For the first time since accepting the job in a fit of desperation, he realized that this might work out alright.

“Wash,” she said warmly. She looked younger when she smiled, less worn down.

“Boss,” he said, the old nickname slipping out unthinkingly. But it didn’t matter, because it was still true here, just like it had been at the MOI. The role of Chief of Staff seemed to suit Carolina, although the lack of stethoscope around her neck bothered Wash. It wasn’t right.

She reached out and grabbed his hand. Her grip was firm was ever, even though it wasn’t quite a handshake.

“Thanks for this,” she said.

“I should be the one thanking you,” Wash said, offering his own approximation of a smile. “Not exactly a lot of offers after the MOI.”

Carolina’s lips thinned as her smile faded. It was then that Wash spotted the circles and bags under her eyes, and realized that maybe Carolina hadn’t gotten out of the whole mess as easily as he’d assumed before. “I know. But I still appreciate it. Blood Gulch is…”

“Difficult?” Wash offered helpfully.

Carolina nodded, the vaguest memory of her earlier smile on her face. “There are good people here,” she told him. “But…” she trailed off, as if unsure how to explain. “Well. I’ll let you see for yourself.” She pointed to her right, down the hallway. “You should get going. Your office has your name on it, the head nurse should have picked out one of the nurses to help you through the first few days before you can figure out who you want to work with long term.”

“Where’s the nurse’s station?” Wash asked.

“Oh, you can’t miss it,” Carolina said briskly. “I’ve got meetings,” she added, nodding to him. “So I’m going to have to let you figure out this part yourself, but if you need anything, just let me know. My office is always open.” She held out her hand, and they shook again, before she walked in the opposite direction she’d pointed him down.

Wash slowly turned away, making his way down the hallway towards the clinic.

He glanced down at the carpet on the floor, and wrinkled his nose at the sight of it. It was clean, he’d give it that, but it was ancient, and the color of vomit.

“You really should look up when you walk!” A voice made Wash look up with a jerk, and he stared at a man in a bright purple jumpsuit, leaning against a vacuum cleaner while looking at Wash with a curious expression. “You’re going to run into somebody!”

Wash’s expression was blank. “I only looked down for a second!”

“Uh-huh,” the man gave him a skeptical look. “I guess you’re the new doctor?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, you better get going!” The man bent over to plug in the vacuum he’d been leaning against. “Going to be a busy day!”

Wash gave the man an odd look, and then carefully made his way down the hallway, until it turned sharply right and he lost sight of the strange janitor.

As soon as he turned the corner, he was nearly bowled over by a speeding nurse in teal scrubs.

Tucker!” A voice yelled, high and shrill and furious.

“Suck my dick, Church!” The nurse yelled, shoving Wash off him without a thought and barreling down the hallway.

“You’re dead, Tucker!” Wash followed the voice to its source, and saw a skinny, pointy-faced man with dark hair and familiarly green eyes.

“Nurse Church?” He said, straightening his clothes, ignoring the sound of laughter as the nurse fled the scene.

“Who’s asking—oh.” The man, who could only be Carolina’s rarely-mentioned brother, Leonard, scowled ferociously. “You’re Doctor Washington.”

“That’s right,” Wash said calmly. He glanced down the hallway, where the odd janitor and Nurse Tucker had disappeared. “What was that about?”

Church shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. Wash thought he saw something familiar in that movement, something that reminded him of Carolina. “Nothing. Just an old argument.”

There was a long, awkward pause. Finally, Church reached behind him to the nurses’ station, and grabbed the arm of a large, pretty nurse in yellow scrubs with bright blue flowers in her hair. “Kai! Show the new guy to his office, will you? I’ve got to deal with Caboose right now.”

Wash crossed his arms. “Carolina said you’d be assigning me a nurse?”

Kai glared at him, then grabbed Church’s arm. “You can’t assign me to him!” She protested. “I only just got my doc broken in the way I like her!”

“Wait, what?” Wash said.

“It’s fine, Kai,” Church said, a smirk on his face. “I’m sure Tucker will be perfectly happy to look after Doctor Washington.”

Kai let out a loud laugh. “Mean,” she said. Then she vaguely waved at Wash. “C’mon. I’ll show you to the office.”

The office was more of a closet, although it did have a single window that looked out onto the fabulous view of the parking lot. A desk was shoved against the wall, barely giving Wash enough room to walk around it. Behind it was an ancient swivel chair that looked on the verge of falling to pieces, while the computer resting on it had seen better days and many, many processing systems. There was a plaque on the door, over which a piece of lined notebook paper had been taped, with Wash’s name written on it in permanent marker. He couldn’t tell whose name was beneath it.

Wash glanced around. The walls were a blank, boring shade of white. There was an empty bulletin board on the wall beside the desk, and a shelf above that, clearly meant to be filled with knick-knacks and medical journals.

Kai leaned against the wall, and it was then that Wash realized that she was chewing bubblegum. He glanced at her, taking a better look. Her scrubs were bright, neon yellow and unpatterned. The name patch on her chest read “Kaikiana Grif”. She examined him critically as Wash quickly yanked his eyes off her chest before it seemed like he was ogling.

“You don’t look like a doctor,” she said, suddenly.

Wash frowned. It had been a while since he’d heard that—it had been a favorite joke, once upon a time, that he looked more like an intern than a doctor. But these days, with the grey creeping into his hair and the bags that had taken up permanent residence under his eyes, it was less common.

“I—” Wash began, confused.

“You’re some sort of secret agent, aren’t you?” She finished.

Wash stared at her, now utterly bewildered. “I—what?”

“Definitely a secret agent,” Kai said to herself, nodding and blowing a large bubble, which she then popped pointedly.

“That doesn’t even make sense!” Wash said.

“Of course it does,” she said. “You don’t even have your stethoscope! Forgot your basic tools on your first day, huh?”

“I’m not—I don’t even have a shift today!” Wash said. “I’m supposed to just get the tour!”

Sure,” she said, and Wash suddenly remembered Carolina’s warning.

He was here to stay, he reminded himself, and turned away from Kai. There were empty frames on the wall behind him, clearly meant to hold his diplomas. He checked the drawers, finding only a large stash of peppermints, an ancient dictaphone, and a handful of broken pencils.

“This used to be Tex’s office,” Kai said. “But then, I guess you know all about that, wouldn’t you? Mister Secret Agent Man.” And then she was gone, and Wash was left alone in a dark, empty office.

It wasn’t long before another nurse ambled in, this one tall, dark haired, and wearing navy scrubs patterned with barking dogs. His name tag identified him as Michael J. Caboose, and he gave Wash the widest smile he’d seen in a very long time.

“Doctor Washingtub?” The man asked. “I am Nurse Caboose! Church said that you should come back to the station right away! It is very important!”

Wash quietly shut the drawer he’d been examining and followed Caboose back to the nurses’ station.

“Yeah, well, tell Doctor Flowers we’ll get those charts to him ASAP,” Church was saying into a phone. “Don’t worry about it.” There was a pause. “Cee,” he said, irritated. “I’ve got things, okay? I’ve been doing this shit for years before you showed up and started micromanaging things.”

He slammed the phone down into its cradle, and then looked up at Wash. “Great,” he said. “You’re here.” He shoved a badge at him. “Here, don’t lose it. We’d get a doctor to show you around, but everyone’s off or on-call, so you’re stuck with us lowly nurses.”

Church grabbed the nurse from earlier, and dragged him towards Wash. “Tucker,” Church said, looking way too smug. “Meet your new Doctor, David Washington. Doctor Washington, this is Nurse Tucker. I’m sure you’ll get along great.”

Wash turned his attention to Tucker, examining him carefully. His scrubs were aqua, patterned with… roosters? Wash blinked, surprised by the whimsy of them. The man was shorter than Wash, with thick dreads gathered up into a ponytail and a name patch which identified him as Lavernius Tucker.

Tucker, meanwhile, seemed to have made his own assessment, and was less than pleased with what he’d seen. “Seriously dude?” He demanded, one hand going up to cover the shirt pocket of his scrubs, where Wash could see the distinctive bulge of a phone. “This is petty, even for you.”

“Shut up, Tucker, and show him around,” Church said, still looking unreasonably pleased with himself.

Wash frowned. He wasn’t the type to get his feelings hurt easily, but the way they were acting… why was being associated with a new doctor such a bad thing?

Tucker turned to Wash with a sigh. “Great. Alright then! Welcome to Blood Gulch Medical Clinic. Where’d they stick you, Tex’s old office?”

“That’s what Nurse Grif said,” Wash replied.

Tucker made a face. “If you call her that you’ll never see a cup of coffee ever again,” he warned. “Call her Kai. Or Sister.”

Wash blinked. “Sister?”

“Long story,” Tucker waved him off. “Anyways, call me Tucker. I guess we’re stuck with each other until you nab another nurse.”

“Are there so many of you that are unassigned?” Wash asked, curious.

“There’s not a lot of consistency,” Tucker said with a shrug. “Right now, for fulltime doctors, there’s you, there’s Flowers, there’s Miller, and then there’s Vera. Plus Andy, but Andy’s a PA, not a doctor. We’re hiring another full-timer soon, but she’s not going to be here for a while yet.”

Wash frowned. “That’s… not a lot,” he said cautiously.

“Nope!” Tucker said. “And it makes call hell, believe me.”

Wash flinched. Carolina had warned him he’d be spending a lot of time in the ER, but sharing it with only three others? Wash could feel his sleep schedule beginning to despair already, and it hadn’t been that good to begin with.

“Does… Andy take call?” Wash asked hopefully. Sharing with four others was a lot better than sharing it with three.

“Yeah,” Tucker said. “Plus we sometimes borrow docs from the local free clinics if things get too desperate over here. We used to get freelancers from that fancy medical research institute uptown, but they’re all gone now.”

Wash carefully didn’t react. “Where’d this Tex go?” He asked. “If she had an office, she was fulltime, right?”

“Well, sort of,” Tucker said. “She was one of those freelancers I mentioned; she picked up shifts here and there, but then she moved here full time after a while. Was here for like a year before something happened. Don’t know what. She’s cashing in on like five years of leave right now. We’re not sure if she’s coming back. She was head of surgery. Now Flowers is running the show, but it’s hard for him, being a GP and operating as a surgeon.”

Wash could have a lot of questions after that explanation. Why would someone certified as a surgeon also work as a GP? Why had Carolina let their head of surgery escape without leaving a definitive return timeline? Why would anyone ever willingly move to Blood Gulch full time when they had another option?

What he asked instead was. “Why did a surgeon have an office in the clinic?” He demanded.

Tucker grinned suddenly. “Cuz she and Church were—”

Tucker!” Church yelled, alerting Wash to the fact that their progress had completely halted. Church’s ears were pink, obviously having overheard Tucker’s words, and having a better idea of what Tucker had been going to say than Wash did. (Although he could probably place a few bets.) “Get moving!”

Tucker flipped Church off. “I’m going, I’m going.” He glanced at the nearby clock on the wall. “We better do this quickly,” he told Wash. “Junior gets out of basketball at 5:30, and I can’t be late.”

“Junior?” Wash said, as they started back down the hallway he’d arrived by. There was no sign of the janitor.

“My kid,” Tucker shrugged. “Now c’mon, I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping on an all-too regular basis.”

Chapter Text

It was Wash’s first official day working at Blood Gulch, and he was already on call.

Wash gave Carolina a betrayed look over the clipboard she was holding. “Why?” He asked, feeling exhausted, even though he hadn’t even started yet.

“It’ll be good for you. Let you get to know the ER staff,” she said. Her mouth was quirking slightly as she said it. “Besides, Vera’s girlfriend was in a car accident yesterday, so you’re covering her shift. I’ll make sure you don’t have on next week. Go talk to Sheila, she’ll help you get set up.”

Sheila, as it turned out, was the clinic’s receptionist, a woman in a wheelchair with a deliberately pleasant smile and a just as pleasant, even voice. Something about her was aggravatingly familiar to Wash, but he couldn’t place where he’d seen her before.

“Nurse Donut will talk you through your first shift,” she said. “Do be careful, Doctor Washington!” I would hate to hear we’ve had a disaster on your first shift!” She smiled at him.

“Donut?” Wash asked, feeling like the ground was tilting beneath him. He wondered if this was a normal feeling for Blood Gulch.

“That’s correct! Is there a problem?” She raised one eyebrow. Wash suddenly felt like he was back in the principal’s office.

“No!” Wash said quickly. “I’ll… go to my office.”

As if he’d flipped a switch, Sheila went back to her computer and phones. “Have a wonderful day, Doctor Washington!” She said. Wash couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity, but he kept going anyways.

He ducked out of the waiting room, back into the clinic, making his way back to his office, which was still distinguished as his only by the piece of notebook paper on the door.

“On-call already tonight, huh?” Tucker said sympathetically, handing Wash a cup of coffee. “You realize you’re going to give yourself diabetes, right?” He added conversationally as Wash dumped several packets of sugar into it before beginning to drink desperately.

“I haven’t even met the ER staff yet,” Wash muttered.

“The Reds?” Tucker snickered. “Oh man, you’re in for a treat.”

Wash stared at his nurse, suspicious. Tucker was wearing his hair down today, his dreads falling over his shoulders, while his teal scrubs were patterned with anatomically inaccurate femurs. “What’s so funny?”

“It’s just a stupid rivalry,” Tucker said, waving his hand. “They started it.”

“Rivalry?” Wash repeated.

“The ER nurses and the clinic nurses. Red versus Blue. It’s no big deal, really.” But Tucker was grinning in a way that indicated otherwise.

Wash stared at Tucker, and then turned his attention back to his coffee. He wasn’t awake enough for this. He began to drink, while checking his schedule with his other hand.

Call started at six, but he had a normal schedule before that. Normally, he knew, he’d have the day off before call started, but today wasn’t normal.

“This is going to be a long day,” Wash muttered.

“Welcome to medicine,” Tucker said, grinning. “What do you want for lunch? I can make a run if you don’t want to eat in the employee cafeteria.”

“I’ll make do,” Wash muttered. “I packed.”

“Smart,” Tucker said cheerfully. “That stuff is toxic.” With that, Tucker went off to the waiting room to grab Wash’s first patient at his new hospital.

“You didn’t pack a lunch,” the man from yesterday said. He was wearing a garish purple jumpsuit again. Despite the carpet that covered the entire floor of the clinic, the man was carrying a mop.

Wash stared at him. “How do you know that?”

“Saw you when you came in,” the man said cheerfully. Wash spotted a nametag that identified him as “Doc”. He squinted. The man was clearly a custodian, not a doctor. “You didn’t have a bag.”

“It’s really none of your business,” Wash said.

“If you say so!” Doc said. “Just be careful! Things always get tricky when you start messing with Red and Blue!”

“What, you get purple?”

But the man was already gone.

Wash glanced at his coffee. “What the fuck is Red versus Blue?”


The floor of the ER had been polished until it was precariously slippery. Wash had to grab the door frame (red) to prevent himself from crashing face first onto the (red) tiles, and then leaned back against the (red) door and stared at the (red) wall next to him, wondering who was the interior decorated of the ER, and if it would be possible for him to punch them.

Forcing himself to look away from the eye sore that was the walls, ceiling, floor, and doorway, he glanced around, looking for a (red) desk or something where he could go for assistance. 

A nurse in shockingly pink scrubs descended on him, beaming widely. “You must be Doctor Wash! So glad you could join us!”

The man was tall, with neatly coifed hair. When he came around to face Wash fully, Wash could see a huge, but old, burn scar covering almost the entire side of his face, the skin slightly shiny and raised. Wash had seen worse, but they were usually patients Maine had been referring for skin grafts. Wash’s stomach churned slightly.

“I’m Nurse Franklin Delano Donut!” The man continued, either not noticing Wash’s blatant staring or being too polite to call him out. “Welcome to the ER! I’m a Primary Nurse, I’ll be helping you ease into this! Can’t just thrust in all at once!”

Wash blinked at the unusual phrasing. “You mean, “rush”?”

Donut gave him an odd look.

“Donut!” A loud voice echoed through the hall. Southern accented and gruff, Wash thought for a panicked moment that the Director was here.

But then a man with salt and pepper hair came charging down the corridor at full speed, uninhibited by the slipperiness of the tiles, and Wash relaxed. The man was too short, too broad, too… much to be the Director. He wore nurse’s scrubs in a bright, solid red that matched the ceiling. He wore, instead of sturdy, simple black shoes that Wash had seen most nurses wear during his tenure as a doctor, red crocs. He didn’t have a nametag, and he turned to Wash, bushy eyebrows furrowing. “You the new doctor?” The man demanded.

“Yes. David Washington,” Wash introduced himself, holding out his hand.

“Call me Sarge,” the man grunted, grabbing Wash’s hand and giving it a brief shake before dropping it. “I’m Charge Nurse in these parts. Now!” He clapped his hands together. “The lounge is over there, feel free to sleep there while you wait to get called, the caf is open until nine, so if you want to eat, I say do it soon! And here’s your pager, make sure you keep it on at all times!” He shoved something square and plastic into Wash’s hands.

“A pager?” Wash stared at the piece of ancient technology. He hadn’t seen one of these since…

“What’s the matter? You hard of hearing, boy?” Sarge demanded. “’Cuz I’m not sure if our translator knows ASL, and I don’t have a whiteboard! So I’d have to get paint and write on the walls, if you’re gonna need me to be repeating myself!”

“Gee Sarge!” Donut said. “That’s some dedication to accessibility! I’m impressed!”

“Why thank you, Donut!” Sarge replied, puffing out his chest. “I’ve been trying to learn from all of those seminar-whatsits that Doctor Carolina’s been makin’ us attend!”

“Ooh, ooh! I loved the one about—”

“I can hear just fine,” Wash interrupted, cutting Donut off. He could feel a headache beginning to build in his temples. Carolina had not been exaggerating, it seemed.

“Well, good!” Sarge said, sufficiently distracted. “Now, I need to go check on our heart attackee in Room 14, so Donut will give you the rest of the rundown.”

The man walked away, whistling what sounded like polka music as he went.

“A pager?” Wash muttered again, turning it over in his hands. It was old, definitely at least second hand. The corners had once been sharp edges, but they’d been battered so many times that they were curved. At least the tiny screen displaying the numbers still worked.

“We tried updating to text alerts,” Donut said by way of explanation. “But they came out all jumped and strange!”

Wash groaned, clipping the black plastic square to his belt. “Couldn’t you get your IT department to fix it?”

Donut laughed. “Don’t be silly, Wash! We don’t have IT! We’ve got Simmons! And sometimes Lopez!”

Wash ran his hands through his hair. “No IT. Pagers. What’s next.”

Fire,” a man in a brown suit muttered in Spanish as he walked past them. “Give it six hours, new kid.

“Don’t worry Lopez! I’m explaining things! In explicit detail!” Donut reassured the man. “That’s Lopez!” He added to Wash. “He’s our x-ray technician! And our CAT scan technician! And our MRI technician! And our—”

“I get it,” Wash interrupted.

“He only speaks Spanish,” Donut continued. “But that’s okay! All the manuals are in Spanish anyways.”

Wash stared at him. “That doesn’t—why?”

Donut shrugged. “No one’s really sure! It’s always been that way!”

“How many people here even speak Spanish?” Wash asked.

“Just me and Lopez!”

Wash’s headache had fully blossomed now. And his pager began to buzz.

Donut gave him a dazzling movie-star grin and threw his arm over Wash’s shoulders. To Wash’s surprise, Donut’s scrubs didn’t seem to be made of the typical polyester. Instead, they were soft and smooth, the kind of fabric that Wash suspected was dry-clean-only. “Your first page! You never forget your first time!”

Wash only just managed to prevent himself from hitting his head against the nearest (red) wall.

Suddenly, the nearby doors burst open and a skinny man and a fat man wheeled someone in on a gurney. “Code red!” The skinny one yelled.

“I’m pretty sure all codes are red in this ER,” the fat one snapped, but he was keeping pace.

“There it is!” Donut said, inappropriately cheerful. Then he ran forward, following the EMTs into the depths of the ER. “What’s the blood pressure? What’ve we got?”

Wash forced himself to refocus. This wasn’t the MOI. This wasn’t his first time in an ER. He could handle this. He was a professional.

He chased after the gurney.


“You’re the new guy, right?”

Wash was currently staring at the wall, contemplating his mistake in not bringing a lunch, and started at being addressed.

It was the fat EMT, a sandwich in one hand and a can of red bull in the other. He raised his can as if in a toast.

“Welcome to hell.”

“Yes,” Wash said, adjusting his stethoscope. “I’m new here.” He didn’t address the second part of the EMT’s greeting.

“Grif!” The skinny one hissed, grabbing his elbow. “We’re not supposed to bother the doctors, remember?”

“Wait, he’s a doctor?” Wash bristled under the question. He was getting tired of being asked that question. He’d really thought he’d left that behind.

“Yes,” he said. “I started this week.”

This time, the skinny one stared. “Wait. You’re full time?”

“Yes?”

The two of them looked at each other. “Well damn, the one named Grif said. “Guess Tex really isn’t coming back, Simmons.”

“What?” Wash asked, thrown off guard. Who the hell was this woman, that everyone in the hospital was bringing her up constantly?

“This is weird,” Simmons agreed. “I really thought she’d be back by now.”

“I’m not a surgeon,” Wash pointed out, irritated. “I’m a GP.”

They gave him a pitying look. “You moved into her office though, didn’t you?” Grif asked, as if the answer should be obvious.

“I’m just surprised we haven’t heard Donut yelling about it over the past few days,” Simmons said, again addressing Grif and ignoring Wash.

“Well Simmons,” Wash flinched as a pink man suddenly appeared in his line of vision. “You know I sure am a screamer!”

The two of them let out a groan, while Wash stared at Donut, bewildered.

“Where did you come from?”

“A gentleman doesn’t tell, Wash!” Donut said, grinning brightly. His smile looked like it belonged in a dental commercial. Wash hadn’t seen teeth that white ever.

“Why are you like this?” Simmons whispered.

“You three! Why are you lazing around? Grif! You’re supposed to be preparing for your training course this afternoon! Simmons! You’re not supposed to be bothering the new doctor! Donut! You’re off shift! I expect you to… do whatever it is you do in your free time! Not hang around here!” Sarge blustered, and Wash closed his eyes, trying to tune out the arguing that was already breaking out.

“It’s just a first day thing.” He promised himself. “It won’t always be like this.”

Chapter Text

One of the stranger quirks of Blood Gulch, Wash learned, was that the city large enough to not just support the main clinic and hospital, but also two free clinics. And, because of some sort of strange clause in his contract, Wash was obligated to spend one day a month working at one of them.

Wash selected the FAC—Free Aid Clinic—because it was closer to his apartment, in all honesty. He didn’t bother reading mission statements or histories, just glanced at the map and figured which one would be less of a hassle to commute to.

The FAC turned out to be a converted office building. The equipment was in better condition than he’d expected. Actually… in general, the place was nicer than Wash would have expected. It was clean, well-organized, and busy.

“Ah, you must be Doctor Washington,” a man wearing a well-pressed gold shirt and dark slacks shook his hand, beaming at him. His accent was British, his hair was neatly combed, and a pair of thick-rimmed glasses perched precariously on his nose, threatening to fall off. A clipboard was tucked under his arm. “It’s so wonderful to meet you, we were thrilled when Doctor Carolina told us you were coming over.”

Wash wondered about her being “Doctor Carolina” instead of “Doctor Church”.

“Nice to meet you, Doctor—?” Wash asked, noting the man was still holding his hand.

“Oh dear me, no!” The man dropped Wash’s hand like it had burned him. “I’m not a doctor! I’m the organizer, manager, fundraiser, secretary, spokesperson, whatever have you. I’m afraid I… don’t have much tolerance for blood.” He shuddered.

Wash frowned. “Well, pleased to meet you—?”

“Doyle!” Finding his courage, the man seized Wash’s hand and pumped it up and down again. “Donald Doyle, pleased as punch to make your acquaintance and to have you join us here at the Free Aid Clinic! I’ll go get one of our nurse volunteers and have you set up as soon as possible!”

“Thank you, ah… Doyle.”

“Nurse! Nurse!” Doyle turned around and started trying to wave down someone who Wash couldn’t see. “Oh, there you are. Would you be so kind…?”

“Of course!” A hauntingly familiar voice said. Wash flinched. “I’m always happy to escort a strapping man like Wash into a small space!”

Wash stared at the ceiling, refusing to look at the man who he knew was by his side, beaming. “Why me?”

“What was that, Doctor Washington?” Doyle asked, sounding concerned.

“Nothing,” Wash sighed. “Nothing at all.”

“Wash!” Donut said. He was wearing the same vibrantly pink shade of scrubs he’d worn the last three times Wash had been on call. “Welcome to the Fack!”

Wash stared at him. “The fack?”

“You know,” Donut said, tipping his head to one side. “The Free Aid Clinic?”

“…you mean the FAC?”

“Yeah! The fack!”

Wash rubbed his temples, feeling his old headache beginning to resume in full force.

“Why are you here? I didn’t think the nurses had to volunteer.” Surely their union—they had to be unionized, right? Sarge struck him as a union organizer—would have held out for that much.

“Oh, we don’t!” Donut said. “But they always need an extra pair of hands! And I’m pretty darn good with mine!”

Wash took a moment to process those words, and then did his best not to flush. It was stupid. He shouldn’t be so easily affected by a few innuendos, but the man had a gift.

“Do the others volunteer?” Wash demanded.

“Oh yeah! Sarge is here too! And Lopez comes in once a week!”

Wash stared. “Lopez. The tech?”

“Yep!”

“What does he do at a free clinic?”

“Why, he fixes the machines of course!” Donut said, propping his hands on his hips. “Now c’mon! Let’s get you in position!”

“You really don’t have to phrase it like that,” Wash said, but Donut seemed to be unable to hear him. Instead, he grabbed Wash by the arm and pulled him along through the winding hallways of the FAC. It was pretty depressing, honestly. The walls were painted a blank white, with a few simple pictures hanging at regular intervals, but they were usually just the default pictures that came with the frames.

Wash thought about Blood Gulch, with its bright red ER and its clinic walls covered in crayon drawings, helpfully supplied by the joint forces of Caboose and Tucker’s son Junior, and compared it to this place.

A thought slipped into his head, very much unwelcome. Even the MOI hadn’t been quite this sterile or boring as the FAC.

He shoved aside that thought even as it entered his mind. The MOI wasn’t important right now. He just had to focus on making it through this shift. With Donut as his primary nurse.

Wash spent a moment thinking longingly of Tucker, which was stupid, because Donut was just as competent as Tucker, from what Wash had been able to gleam from his time in the ER. But Wash knew what to expect with Tucker.

Inside the room that Donut lead them into—white, with beige accents—was one of the largest men Wash had ever seen.

“Locus!” Donut greeted, suddenly tense. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard we had acquired a new doctor,” the man said, taking a step towards Wash. Donut moved between them, still grinning, despite the hostility coming off him in waves. Wash hadn’t even known that Donut was capable of hostility.

 Wash did have to admit though, he was uncomfortable at the way Locus said acquired.

“We did,” Donut said. “And we’ve already got a very full schedule, so you really should be going, don’t you think?”

Locus tilted his head, looking at Wash. Wash suppressed a shiver, not liking it one bit. Locus was tall and broad, with thick, dark hair that was longer than most hospitals would let their doctors wear it. Although… Wash realized he wasn’t wearing scrubs or a stethoscope. He might not be a doctor. Locus’s gaze was intense, his eyes still having not left Wash’s face. He didn’t like it.

“Curious,” Locus said, after a very long time. “I expect I will be seeing you, Doctor Washington.” He then left the room, and Wash felt like he could breathe again.

“Who was that?” Wash demanded.

Normally cheerful, Donut looked oddly serious. “He’s trouble, that’s what he is,” Donut said, crossing his arms. “We’ve been trying to tell Doyle for ages, but we can’t afford…”

“Donut,” Wash said, trying to be patient. “Who. Was. That.”

The look Donut gave him strongly resembled that of a kicked puppy and Wash rolled his eyes.

Donut.”

He sighed, uncrossing his arms. “He’s… a donor, I guess. But he also helps around. Paperwork, mostly. Machine warranties, that sort of thing. But I don’t trust him! And neither does Sarge! He leaned in, glancing around before whispering, conspiratorially. “We think he works for the mob. He says he’s a lawyer, but we don’t believe him.”

Wash closed his eyes and counted to ten, carefully deleting the last part from his memory. Grif had recommended it as a coping method of dealing with Donut, and Wash found it to be pretty effective.

“He’s a donor? Why did he want to meet me?”

Donut shrugged. “He likes meeting the new doctors. We don’t know why.”

Wash glanced at the door, wondering if Locus was lurking behind it. Which was ridiculous, because there was no way a grown man would do that in the real world.

“Right,” he said. “Let’s get this going then.”

“Sure thing, Wash!” Donut said, good mood suddenly back. “Time to get bent and get into it!” He threw open the door and left.

 “You can do this,” Wash told himself. “You can do this. It’s no different than Blood Gulch.”

“You know, talking to yourself is a sign of insanity.”

Wash practically jumped out of his skin, realizing that the man in the purple jumpsuit was there.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I volunteer here!” Doc said, waving his mop. “Hygiene is very important for medicine!”

Wash glanced around, trying to see some indication that this was, indeed, reality. “You just happen to volunteer here?”

Doc smiled at him. “C’mon Wash,” he cajoled. “Don’t you think that’s a bit paranoid?”

Wash gaped, indignant, before the man laughed.

“Alright, I’ll get going. Be seeing you!”

“Wait—” Wash lunged forward, but by the time he wrenched the door open, the hallways were empty except Donut, who was escorting someone in.

“Did you see him?” Wash demanded of Donut quietly, while the patient sat down.

“See who?”

“The janitor,” Wash hissed.

Donut stared at him. “We don’t have a janitor, Wash.”

Wash stared back.

Shit.

“I… alright then,” Wash said, feeling faint for a second before turning his attention to the patient. “So,” he said. “What can I help you with today?”


“Can’t believe you sided with fack,” Tucker said, the moment Wash turned up at work.

“It’s not pronounced fack!” Wash said, collapsing onto his desk chair dramatically. He slammed the power button on his computer with more force than necessary.

“Yeah it is, Wash, just accept it. You picked the wrong side, dude. Doyle’s okay and all, but Kimball’s a badass lady. And the New Republic Clinic does a lot more for people.” Tucker was wearing glasses that day, and Wash couldn’t help but think that he looked good with them. His dreads were in a ponytail again, held in place with a teal elastic band. Today, his scrubs were patterned with cartoon heart. Wash rolled his eyes, resigning himself that he would never understand why Tucker wore the things he wore.

“What, and you volunteer there?” Wash said.

“When I can,” Tucker said. “It’s not as often as it used to be, because of my night classes, but I still help out, especially during crunch time.”

“The FAC helps people, Tucker,” Wash said. “It’s a good organization, based on philanthropic principles—”

Tucker snorted. “Yeah, and they steal all the New Republic’s funding! But whatever. Here’s your coffee.” He placed the takeaway cup on the desk.

Wash frowned. “I didn’t ask for coffee.”

“Yeah, but you’re dead on your feet,” Tucker said sensibly. “And while Kai’s coffee’s great, don’t get me wrong, sometimes you just need a proper pick-me-up.” He wiggled his eyebrows at that.

Hesitantly, Wash raised the lid to his mouth.

It was sweet, that was Wash’s first thought. It was sweet and sugary and there was whipped cream and possibly sprinkles, and Wash found himself gulping it down before he realized what he was doing.

By the time he hit the bottom of the cup, he felt entirely more human than he had since starting at Blood Gulch. Perhaps even since the trial.

When he looked up to thank Tucker, the nurse was gone, but there was a blueberry muffin on his desk.


Wash was sitting on the bench outside of the hospital, picking at the muffing Tucker had left him. He’d meant to eat it right away, but he’d gotten distracted with his paperwork, and now it was his lunch for the day. Wash really needed to just suck it up and go to the grocery store. He was pretty sure he was losing weight, skipping lunch every day.

A part of him knew that he should just eat at the cafeteria with the others, but something in his stomach rebelled at the idea. Back at the MOI, the cafeteria had been where he had dinner with Maine and Carolina and Connie—it wasn’t where he ate with a bunch of strangers. Even lunch in his office didn’t have appeal. It didn’t feel like his space, not yet. The name Tex seemed to haunt him, sticking to the room, making him feel like an outsider still.

Which lead him back to the idea of packing a lunch. A grocery store shouldn’t be that daunting.

But grocery stores, even back at the MOI, had always meant meeting people. People who wanted him to look at their rashes or their scars or tell him all about how well their babies were doing.

And now?

After everything that happened, all Wash wanted was to be left alone.

“Well hello.”

Wash glanced up, looking to see who had intruded into his private snack.

The man was skinny and decent looking, in an oddly forgettable sort of way. He was well dressed in a sleek suit, with the exception of a garishly orange tie, which stood out brightly against his relatively somber ensemble.

“I’m Felix,” the man introduced himself, slipping onto the bench next to Wash. “And you,” he grinned. “Must be Doctor Washington!”

Wash studied him, trying to see if he remembered him from anywhere. But the man was completely unfamiliar.

“Do I know you?” Wash said, struggling to keep his voice neutral.

“Harsh!” The man laughed, leaning in closer, as if they were friends. “Aren’t doctors supposed to be nice?” He waved away any response Wash might have to that. “I’m Felix Gates. I’m a Pharmaceutical Representative from Charon Industries.”

Wash’s spine stiffened slightly. He’d forgotten that Pharmaceutical Reps weren’t barred from Blood Gulch, unlike the MOI.

It was becoming more and more common for hospitals to ban Pharmaceutical Reps from the premises. They weren’t illegal, per se. Wash had met a few in Medical School; charming, usually good looking people who were happy to buy a doctor a lunch, or a car, or pay for a vacation, and hey, since they were such good friends, why don’t they recommend this drug over all other drugs, even if it had side effects, or wasn’t needed, or didn’t even work?

The problem was, for poorer clinics, where the doctors and nurses were less well compensated, it was harder to ban Pharma Reps. They often brought food for the entire clinic; and a free meal on a fairly regular basis went a long way to keeping Nurse’s Unions happy.

Carolina had warned him, but it had been so long since Wash had had to deal with one that he had forgotten.

And suddenly, everything about this made sense. A charming stranger approaching him out of the blue... it had been a while, but Wash knew this game.

“Oh?” Wash said blandly.

Felix’s smile was perfectly charming, but that did nothing to put Wash’s nerves at ease. “I was just wondering if maybe you’d let me treat you to lunch sometime. My company’s got this great new drug, just got approval from the FDA. It’ll seriously save some lives.” There was a self-satisfied glint to the man’s eyes that Wash didn’t like. It was… hungry, almost. His eyes dipped down to the muffin that Wash was still holding, and his smile seemed to twist into a smirk, although his face didn’t move an inch.

“Maybe some other time,” Wash said, deliberately keeping his voice even. Carolina would kill him if he ran Felix off. Blood Gulch couldn’t afford this; she’d explained to him. So they sucked up the knowledge that the doctors were biased and the corporations had their fingers in everything, because then hey, at least the nurses could eat sometimes, with all the food that they brought in to try to curry favor.

Wash really missed the MOI, sometimes. The nurses there had been well-paid and well-educated and terrifying. Not single parents or people who pulled extra shifts in the ER to pay their mortgages.

Felix’s face fell so dramatically that Wash knew, instinctively, that it was faked. “Ah, fine then. Guess I’ll let you get to it,” he held out a hand for Wash to shake. Wash took it, realizing for a second that Felix’s hands were surprisingly calloused for a Pharmaceutical Rep.

“I’ll see you around,” Wash said.

“Yeah you will,” Felix winked at him, before walking off, getting into an obnoxiously orange sports car.

“What a jerk!” Wash nearly doubled over as he realized that Doc had managed to sneak up on him again without him noticing.

“I—how—what?”

“You’re going to be late,” Doc said, sitting on the other side of the bench. He began to take his sandwich out of its tupperware.

Wash glanced at his watch and swore. Doc was right. “How did you know that?” Wash demanded, even as he leapt to his feet, still clutching the muffin.

“Honestly Wash, it’s like you don’t pay attention.”

He ignored Doc, running back into the clinic, towards the office that still had Tex’s name on the door.

Chapter Text

Wash had started to find a routine. Which was good. Routines meant that things were settling into place.

Most days he got in at around seven in the morning, finished his paperwork, and then the clinic opened at eight. Sometimes, in the midst of all that, Tucker would stick his head in, drop off a cup of coffee and a muffin, and Wash would feel human enough to actually talk to people. He worked in the clinic all morning. Then he would spend five minutes being grateful that he didn’t have to work the nursing home and that he wasn’t on ER that day. After that, he picked at whatever piece of fruit he’d remembered to bring from home while sitting on the bench outside of the clinic for the duration of his lunchbreak. The afternoon was spent making his rounds in the hospital, before going back to the clinic and sitting his office, dictating and working on charts until Tucker stuck his head in the office to remind him to go home.

Once a week he had ER, and every week he got a weekday off. Every four weeks, he had weekend call, which only took one occurrence before Wash determined was actually hell on earth. Yes, he could technically go home when he wasn’t needed, but daring Blood Gulch traffic at all hours and risking being late was generally not worth it, so Wash tended to stay in the (red) overnight room that was provided for doctors.

He hated ER days with a passion, although not as much as he hated the weekends. He told himself it just had to do with the belligerence of the ER staff, and had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he missed the snatches of conversation he managed to have over coffee with Tucker.

Someone had once told Wash that a doctor had a cushy job. Remembering that, Wash wanted to laugh when he hit his third 100-hour week in a row.

Cushy.

Right.


It took Wash three weeks to figure out that the only thing worse than ER days (although still not worse than ER weekends) were Tucker’s days off.

Tucker’s days off meant working with Church as his nurse.

Wash wasn’t sure what, exactly, he had done to earn the eternal hatred of one Leonard Church, but he hoped it made Church suffer as much as he was currently suffering working with him, because that man had the absolute worst bedside manner that Wash had ever seen.

He wondered what kind of household could possibly have produced a doctor as competent as Carolina and a nurse as in-competent as her younger brother.

“How did you get your degree?” He hissed out of the corner of his mouth as Church desperately stabbed the needle into the poor man’s arm again, failing to hit the vein for the fifth time.

Shut the fuck up,” Church snarled at him, also clearly attempting to not draw the patient’s attention to their argument.

“Is this normal?” The man asked, staring at his arm in concern. Wash glanced at the chart, searching for a name, or perhaps some strange medical condition that would indicate a legitimate reason for why Church still couldn’t find the vein. The man didn’t seem dehydrated, but maybe he should call ER to get him on a saline drip just in case…

“No,” Wash said, at the same time as Church snapped. “Yes!”

Wash finally gave in, and knocked Church out of the way as subtly as he could manage. “Let’s try the other arm,” he said, before finding the vein on his first try.

If looks could kill, Wash would’ve been grateful to already be in a hospital. As it was, he chose to ignore the man.

“I hate you,” Church said, when they finally left the patient alone in the examination room to nurse his two stabbed arms in peace.

“I honestly don’t care,” Wash said, handing Church the patient’s chart. “If you hate working with me so much, I’d suggest you find another nurse to work on Tucker’s day off.” It could only be a relief for both of them, Wash figured.

Church snorted. “Like who, Caboose?”

“Can Caboose actually draw blood?” Wash asked, raising the sample he was carrying.

Church scowled. “You know what? I might not be able to find a stupid vein, but at least I don’t kill my patients.”

Wash froze.

Church froze too, eyes going wide. “I mean… I meant Caboose! Not you. That’d be… stupid. Because you’re a doctor.”

Wash glanced at Church, surprised. “Carolina told you?”

Church scowled at him again, panic gone. “She’s my sister,” he said. Wash didn’t point out that those words didn’t necessarily mean anything. Wash hadn’t even realized that Carolina had a brother until he’d known her for several years. Family had always been a touchy subject between the two of them. Out of bounds. “Of course she told me. Had to explain why she was slumming it now instead of hanging out with… her fancy doctor buddies in the big city.”

“She’s not…” The words died in his mouth as he remembered his own reaction to seeing Blood Gulch for the first time. There was no way that Carolina hadn’t had the same reaction, that she hadn’t resented being forced here.

And clearly, her brother knew it.

“I know where we are,” Church said. “She wouldn’t be here if she had any other choice.” He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Neither would you. We’re not good enough for the likes of you two.”

He stormed off.

Wash didn’t call after him, didn’t try to stop him. He just stopped by his office, took off his lab coat and went home.


Wash sighed, and stared down at his latest chart. Paperwork. Why did TV dramas never mention just how much paperwork went into being a doctor? Growling to himself, Wash signed off on the bottom of the paper and threw it into the tray for Tucker to take back to the processing center.

“Wash!” Tucker stuck his head in. “It’s six, you going home?”

Wash glanced at the clock on his wall. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess so.” Sighing, he got to his feet and started to gather his things. He’d already changed out of his scrubs, which meant one less step to take before he could get home.

“Great!” Tucker said. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. “You’re not on shift tomorrow, right?”

“Right,” Wash said, suddenly wary.

“C’mon!” Tucker’s hand was suddenly around Wash’s bicep; warm and oddly intimate. “Then let’s go to the bar!”

“I…” Wash scrambled for an excuse, a reason. But he didn’t have one. His plan for the night mostly involved staring at his empty fridge before giving in and ordering take out again.

“Ooh, we getting the doc drunk?” Kai stuck her head into his office. She’d braided her hair today, and a bright yellow follower was pinned to her scrubs.

“Yeah!” Tucker said, and before Wash could manage to scrounge up a proper excuse, he found himself seated in Tucker’s battered car.

“Where’s Junior tonight?” Kai asked, comfortably seated in the back, between Caboose (who was behind Wash) and Church (behind Tucker). She leaned forward, sticking her head between Wash and Tucker.

“He’s with Sheila,” Tucker said, grinning with his usual fond look that he got whenever he talked about his son. It was a nice look on Tucker. The worry lines on his forehead tended to vanish. “He loves hanging out with Sheila. I swear, one of these days I’m going to wake up to find out that she’s adopted him when I wasn’t looking.”

Kai laughed.

“Seriously, why’d you invite a doctor?” Church demanded. Wash didn’t take offense. He’d started to suspect that Church was never happier than when he had something to complain about. He’d never met someone so determined to be sulky in his life.

“You invite Carolina all the time!” Tucker pointed out.

“Carolina’s my sister, that’s different!”

“Yeah, plus she never shows up,” Kai complained.

Caboose let out a delighted gasp. “Tucker! Is Doctor Washington your brother?”

Tucker yanked so hard on the steering wheel that the car nearly jerked into the next lane over. “No!” He glanced at Wash quickly before looking away, staring intently at the road. Wash wondered if he should take offense.

“Oh.” Caboose seemed to deflate. Then he perked up again, smiling widely. “But Church! It is okay, because Doctor Washington is our friend!”

“He is not, Caboose!”

“Yeah!” Kai agreed, flicking Caboose’s face. “He’s a secret agent! They can’t be friends!”

“I am not,” Wash protested, but it was halfhearted at best. He knew there was no real traction to be made there. He was stuck as a man in black in the mind of Kaikiana Grif, possibly for all time.

Finally, Tucker pulled into the parking lot of a shabby, rundown bar called Foxtrot. Wash eyed it, feeling like he had some valid concerns about if the place had passed a health inspection anytime in the past decade. But before he could voice any of his thoughts, he was propelled out of the car, and found himself seated at the bar with Tucker on one side and Caboose on the other.

The bartender was a few years older than Wash, with his hair greying at his temples and a wide, easy grin. It took Wash a few seconds, in the dim lighting, to realize that one of the man’s eyes was glassy and unseeing, the skin around it surrounded by scar tissue that looked nauseatingly fresh.

“Welcome to Foxtrot!” The man said, spreading his hands out. “New friend, guys?”

“Yeah, this is Wash!” Tucker threw his arm over Wash’s shoulder. “He’s the new doctor at the clinic!”

“Hey there.” The man was surprisingly muscular for a bartender. Wash spotted the shiny patches of healed burns up and down his arms, and he glanced up again at the man’s bad eye, confirming the scarring there was the same. Whatever had happened to him, it hadn’t been pleasant. “What’ll you have?”

“Just whatever you have on tap,” Wash said hurriedly, ignoring Tucker’s glance and arm, which still hadn’t left his shoulder.

“Great. I’m York, by the way,” the man said.

“York?” Wash blinked. “That’s an… odd name.”

York grinned sheepishly. “Old nickname from when I was a kid,” he said. “It stuck. And it’s a lot better than my legal name.”

“It really is,” Tucker confirmed, snorting. The bar wasn’t all that loud, but he still pressed up against Wash to talk. “Usual for me, York!”

“Alright!” York winked, using his good eye, and then turned around, bending over to fetch glasses. Kai let out a wolf whistle, and York laughed good naturedly, which told Wash that this was some sort of ritual.

“Do you come here often?” He asked Tucker, watching as York began the process of pouring Caboose a soda, and then assembling the ingredients for cocktails.

“Every Friday, unless I’ve got the weekend shift,” Tucker said. “It’s a good place. York bought it last year. He gives us a discount for working at the hospital.”

“Got to encourage good works,” York said, handing Wash a glass of beer. Tucker’s drink was noxiously teal and smelled strongly of raspberry.

Wash fiddled with the label of his beer instead of drinking. “You know,” he said, suddenly emboldened by the casual setting. “I’ve been wondering.”

“Yeah?” Tucker leaned in again, his shoulder brushing against Wash’s.

“I… what was Church mad at you for? When he assigned you to be my nurse?”

“Oh!” Tucker laughed, pulling his phone out of the pocket of his (very tight, Wash was unable to escape noticing) jeans. “This!”

He showed Wash the screen, which just showed a text message series that was just a picture of a hillside. It was from an unrecognized number, and the accompanying text just said:

Still alive –T

“T?” Wash repeated, glancing up.

“Tex,” Tucker explained. “I get them about once a week. Random pictures of somewhere in South America. Different number every time.” He grinned at Wash. “I’m the only one who gets them. And Church gets mad when I don’t share. He keeps trying to call back, see if he can talk to her.”

Wash frowned. “Why would he do that?”

“She left without saying goodbye,” Tucker said. “Guess Church wants to know if they’re still together or something.”

“So why is being assigned to me a punishment?” Wash asked, turning in his seat to face Tucker fully.

Tucker grinned at him. “Nurse’s secret.”

Wash groaned. “You guys always stick together.”

“Well duh!” Tucker grinned. “We’ve got to have some protection from you guys and your fancy degrees and big brains.” He nudged Wash. “Now c’mon! We can have more heart-to-heart after you’re drunk! And maybe some other parts-to-parts! Bow-chicka-bow-wow.”

Wash ducked his head, grinning, and took a sip from his beer.

And slowly, ever so slightly, he felt himself relax. Maybe… maybe this was okay.

Routine was good, right?

Chapter Text

Just when Wash thought he’d gotten a grasp of how things ran at Blood Gulch (inefficiently, chaotically, randomly), Carolina decided to throw another wrench into things.

Interns?” Wash yelped, staring at her like she’d gone crazy. Which, apparently, she had.

“Wash.” Carolina looked more exhausted than Wash ever remembered her looking at the MOI. “We’re understaffed. We’re under-served. Our patient numbers are only going up. We need more hands on deck, and if you do anything to drive these interns away, so help me—

“Interns aren’t hands on deck!” Wash protested. “They’re not even licensed to practice medicine! They take up hours, they need to be trained!”

I’ll handle that part,” Carolina snapped.

Wash stared at her. “But you—” Didn’t practice. Hadn’t seen a patient in ages. Wash chose not to finish that sentence, although he dearly wanted to.

“I can handle interns. I’ll assign one of them to shadow you though. You’re going to have to deal with at least some of them.”

Wash stared at her. “You’re evil, you know that?”

“So I’m told,” she said blithely. “Don’t worry, most of them are going to be in the ER.”

Wash blanched. “I’m on call this weekend!”

Carolina’s smile was merciless. “Oh?”

Wash slammed his head as gently as he could against her desk. “Why do you hate me?”

Carolina didn’t even look at him, already turning her attention back to the mountain of paperwork that was always threatening to take over her desk. “We’ve got a new doctor soon,” she mentioned.

Wash looked up in surprise. “What? Really?”

“Yes,” she grinned at him, a real, genuine smile this time. “Her name’s Emily Grey. She’s from a good hospital, has a great record. Says she wants to have a change of scenery before she retires.” She flipped through her files. “She’s a GP but she has a lot of experience with trauma and ER. And she says she’s willing to take extra call.”

Wash stared. “Is she insane?”

“She’s from a larger hospital, Wash. Things are different there.” Carolina’s brow furrowed as she picked up a file. “Or… is she from a small one?” She turned a page. “She’s done both? What?” She glanced up at Wash. “Sorry, I need to make some calls about this Wash.”

“It’s okay,” Wash said. “I should get back anyways.”

Carolina suddenly glanced up at the clock. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be at lunch right now?”

“I already ate,” Wash lied quickly, getting to his feet to make a hasty exit.

Carolina glared at him. “Wash.”

“It’s fine, Carolina.”

“Well.” Carolina’s eyes were suddenly hard. Wash knew that expression very well. “If that’s the case, then you won’t mind having lunch with me tomorrow.”

Wash swallowed, mind flashing to his bare fridge and empty cupboards.

“Sure,” he said, because his mouth was a traitor and he had no self-preservation instincts. Carolina’s eyes narrowed, as if she suspected he was bluffing, but she didn’t call him on it.

He blanched the minute Carolina’s door closed behind him.

He’d have to go shopping.

Wash stared down at his hands for a second before straightening his shoulders.

He’d handled medical school, military residency, and medical malpractice lawsuits.

He could handle grocery shopping.

Probably.

Hopefully.

Maybe.


“Interns?” Tucker looked incredulous. “At Blood Gulch?”

Wash, mind swimming with mental images of blood spattered floors and grocery aisles, planted his head on the calendar that took up most of the surface of his desk and groaned.

“You know,” Tucker said. “You really need to decorate. This place is depressing. Even Tex had her old boxing trophies. Have you considered framing your diploma?”

Wash’s diploma was under his couch, where he’d thrown it after a bad day in court. Wash let out another long groan.

“C’mon!” Tucker nudged him. “You’ve got to have pictures of your friends and shit!”

All of Wash’s pictures were of him and his friends back at the MOI. They’d decorated his office there. His favorite had been the one taken at the holiday party (which Carolina always refused to call anything but the “Christmas Party”, because she said it was a blatantly too Christmas themed to be anything else) during Wash’s third year there. Maine was holding Connie in the air. Carolina had one arm draped over Wash’s shoulders, laughing at something that Maine had said. They were all smiling.

Now, Maine was in jail and Connie had lost her license.

Wash and Carolina were the only ones left, and Carolina didn’t practice anymore.

It wasn’t fair.

Wash hadn’t looked at the pictures since ripping them off his office wall after being cleared of all charges. He’d come so close to losing everything.

He’d sacrificed too much to become a doctor. He wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize it again.

“Wash?” Tucker was shaking his shoulder. “Earth to Wash?”

Wash sat upright, blinking. “Sorry. I was thinking.”

“You’re exhausted, that’s what you were doing,” Tucker said, shoving a cup of coffee under Wash’s nose. It wasn’t the stuff he usually gave Wash first thing in the morning; this came from the nurse’s station coffeemaker. But it was dark and sweet and Wash drank it greedily, feeling the caffeine settle his nerves.

“Thanks,” he said, once he was done.

Tucker waved him off. “Seriously dude. You need a vacation.”

“I’m fine,” Wash said automatically.

Tucker gave him a skeptical look. “Well, at least promise me you’ll get ten hours on your next day off. Can’t have you screwing up on the job.” He leaned in. “That’s why Caboose works in the morgue, you know.”

Wash stared at Tucker. “Caboose doesn’t work in the morgue.”

“Uh, yeah he does! Has for three years now! Only place he can’t hurt anyone!”

“Then why is he here all the time?” Wash demanded.

“Because Church is here,” Tucker said, like that was an explanation.

… okay, maybe it was.

Wash shook his head. “When do the interns arrive?”

“Three minutes ago.”

Fuck,” Wash threw back the rest of his coffee, ignoring the way it scorched his mouth, and then ran for the door.


That afternoon found Wash sitting in his car in the grocery store parking lot, staring straight ahead.

“Just until this song finishes,” he told himself. He could stay until the song ended. It wouldn’t make that much of a difference, surely.

Of course, the second he said that, the ending chords floated out of his radio, and a commercial started up. He closed his eyes, and forced himself to shut off the car.

The grocery store seemed innocuous.

Wash knew it was anything but.

He wrapped a scarf tightly around his neck, and pulled it up so that it covered his mouth as much as possible. It didn’t do much, but hopefully it might prevent him for being recognized for at least long enough for him to grab sandwich supplies and whatever else he would need to pass Carolina’s lunch exam.

He walked through the parking lot as fast as he could without running, head bowed low to prevent the possibility of eye contact.

He ignored the produce section that greeted him, instead making a beeline for things like pasta, canned foods, and frozen meals. Wash had never been that great of a cook, and he wasn’t about to start trying now.

Wash stood in front of the canned soup, debating between chicken noodle and chicken wild-rice when he spotted a woman whose baby he had helped deliver two months ago, with the infant strapped to her chest in one of those harness things that had always confused Wash. Wash grabbed the first can he could (wild-rice) and then quickly rushed into the next aisle, hoping she hadn’t spotted him.

Maybe it wasn’t a good thing, for a doctor to not want to interact with his patients, but Wash was out of patience and his nerves couldn’t take it.

“Why! If it isn’t Doctor Washington!” Wash wanted to groan as he realized that in his attempt to avoid the woman with the baby, he had stumbled right into one of his elderly patients.

“Hello,” Wash said, as politely as he could, to try and cover up that he had absolutely no recollection of her name.

“You know, I was about to call that nice receptionist of yours and make an appointment,” the woman said, placing a hand on Wash’s arm. “But since you’re here, Doctor Washington, would you mind having a look at my ankle? I think I might have pulled something last week.”

“Really, I’m in a hurry,” Wash said, but it was weak.

This, this was why he hated going out of the apartment. He could manage in the office, could manage in the clinic, but he couldn’t do this all the time. Couldn’t just smile and be polite and tell her all the right things. It was exhausting. But here he was, in a grocery store, staring at the little old lady, so sweet and friendly and apparently hurt, and he found his resolve wavering.

“Hey!” A warm body pressed against his arm. “If you want him to feel you up, just ask! If you’re hurt, call Sheila!”

Wash started and turned, surprised to see Kai, with her hair loose for once, wearing a baggy yellow hoodie and denim cut-offs.

The woman huffed. “Young lady, you should watch your tone!”

“That sounds boring,” Kai said. “C’mon Wash, we’ve got to get going.” She tugged at his arm, and Wash let himself be lead away, as far away from the old woman and the new mother as possible.

“Grocery runs are a pain, aren’t they?” Kai complained. “How much of your list do you have left?”

Wash glanced at the piece of paper in his hand. “Just a few things.”

Kai nodded. “Want me to stay with you? I’m great at being rude so you don’t have to.”

Wash smiled, finding himself relaxing in Kai’s familiar presence. “Thanks.”

“Hey. Tucker says you’re cool, so I guess I can add a few minutes to my booze run.”

Wash glanced towards the aisle that had the eggs, suddenly feeling more confident that he could do this.


“I hate them,” Tucker declared, with more passion than Wash had ever heard from the nurse.

Today, Tucker’s scrubs were his signature aqua, and decorated with tiny bones. Wash vaguely wondered if it had turned October without him noticing.

Everyone at Blood Gulch tended to have odd scrubs. It made no sense to him.

“Who?” Wash asked, distracted. He’d investigated Tex’s old fridge for the first time, trying to find a place to put his lunch. He’d discovered a tub of butter, an open beer, and a container of cheap yellow cheese.

Wash tried to put these things together to work out who Texas was as a person. The part that got him stuck was the beer. Who drank beer at work?

“The interns, Wash! The new guy, Palomo, he’s the worst! And I’m pretty sure Jensen’s traumatized Simmons. And Andersmith seems to have a case of hero worship. For Caboose! Caboose, Wash! And… actually, I don’t know what Bitters has done. I don’t think I’ve seen him. But Grif likes him, so that’s probably a bad sign.”

Wash threw the cheese away, not trusting it. He’d get rid of the beer later, he decided. He didn’t want to go to the sink right now. He also didn’t want to be seen by Kai with an open container at work. She might take that as encouragement. “Uh-huh.”

“Oh, seriously? Are you even listening to me?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Oh, fuck you! You’ll see when you have to deal with them!” Tucker stormed off.

Wash pushed his brown paper bag, containing a tuna fish sandwich, an apple, and a hostess brownie into the fridge, and then closed it with his foot.

He could totally handle this.

At least that’s what he thought, before he glanced at his schedule for the day and saw that he was scheduled to walk the interns around the clinic that morning.

When it was finally time for lunch, Wash’s throat was sore from yelling at Palomo, his thighs were sore from Jensen crashing a gurney into them, his neck was sore from craning it to look at Andersmith, and his arms were sore from dragging Bitters around by his scrubs to stop him from trying to sneak off.

“Were we like that as interns?” Wash asked Carolina, holding his bag against his chest like a shield.

“I don’t think so,” Carolina said. “But you had your eye on a military residency, so you had to be top of your class.”

The fact that Carolina had been top of her class didn’t even need to be said.

“Think we’ll be able to kick them into shape in time for residency?” Wash asked, sitting down across from her. The piles of paper only seemed higher than they had yesterday.

Carolina unpacked her own lunch. “Maybe,” she said. “They’re not like us, Wash.”

“Doesn’t mean they won’t be fine doctors,” Wash said, a little sharply.

“I know,” Carolina said. “But… we had the best. We were the best. They’re… kids who ended up in Blood Gulch.”

“So did we,” Wash said, bitterly.

Carolina snorted. “Guess we did.” 

“Do you regret it?” Wash didn’t look at her. “Coming here?”

Carolina picked the crust off her sandwich. “No,” she said. “I… I needed a fresh start. I needed to remind myself that I had something left.”

“This was what was left?”

Carolina’s fist clenched on her desk. “My brother,” she said. “I still had him. They hadn’t… they hadn’t taken that from me.”

Wash nodded.

“Do you? Regret it?”

Wash shrugged, taking a bite out of his sandwich. “Didn’t have too much of a choice,” he pointed out.

“Doesn’t mean you have to hate it,” Carolina said, tilting her head to one side.

Wash thought about Tucker and coffee in the mornings. He thought about Caboose and his morning hugs. He thought about Church and his scowls and Kai and her laughter. He thought about the ER staff, and Carolina, and everything else.

He found the smallest hint of a smile starting to curl at his lips.

“Well,” he said, finally. “Maybe it’s not all bad.”

Chapter Text

Doctor Emily Grey was a short, plump woman with steely grey hair that she had pulled into a neat, business-like bun, large glasses with thick purple plastic frames, and a disconcertingly cheerful attitude.

He’d been assigned to help Grey through her first weekend call. Why Grey had chosen to kick off working at Blood Gulch by taking call, let alone a weekend call was beyond Wash, but that was how she had shown up.

She was wearing lavender scrubs under a white lab coat. Her shoes were practical white tennis shoes, surprisingly clean and new looking. Wash felt oddly disheveled in comparison, with his old grey scrubs and battered sneakers.

“Welcome to Blood Gulch,” Wash said, shaking her hand. Her grip was firm. She’d painted her nails dark purple.

Wash wondered if there had been a memo about color coding that he’d missed.

“Doctor Washington,” she said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. Her eyes were dark brown and terrifyingly intelligent. “Weren’t you one of those doctors involved in that whole mess earlier this year, with the malpractice suit?”

Wash flinched. It had been a while since someone had been that direct about it. Usually there was a lot of dancing around the subjects, with a lot of hedging and euphemisms, unless someone had the whole story, like Carolina. “You heard about that?”

Her eyes turned soft for a second. “I think every hospital in the state was talking about that!” She told him, not unkindly. Then the softness vanished, replaced by that fierce determination again. “Oh well! We should probably get a move on! This is a hospital after all! People are dying! Can’t stop, otherwise there will be blood everywhere!” She strode off, confidently leaving Wash in her dust, despite having never been in the ER before, as far as Wash knew.

He stared after her, utterly bewildered, then ran to catch up. She moved fast.

By the time he’d reached her, she was standing in the middle of the ER, shouting orders as a gurney was rushed passed her, Grif and Simmons yelling the initial diagnosis.

“Prep for surgery!” Grey was demanding, confident despite the chaos that was reigning throughout the ER. “Who’s the Charge Nurse here? I need a room and the surgeon on call ASAP!”

Wash inhaled sharply, remembering how much trouble the ER staff gave him normally. Grey was an experienced professional, he wasn’t sure how well she would take Blood Gulch Backtalk.

“Yes ma’am!” Sarge said, and Wash stared.

“What?” He asked nobody, even as the Reds—he couldn’t believe he’d picked up Tucker’s ridiculous nickname for the ER crew—began to move, making calls and going right to work.

Grey was a whirlwind of activity, moving faster than Wash had thought possible. She whisked patients away for surgeries, said soothing words to crying families, ordered around the nurses, and dealt with a puking toddler and three panic attacks with extraordinary grace and confidence.

Wash hadn’t seen anything like this in years. There was no hesitation in her, not like the other doctors. She never seemed to falter, never seemed to think she was about to make a mistake.

She wasn’t a rookie doctor; she didn’t belong here in Blood Gulch. She practically shone, stitching up a teenager’s leg, telling awful jokes to make the girl laugh instead of focusing on the pain. Doctor Emily Grey was clearly a star doctor, perfectly at home in the ER, in the blood and the puke and the tears. Even with her stethoscope with a koala decal, even with her dad jokes and goofy smile. Looking at her, Wash got it.

She was the kind of doctor that medical students dreamed of being, the kind who made their patients feel better just by being there. The kind who listened, the kind who was charming and personable and clever. The kind of doctor that deserved the title, in a way that so many people Wash had met over the course of his career did not.

So what was she doing here?

No wonder the Reds listened to her; she radiated confidence and authority, the kind that Wash could only dream of. Carolina had been like that sometimes, back at the MOI, Wash remembered. Carolina and… he floundered for a second, trying to remember her name.

Allison.

Allison had been like that.

He shook off the old memories, and went back to work.

There was too much to do to dwell in the past, even if Doctor Grey had managed to stir up a few old ghosts.


Wash pushed open the door to the overnight room, feeling dead on his feet. Even with Grey to help take off some of the crush, weekend call was miserable. He had been forced to remove a construction grade staple from someone’s leg. He hadn’t even known there were construction grade staples.

At some point, he remembered vaguely, Donut had shoved a cup of coffee and a pastry into his hands, and made him sit down. “Tucker told me to look after you,” Donut explained, patting him on the head quickly, before running off to deal with whatever was the latest crisis.

Wash tried to remember if he had brought a sandwich from home—he still had supplies left from his run in preparation for lunch with Carolina, which he was fairly certain she was planning on making a regular thing, to make sure he was eating.

A part of Wash was offended by the implication he couldn’t look after himself but… it was kind of nice. Being worried about.

He flipped on the lights, and then froze at the scene that was laid out before him.

The overnight room was normally set aside for the doctor on call, and it hadn’t occurred to Wash that he technically wasn’t the doctor on call. He was just the backup. The room was Grey’s for the night.

And she was certainly making use of it.

Grey and Sarge glared up at him from the bed. Wash slammed his eyes shut as quickly as he could, but the image was burned onto the inside of his eyelids. Grey on top of Sarge; her cheeks flushed and her hair loose. Sarge’s hands covering Grey’s breasts. Grey’s bra and Sarge’s boxers on the floor at Wash’s feet. Grey’s stethoscope still around her neck, her pager balanced on Sarge’s chest so she could keep an eye on it.

Gah!” Was all Wash managed to say, instead of any apology that probably should have happened.

He stumbled backwards, eyes still tightly closed, slamming the door shut behind him.

Laughter followed him out, the couple clearly amused at his distress, and then, disconcertingly soon after, a rhythmic thumping began.

“Ah, the miracle of love,” Doc said, mopping the floor next to Wash. Wash groaned at the sight of the familiar dark purple jumpsuit.

“They literally just met!” Wash yelped.

Why did this always happen to him?

“Since when does that stop people?” Doc asked sensibly. “Some people don’t let things like that stop them from finding happiness.”

Wash glared at Doc. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Doc sighed, shaking his head and rinsing out his mop. “You should go out with Tucker again,” he said instead of answering Wash’s question. “I think it’s good for you.”

“You’re not my psychologist,” Wash said.

Doc clicked his tongue at Wash. “You’re being stubborn, Wash. You can’t let what happened at the Medical Observation—”

“What do you know about that?” Wash asked, alarmed.

Doc gave him a pitying look. “Wash.”

“Wash! Don’t go in there!” Simmons bowled around the corner. “Grey and—oh god, you already saw.”

“Yes,” Wash said blandly, as if his cheeks weren’t still on fire. He glanced over to Doc, because he was not done with that conversation, but the janitor was gone.

“Ugh,” Simmons said. “We really need to call custodial, this floor is filthy.”

Wash glanced down, suddenly alarmed.

The floor was dirty, and there was no sign of Doc.

Wash stared into thin air, even as Simmons walked away and the noise of Sarge and Grey having sex escalated into shouting and moaning.

“I’m not seeing things,” he told himself. “I’m not.”

“I don’t know man, you clearly saw something,” Grif said, walking by with a soda in one hand, a container of Oreos in the other. “I’m scarred for life, I swear.”


Wash went back to his office, figuring he could at least nap at his desk until his pager went off again.

The last thing he expected to see was a cheerful kid sitting in the chair across from his desk, a coloring book on his lap, coloring in black and white anatomical diagrams with a pack of crayons.

“I… who are you?” Wash said, absolutely baffled. He wasn’t good with kids. This was so not his department. Why was there a child in his office?

“Who are you?” The kid asked, not even stopping in his drawing. He was using a green crayon to color in the diagram of the heart he was balancing on his lap, with a thick medical journal as a desk.

“I asked you first,” Wash said. Then, realizing he was arguing with a kid, he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, I’ve had a very long night—”

“Bow-chicka-bow-wow,” the kid said.

Wash stopped in his tracks.

“Junior,” he said, resigned. Who else could it be?

“Yep,” the kid said, grinning up at him shamelessly.

“Junior! Okay I filed those things, let’s go home! Oh!” Tucker stopped, looking sheepish as he spotted Wash. “Sorry Wash, I thought you’d ben in the ER, so I told Junior he could color in here while I finished up the paperwork.”

He’d changed out of his scrubs, and was now wearing a red tank top that happened to bear the phrase “ORGASM DONOR” in bright white lettering, beneath a white cross. The tank top showed off broad shoulders and large biceps, which Wash couldn’t help but notice. And then there were skinny jeans. Wash had never seen Tucker in clothes like this. Even to the bar, he’d worn baggier clothes, tired after a long day of work. This was… this was something else entirely, and Wash didn’t know what to do with this.

“It’s… it’s fine,” Wash said, trying not to stare. The jeans clung to Tucker’s ass perfectly, and clung to his calves and thighs as well. And Tucker’s arms were far more defined than Wash had ever realized, despite most of Tucker’s scrubs having short sleeves.

And he was wearing his glasses again.

“Dad!” Junior barreled towards Tucker, clutching onto his leg, grinning. “Can we go home now? Can we have pancakes for dinner?”

“Yeah, we’re going, we’re going!” Tucker laughed, and Wash stared for a different reason, fascinated by the gentle way that Tucker scooped Junior up into his arms. He’d never thought Tucker would be a bad father, exactly, but there was something different in Tucker’s face when he looked at Junior. Something soft and purely joyful.

It didn’t take a genius to realize that this was one of the most important things in the world to Tucker. Being a father, spending time with Junior.

“Go on then,” Wash said, shaking his head. “Don’t let me keep you. Sounds like you’ll be busy making pancakes, anyways.”

Junior turned towards Wash, face lighting up with a brilliant smile that so resembled Tucker’s that it made something in Wash’s chest ache.

“Well, I guess that’s what the doctor ordered,” Tucker winked at Wash, and gave him a wave with his free hand before heading towards the exit.

Junior waved at Wash from his place in Tucker’s arms until they turned the corner and Wash couldn’t see them anymore.

Wash went to take his nap, feeling better than he had all day.

Chapter Text

The days working at Blood Gulch rapidly seemed to be speeding up as Wash found his footing. Before he knew it, he was due to work another shift at the FAC. This time, instead of Donut, he found himself assigned to work with Sarge.

“Doctor Washington!” The man greeted, resplendent in his normal scarlet scrubs and matching crocs. Wash really wished the man would wear another color. It hurt his eyes to look at.

“Sarge,” he said, having long since resigned himself to using the man’s ridiculous nickname, since no one could or would tell him the real one. “Good to see you again.”

“Mmm,” the man said, raising his bushy eyebrows at him. Wash flushed, remembering the last time he’d encountered Sarge.

“My god I hate you,” he muttered lowly.

“Doctor Washington,” a low, menacing voice said behind him. Wash’s shoulders tensed up, turning around.

“Locus, right?” He asked.

“Indeed,’ the man tipped his head in a way of greeting. Wash glanced over his shoulder, hoping for backup, but Sarge had abandoned him. Wash carefully planted his feet.

“How can I help you?”

“I’ve read your file,” Locus said. “I find it… fascinating.”

Wash stiffened. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, trying to keep his voice polite and even as possible. He didn’t like this at all.

“David Washington,” Locus recited, his eyes never leaving Wash’s face. “Formerly a general practitioner at the Medical Observation Institute. I understand you were cleared of charges in the trials that resulted from your director’s… carelessness. Congratulations.”

Wash really didn’t like this. Locus’s wording sounded like he thought Wash had been a part of everything that had gone down, but that he didn’t care.

In fact, it sounded like Locus admired him for it.

“What happened was a disaster,” Wash kept his voice bland. “A lot of good people got hurt.”

“I have always understood that to be the cost of medical progress,” Locus said. “Although I suppose doctors might have other opinions.”

“We’re supposed to help people,” Wash said, with a bit more heat than he intended. “Not…” He cut himself off. He wasn’t going to into that, not with Locus. “I prefer not to talk about it,” he said firmly.

“Still,” Locus took a step closer. Wash had to force himself not to back away. Something in him said that he didn’t want to give Locus any sign of weakness. Instead, he met Locus’s gaze as evenly as he could. “I believe you have a great deal of potential, Doctor Washington.” He held out a simple white business card. “My employer is always looking for new talent in the medical field. I understand you might not find Blood Gulch to your tastes. Perhaps it’s time you look for new employment.”

Wash reluctantly reached out to take the card. When his hands finally took hold of the card, Locus grabbed his wrist and pulled him closer. Wash tried to pull away, but Locus’s grip was bruising, keeping Wash where he was. He suddenly remembered Donut’s warning about Locus possibly belonging to the mob. Wash had dismissed it at the time, but looking into Locus’ eyes, Wash found that he could believe it.

“Fascinating,” Locus said. Wash had no idea what he was addressing.

“Let go,” Wash said through gritted teeth. His heart was hammering in his ears. He didn’t like anything about this.

“Is something wrong, Doctor Washington?” Locus’ voice was soft, almost too quiet to hear, but there was a taunting edge to it. An edge that said he had Wash cornered and he knew it.

“Ahem!” Locus and Wash both turned—Locus still holding Wash’s wrist—only to see Doctor Grey standing there, looking oddly terrifying in her purple scrubs. The smiley face patterns did nothing to ruin her aura of ferocity. Sarge was standing behind her, surprisingly intimidating for a man of his unimpressive stature and age. Wash felt a rush of relief, realizing that Sarge hadn’t abandoned him after all, but had gone to get help.

“When someone says to leave them alone…” she began, taking a single step towards Locus. Wash glances sideways at Locus, expecting a fight, a laugh, something.

“Of course, doctor,” Locus said, dropping Wash’s wrist. Wash didn’t rub it, although he wanted to. He wouldn’t give Locus the satisfaction.

“Shall we get to work?” Wash asked Grey, trying to ignore Locus. He avoided sighing with relief as the other man walked away.

She nodded. “That man is slippery, Doctor Washington! Do be careful. I don’t like that he’s so interested in you.”

“That makes two of us,” Wash said, glancing down the corridor, which Locus had already disappeared down. He was uncannily good at moving quickly and quietly for a man of his size. “And… thanks.”

Grey placed a hand on his shoulder, barely enough pressure for him to notice it. “Well! Let’s not dwell on unpleasant things like lawyers! Time to get our hands bloody!”

Wash glanced down at the card in his hand, and shoved it into his pocket. He’d deal with it later.


“Doctor Washington!” Doyle’s appearance in the exam room was surprising. The man normally skirted around the practicing areas of the FAC with the kind of dedication usually dedicated for quarantine zones or Grif’s locker. “I must apologize for Locus’ behavior this morning! When Emily told me, I was mortified! I’ve told Locus quite firmly, that it was unacceptable, and shall not be permitted in the future!”

“Really, Mr. Doyle, it’s fine,” Wash lied through his teeth, focusing instead on unwrapping the bandage-covered arm that belonged to his patient. “You said you did this with a chain?” He demanded, incredulous.

“Yes,” the man said sullenly.

“Oh my!” Doyle suddenly staggered, looking pale at the sight of the torn up skin beneath the bandage. “I’m afraid… oh my.”

He toppled over in a dead faint.

“Oh dear,” Grey said, peeking in through the still-ajar door to the exam room. “He saw blood, didn’t he? I told Doyle he should stay away and just talk to you later. He never listens.”

“You two know each other?”

“Oh, I’ve been volunteering at the clinic for years, silly! Why, I helped found it!”

“Really? Why did you, if the New Republic was around?”

“Oh, it wasn’t!” She said, carefully propping Doyle up in one of the uncomfortable plastic waiting chairs. “They didn’t come onto the scene for several years!”

Wash finished redressing the arm. “Alright,” Wash said. “You can go. Just keep it clean!”

The man nodded and slunk away, still sulking.

“What do you think about the New Republic then?” Wash asked, curious despite himself. Everywhere he turned in this town, there seemed to be intricate webs of rivalries that he couldn’t understand, no matter how hard he tried. It had been months, and he still didn’t understand why the Reds and Blues—the ER and the clinic, Wash hastily corrected himself mentally—hated each other. And he was even further away from understanding the mess that was the rivalry between the two free clinics.

“They perform wonderful services!” Grey smiled at him. “They have more leeway than we do in many ways. Really, it would be wonderful if we could work together! But the missions of our organization are wildly different.” She shook her head. “I’d volunteer there too, you know, but I’m far more helpful here.” She knelt down to inspect Doyle, pushing his glasses back up his nose to stop them from falling off. “Besides. Someone needs to stop Locus from stomping all over Doyle whenever he gets an idea in that head of his!”

“Donut says he’s a lawyer?”

Grey’s lips thinned. “That’s what he says. And he’s certainly immoral enough to be one!” She laughed suddenly, and the mood lightened. “Ha! Lawyer joke! Now that’s enough chit-chat, we’ve got patients to help!” She patted Wash on the arm, and left him in the room with Doyle, who was still unconscious in the chair.


“Hey Wash,” Tucker said. “Did you come in early?”

“Had some dictation to finish,” Wash said, frowning as he flipped through the chart.

“Ha! I bet you’ve got dick to finish! Bow-chicka-bow-wow!”

“Very funny, Tucker,” Wash said absently, glancing up as Tucker got closer.

“You didn’t tell us it was your birthday last week,” Tucker accused. It was then that Wash noticed the plain white box in his hands, with a gauzy blue ribbon wrapped around it, tied off in a crude bow.

“How did you—?”

“I bribed Sheila,” Tucker said. “Can’t believe you didn’t mention it.” He shoved the box at Wash. “Happy birthday. It’s from all of us.”

“All of us?” Wash repeated, tugging at the dark blue ribbon.

“The nurses. The Blues.”

Wash took the lid off the box, and then stared.

Pale blue scrubs with bright yellow sleeves were waiting for him inside.

“Hey, we figured, you wear the same old boring grey ones every day, so we thought you could use some color,” Tucker was babbling. Wash realized, with a rush of fondness, that Tucker was worried. Worried if Wash would like it or not.

“Tucker,” he said, fingering the fabric. “It’s great. Thank you.” He then looked up to see Tucker’s relieved expression, and smiled at it. “How did you guys even know my size?”

“Donut,” Tucker said, like that was an explanation. Wash decided not to dwell on that for his own sanity.

Tucker was wearing his glasses again and had piled his dreads into a bun on top of his head. He was wearing the rooster scrubs again. Suddenly, Wash stared, and made the connection.

He planted his head firmly on the desk. “Cocks,” he muttered. “You’re wearing cock scrubs.”

Tucker began to laugh. “Hell yeah I am.” He patted Wash on the head mockingly, and Wash froze slightly. It felt… nice, having Tucker’s fingers running through his hair. He closed his eyes, letting himself enjoy it just for a second. It had been way too long since anyone had touched him, and even if it didn’t mean anything to Tucker, he was going to enjoy it, before he had to refocus and get back to work.

“Dude,” Tucker said, voice shaking with laughter. “You’re melting.”

Wash straightened up quickly, glaring at Tucker. “I have paperwork to do,” he said stiffly.

“Yeah, yeah,” Tucker rolled his eyes, and snatched up Wash’s out tray. “I’ll take this to Records. Want to join me for lunch today?”

Wash opened his mouth to refuse, but he paused, reconsidering.

Lunch with Carolina hadn’t killed him. Maybe…

He’d packed today, too. He actually had food.

He glanced up at Tucker, and found himself staring into his warm brown eyes. His glasses had teal frames, and Wash realized with a jolt that he really liked how Tucker looked with glasses.

“Sure,” he said. They both blinked at that, equally surprised by his agreement.

Tucker grinned, wide and brilliant, his whole face lighting up. “Great!” He started to leave.

“Tucker!” Tucker paused again.

“Yeah?”

“I… I like your glasses. They look good.” And then Wash looked down, trying to bury himself in his work.

There was a long pause, and Tucker didn’t go away. Wash risked a glance up.

Tucker was staring at him, smiling again. But this smile was different. It was… smug and delighted and proud and considering all at once, and it made Wash oddly nervous. He didn’t know what to make of that expression.

“Thanks Wash,” Tucker finally said. “And happy birthday.”

Then he left Wash alone in his office. Wash glanced down at the scrubs, and shook his head. He hadn’t expected this. Not any of it.

Blood Gulch really had a way of surprising people, he thought, smiling as he put the box on the shelf behind him before getting back to work.

A few files in, he found something wrong.

This patient was dead. He knew they were dead. He’d signed off on it. Caboose had come to bring the body down and everything.

So why did he have the paperwork for a surgery they’d had done yesterday in front of him?

Wash flipped to the back, looking for the nurse who’d signed off on it.

Donut.

Wash’s brow furrowed, and he got to his feet, heading towards the ER.

He needed to get to the bottom of this.

It wasn’t hard to find Donut—it was quiet hours at the ER, and Donut was still on shift, so he was lounging by the coffee maker, humming softly to himself as he made a cup.

“Hey Wash! Didn’t expect to see you the morning after! Love the hair, you look positively debauched!”

Wash raised his hands to his head, realizing that it was still mussed from Tucker petting it earlier.

He didn’t acknowledge the rest of Donut’s statement.

“Donut, what is this?” He demanded, shoving the file under Donut’s nose.

Carefully, Donut set his coffee down and flipped through it. Then he blanched.

“Oh,” he said faintly. “I didn’t… didn’t realized you’d…”

“What is this?” Wash demanded, moving closer. “Donut, a dead man can’t have surgery!”

Donut rubbed his neck. “Ah, well… you see…”

“What did you do?” Wash demanded, grabbing a fistful of Donut’s silky pink scrubs and hauling the man closer to him until they were almost nose to nose.

“Look, he’d have died without it!” Donut babbled. “I couldn’t just let him die because he didn’t have insurance!”

Wash froze. “So you put it under a dead man’s insurance,” he said softly. His grip didn’t relax on Donut’s shirt.

“I had to help!” Donut said. “He had a great policy, it’s not like it’s hurting anyone!”

Wash closed his eyes. He could hear his blood pounding in his veins. He was glad that Donut’s eyes were focused so intensely on his face. That way he didn’t notice that Wash’s hands were shaking as he dropped Donut.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?” Donut asked, desperately. “It was the right thing to do!”

Wash didn’t answer, just turned on his heel and left.


Wash managed to regain his good mood in time for lunch with Tucker. He was surprised to learn that Tucker was the only person he had lunch with. He’d prepared himself for lunch with Kai, Church, and Caboose, but Tucker showed up in his office with a packed lunch of his own, sat down in the awful chair in front of the desk, propped his feet up on Wash’s paperwork, and began to cheerfully crack jokes as Wash got his own lunch out of the fridge.

“We need to get you some pictures or something,” Tucker declared. “Hang on, I’ve got it.” He got to his feet, pulled out his phone, and then jumped around to Wash’s side of the desk. “Say cheese!” He then smushed their faces together, beaming widely, and took a photo of Wash’s bewildered expression. “Got it!”

“Tucker!” Wash protested.

“Don’t be boring,” Tucker told him, but then he put away his phone and continued eating, so Wash chalked that down as a win.

At least he did, until Kai came in with a printout of the picture and a box of thumbtacks, which Tucker seized from her gleefully and climbed over Wash’s desk to pin to his bulletin board.

Tucker!” Wash tried to stop him, but Tucker was stronger than he looked, and Kai cheerfully assisted by yanking his chair away from Tucker.

The result was a large, awfully pixilated color print out of a stupid selfie, proudly pinned to the bulletin board where everyone could see it.

“I hate you.”

“What’s the matter, secret agent man?” Kai demanded. “Can’t have photos taken ‘cuz it blows your identity?”

“I’ll tell you who he should blow,” Tucker waggled his eyebrows. “Bow-chicka-bow-wow!”

Kai high fived him while Wash groaned, because that one was just bad.

“I’m not a secret—”

“Then prove it! Leave it up!” Kai pointed at him.

Wash stared up at her smirking face, and he realized that he’d just been trapped. And possibly conned. But mostly trapped.

“You’re evil,” he said, but he was pretty sure that it came out more complimentary than he had intended.

Kai tossed her hair proudly, smirked, and then strode out of the office.

Wash sighed, picking up his sandwich.

“Guess you’ll have to find better pictures if you want to take that one down,” Tucker said, sounding far too close to boasting for Wash’s taste.

Wash took a moment to consider his options, then threw his pen at Tucker’s head.

Tucker’s delighted laugh followed him around for the rest of the day.


“You fuck!”

Wash’s shift had just ended, and Wash looked up, startled, just in time for Leonard Church to snag him by the lapels of his coat and shove him against the wall.

“What the hell?” Wash yelled, caught completely off guard by both Church’s rage and how strong he was. Church was built like a pole, with sharp edges. Wash really must have lost weight, if Church could throw him around like that.

“Church?” Tucker was there suddenly, yanking Church away from him. “What the fuck are you doing to Wash?”

Washington,” Church spat, eyes narrowed with fury. “Just got Donut suspended!”

Tucker froze, before whirling on Wash, horrified. “What the fuck?”

“He reported him!” Church snarled. For a moment, Wash saw the resemblance to Carolina beyond the eyes. “For insurance fraud!”

“Wash?” Tucker said, looking like he was going to be sick. “You…”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” Wash said stiffly. He straightened his coat.

Tucker’s horrified look morphed into fury. “You fucking dick! What did Donut ever do to you?”

“He broke the law, Tucker,” Wash said. “It’s serious. I wasn’t going to stand aside and let it happen.”

“So what? You just throw Donut under the bus? He could lose his job!” Tucker was just as worked up about this as Church was, hands clenched into fists at his sides, like he was considering taking a swing at Wash.

“Maybe he should, if that’s the kind of medicine he practices!” Wash yelled.

There was a ringing silence after he was finished. Church and Tucker both looked disgusted, exchanging glances.

“He was helping someone!” Church spat. “What kind of fucked up priorities do you have?”

“I’m done with this conversation,” Wash said calmly. “Get out of my office now, and I won’t mention this to Carolina. I’m just hoping both of you were sensible enough not to get caught up with Donut’s fraud.”

“You’re a spineless, jackass cockbite and I hope you choke and die,” Church spat, stalking out of Wash’s office. He paused in the doorway, green eyes flashing dangerously. “You coming, Tucker?” 

“Yeah,” Tucker said, voice colder than Wash had ever heard it. He didn’t even spare Wash a second glance as he spun on his heel and followed Church.

On his way out, Wash realized that one of them had stopped during their exit to rip the piece of notebook paper with his name on it from the door to reveal the sign that identified his office as belonging to one Doctor Allison Texas.

Wash ran his fingers over the lowered ridges of the lettering, feeling sick to his stomach.

“It doesn’t matter,” he told himself.

He left Blood Gulch and went back to his empty apartment.

Chapter Text

There was no sign of Tucker when Wash turned up for work the next morning.

Overnight someone had finally removed the sign identifying it as Tex’s office, but nothing had been put in its place. The holes where it had been screwed in place remained there, mocking him.

Wash glanced in at his office, half expecting it to be flooded or something similar. But the only thing he noticed was that there were more papers on his desk than usual, and no sign of coffee. He stiffened his shoulders. He shouldn’t have even looked, not when Tucker had been acting the way he had been last night. Well, Wash wasn’t going to let it bother him. He was an adult. He knew where the coffee pot was. He could pour himself his own cup of coffee.

Wash cautiously made his way to the nurses’ station. Everything was oddly quiet. The sounds seemed muffled and there was something stifling in the air.

Something had shifted, overnight, and Wash knew why.

Normally by this time in the morning, the nurses were all gathering around the station, laughing and talking and trading paperwork. Even the Reds sometimes wandered in, bleary eyed from a long night’s shift and needing coffee and conversation before heading home.

It was empty.

Wash shook off the feeling that he was the only person in the entire hospital, and sought out the coffee pot.

The machine was ancient and unreliable, but Wash had drunk enough coffee that Tucker had procured for him over the past few months that Wash knew it was perfectly acceptable, no matter what deficiencies the machine might have.

Wash had never seen the station’s coffee pot empty, but there it was, perfectly clean and dry as a bone.

Well, alright then. Wash could make his own coffee. He began to search the nearby cupboards, looking in all the logical places for where the coffee beans would be stored. Then he remembered that Kai was nominally in charge of the coffee maker, and began searching in illogical places too.

There weren’t any. He found the cupboard where they normally should be—there was a jar labelled “beans”, as well as packets of sugar, non-sugar sweetener, non-dairy creamer, bags of tea, and hot cocoa powder. But the only sign that beans had ever been in the jar was the faint aroma and some grit.

“Sorry,” Church said, not sounding remotely sorry. Wash glanced up. Church’s grin was smug and unpleasant. “We ran out yesterday. Kai made a coffee run. Guess you missed the sign up list.” He held up his own cup and took a drink, maintaining eye contact with Wash the whole time.

Wash took a deep breath and walked away, reminding himself that he was an adult who could function without caffeine.

Wash, as it turned out, was not very good at lying to himself.


Wash didn’t know how long Tucker was going to stay mad at him, but he was pretty sure that they were pushing “reasonable”.

Wash had never realized just how much of his paperwork Tucker had been helping with until it all began to materialize on his desk every day. He also hadn’t realized just how much he had been depending on Tucker’s coffee run to help him get through the day. After two days of suffering without coffee, he forced himself to wake up a few minutes earlier in the morning and stop at the coffee shop by his apartment to buy one for himself. Every time he checked the nurses’ station, there was no trace of coffee, even though he could smell it constantly.

He considered going to the cafeteria to search for coffee on at least one occasion, despite his distaste for that part of the building, before he realized the ER staff also ate there. Wash wasn’t on call for another two days, and he would probably need them. As it was, the ambulance had been parked in front of his normal parking spot ever since Wash had filed his report. Grif and Simmons, as it turned out, were just as furious at him as the Blues.

Wash did not feel bad, he reminded himself. He’d done the right thing.

“Doctor Washington?” Grey asked, appearing in his door after Wash had collapsed back into his chair after a long shift at the clinic. He was pretty sure that Tucker was conspiring with Sheila to stack his schedule with difficult patients and overbooking him on purpose.

It wasn’t paranoia if they were really out to get him, okay?

“Doctor Grey,” Wash said, feeling utterly exhausted. “Can I help you?”

She sat down in the chair, closing the door behind her. Wash blinked. The door was always open. It was supposed to be open.

“Doctor Washington.” Grey crossed her arms. “Why is it that our nurses are conspiring against you? It’s a regular war of passive aggression!”

Wash flinched. “You noticed?”

“It’s impossible not to! My office is right across from the station!” She leaned across, setting down a purple mug full of coffee on his desk. “I thought you could use this,” she added kindly.

Wash found himself profoundly grateful for Grey, and carefully sipped it. It wasn’t like how Tucker made it. It tasted like vanilla creamer, and there wasn’t enough sugar. Wash drank it anyways, grateful for the caffeine.

“So,” Grey said, once Wash was more coherent. “What did you do?”

Wash set his jaw. “You haven’t heard?”

“Only rumors,” Grey said, lips pressed in a way that reminded Wash vividly of an elementary school principal. “But you know how rumors get! If I believed every little tidbit I hear, the hospital’s also haunted and the Sergeant’s car can transform into a wildcat!”

What?”

“A puma, I believe. Or was it a warthog?”

“A warthog isn’t a… you know what, never mind.” Wash’s shoulders slumped. He glanced up at Grey, whose expression was perfectly calm.

He remembered how matter of fact she had been when bringing up the MOI.

Grey was like him. She didn’t belong in Blood Gulch.

Maybe he could talk to her about this.

Maybe she could understand, when the nurses couldn’t.

“I… I found out that someone was committing insurance fraud,” Wash said quietly. “So I reported it.”

Grey’s eyes hardened in understanding.

“I couldn’t just let him get away with it!” Wash defended himself.

“Why was he doing it?” Grey asked. She didn’t ask who “he” was. Wash wondered how much she already knew.

He remembered her and Sarge in the overnight room and blanched, wondering if he had just walked into some sort of trap.

Wash clenched his fists, hidden safely in his lap where Grey couldn’t see them. “To get someone surgery.”

“Hmm,” Grey hummed. Her expression hadn’t shifted an inch.

“It’s—there are ways! Better ways! Ones that don’t involve…”

“Was that your concern, Doctor Washington?” Her voice was unyielding steel. “Or was this about what you thought would happen to you if someone else had realized?”

Wash recoiled. “It had nothing to do with me! You can’t just break the law! People can get hurt! The rules exist for a reason!”

“I think we’re talking about different things here, Wash.” Wash realized that this was the first time he’d ever heard her use his nickname. “This is insurance fraud. Not malpractice or illegal drug trials.”

Wash froze.

“What?”

“No one is being hurt this time, Wash. This isn’t the Institute.”

“I know it’s not!”

“Do you?” Grey raised an eyebrow. “So this has nothing to do with the warning that if they caught you with one toe out of line that you’d get your license revoked?”

The world seemed to stop.

“How do you know about that?” Wash asked. His voice was hitting those octaves that Connie and Maine had always loved to make fun of him for, but Wash couldn’t bring himself to care.

Even Carolina hadn’t known about the warning.

“I was on the review panel, Wash.” She patted his hand, but Wash jerked it away, staring at her with unbelieving eyes.

“You…?”

“Yes,” Grey said simply, getting to her feet. “I’m not saying you were wrong, Wash. And I understand why you think the rules are so important, especially after what happened to those people. But you should be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.” She left the door open when she left.

Wash stared after her for a long time, the purple mug still sitting on his desk.

Malpractice suits were common enough, he’d known that since medical school. And being a part of an experimental hospital like the MOI had opened him up to more of them. He’d seen everyone go through them. All of them had been dismissed.

Before the drug trials. Before everything had gone down in flames, and Wash realized, for the first time in his life, just how important it was to stay within the lines, to follow the rules. Especially as doctors. 

Because when they didn’t, people got hurt.

He picked at the sleeve of his scrubs, remembering what Donut had said. “Look, he’d have died without it!

He turned his head, and paused as the picture that Tucker had taken of them caught his eye. Wash paused, reaching out. Tucker hadn’t removed it. Now that he thought about it, he was surprised by that. But then, Tucker had been avoiding the office since everything had gone down.

Maybe Wash should remove it first. It’s not like he had any reason to leave it up.

He remembered Tucker’s face when Church had told him what Wash had done.

It didn’t matter what Grey said. This didn’t have anything to do with the MOI, or the trials, or… the rest of it. He’d done it because it was the right thing to do. He turned away from the print out of Tucker’s ridiculous grin.  

Kai poked her head into his office to let him know he was late for a meeting with a patient, pulling Wash out of his reverie.

It didn’t matter, he reminded himself. It was out of his hands now.

Whatever happened to Franklin Delano Donut was squarely in the hands of the Board.


“Alright, what seems to be the problem, Mr. Jimmy?” Wash said, looking down at his clipboard as he walked into the stark hospital room.

Then he looked up.

“Okay, is this some sort of joke?” He demanded, irritated.

The man in the bed was Leonard Church, in a hospital gown and without glasses.

“Is what a joke?” The man said. “I’m sorry doctor, is something wrong?”

“I….” Wash glanced around, looking for Kai, for Tucker, for the Reds, for anyone. There was no way this was real.

Then he glanced back at the patient, and managed to find differences. The man had amber eyes, not bright green. There were less frown lines. He had a bit more weight on him, softening his angles and giving him a more pleasant look.

“I’m sorry,” he said, forcing himself back into patient-mode. “You remind me of someone, that’s all.”

“Oh!” The man smiled at him, and Wash tried to act like he didn’t feel like he’d entered a strange alternate dimension. “The nurse right? I get that a lot.”

“A lot?” Wash repeated, suddenly grabbing the man’s chart and flipping through it. “That’s… that’s a lot of admissions, Mr. Jimmy.”

The man laughed, and Wash’s skin crawled. Jimmy’s voice was nothing like Church’s, but it was still wrong.

“Oh, they just can’t figure out what’s wrong with me,” he said brightly. “Current theory is that I’m allergic to my own skull!”

Wash raised an eyebrow. “Well. That doesn’t sound physically possible.”

“That’s what I keep saying!” Jimmy grinned. “But like my girlfriend always says, I’m a regular medical miracle!”

“Well,” Wash said. “I’ll have a look over your blood work again, and I’ll see if we can get you started on an antibiotic regiment, see if that can clear up some of your symptoms.”

“That sounds just fine!”

There was a barking noise, and a large, fluffy dog bounced up onto the bed before beginning to eagerly lick Jimmy right on the face.

“Hello Freckles!” Jimmy said, petting the dog. “Does Caboose know where you are?”

“Freckles?” Wash asked.

“For the spots on his back,” Jimmy explained. “He’s the companion dog for the nursing home, normally. Sometimes he gets brought around this ward, if no one’s allergic.”

Freckles!” Suddenly, Caboose crashed through the door, eyes wide with concern. “Sick Church! Have you seen Freckles?”

“He’s right here, Caboose,” Jimmy laughed.

“Oh! Bad Freckles! You know Church is allergic to dog kisses!” Freckles whined, but jumped off the bed to go to Caboose’s side, tail wagging. Caboose leaned towards the dog, and whispered, loud enough that they could probably hear him down the hall, “It is the saddest allergy ever. Of all time.”

“That’s the other Church, Caboose,” Jimmy said patiently. Wash wondered how often they’d had this conversation. “I don’t mind.”

“Oh!” Caboose brightened. “Well, that is okay then!”

Wash smiled. “Caboose, I didn’t know you helped in the Nursing Home.”

Suddenly, Caboose’s wide grin vanished. Freckles suddenly turned to Wash and started growling. For a dog that was so fluffy and friendly, it suddenly occurred to Wash that dogs were still carnivores, and had very sharp teeth.

“Oh. Doctor Washington.” Caboose looked at the floor. “Church says I am not supposed to spend time with you.”

Wash felt hot fury pound through his veins, and he crossed his arms. “Oh?”

“Yes,” Caboose said, still not looking at Wash. “He says you are many mean words and not a nice person and that it’s your fault that Nurse Cinnamon Roll can’t work here anymore and that’s not nice Doctor Washington because he is a very nice person and just likes helping people and so that is why Church says I should listen to Stupid-Tucker and not spend time with you even though Tucker is normally wrong and stupid.”

“Caboose,” Wash said, taking a step forward. “Buddy…”

“No!” Caboose reached down and picked up all hundred-something pounds of Freckles and held the large dog up between them, as if the dog could physically shield him from Wash’s words. “I am not going to listen to you! We are not friends!”

Wash was pretty sure he saw tears in Caboose’s eyes before he left the room.

“Well,” Jimmy said weakly. “That was interesting!”

Wash growled and stormed towards the clinic, intending to change into his normal clothes and go home.


Wash walked into the parking lot, feeling tired to the bone, in a way he hadn’t been since the trial.

He nearly collided head-on with Donut on his way out.

Donut… didn’t look good. His hair was disheveled and his face was pale. He wore a trench coat with a pink scarf wrapped his neck. He looked as tired as Wash felt.

He took one look at Wash and the expression on his face completely crumpled for a second, before Donut rallied.

“Oh hey Wash!” Donut said, but his grin wavered and flickered like a bad TV signal. “How’s it going?”

Wash glared at the cause of all the stress he’d gone through that day. He didn’t have time for this.

“Like you don’t know,” Wash snapped, not having the patience for Donut’s kicked-puppy routine. He stormed past him, getting into his old car and slamming the door shut loudly.

He needed somewhere to think. Somewhere that wasn’t his empty, echoing apartment with its unpacked boxes and empty fridge.

There was only one place he could think of that fit the criteria.

He drove to Foxtrot.

York was already behind the bar, despite the early hour. “Rough day?” York asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You could say that.”

“Same as last time?”

“Please.”

York hummed in acknowledgement and wandered away.

Wash took out his phone and began flipping through his apps, looking for something to do, something to keep his mind off the expression on Donut’s face.

A beer was placed in front of him.

“So. What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did anything?” Wash said, before looking up and freezing.

The person who’d put the drink down wasn’t York. Instead, it was a tall, muscular woman with dark brown eyes and a smirk that said she’d known exactly what he’d done and was looking forward to kicking his ass for it.

Allison?” Wash blurted out unthinkingly.

“It’s Tex.” She rolled her eyes at him.

Wash stared at her for a moment before slamming his head against the bar hard enough that he saw stars.

Stupid. All the signs had been there. Literally. The sign had literally been on his door. Allison. Texas. A brilliant surgeon. A former employee of the MOI. A leave of absence that had started around the time of the trial.

Suddenly, Wash sat upright again, staring at Tex.

“Wait. I thought you were supposed to be in Panama!”

“Oh, those bullshit pictures I send Tucker? Got them off Google, send them from phones I borrow from customers. Stops Church from realizing I’m here.”

Wash stared, trying to process that Allison Texas, renowned surgeon, was serving beer at a dive bar less than a mile from the hospital where she’d been working, and no one had known.

“Why?” Was the only thing he managed to say.

“York’s an old friend,” Tex said, her smile brittle. “He’s letting me lie low for a while.”

“Letting you,” York laughed from the other side of the bar, leaning against the wall with a fond smile on his face. “Like I could stop you if I tried.”

“So I repeat, Washington.” Texas leaned against the bar and pushed his beer towards him. “What did you do?”

Wash looked at her and took a long pull of his beer before answering. “I pissed off the nurses.”

“All of them?” Tex sounded impressed. “Clinic and ER? What did you do, kick Freckles? Make Caboose cry? Punch Donut?”

Something must have changed in his expression, because Tex whistled and hopped over the bar to sit next to him. York walked by, placing a beer in front of Tex as he went, not even pausing as he kept walking towards the kitchen.

“You punched Donut?”

“No!”

“What then? Did you shoot him?”

No!” Wash stared at her, horrified. “I’m a doctor!”

“So was the Director,” Tex pointed out sensibly. “Some doctors can be assholes. We of all people know that.”

The blatant mention of the Director made Wash pause. He and Carolina usually danced around the subject, but Tex was acting like it was no big deal at all.

He’d never understand her.

He stared into his beer.

“Hey,” Tex said. “I know those losers. Maybe I can help.”

“I doubt it,” Wash said. But he took another drink, and began to talk.

Chapter Text

Wash wasn’t sure what time it was when Tex and York declared him too drunk to drive, and dragged him up the stairs to the apartment they shared above the bar.

He hadn’t meant to get drunk on a weekday night when he had work the next morning, it had just sort of… happened. Wash’s tolerance was lower than it had once been, and he guessed the weight he’d lost since the MOI had made things worse.

“I’m fine,” Wash protested, but he nearly tripped as he said it, which kind of sabotaged his argument.

“We’ve got room,” York laughed, supporting Wash on one side, with Tex on the other.

They deposited him on their couch—it was old and ugly, decorated with some sort of tacky pattern that Wash was too tired to identify. Tex rolled him onto his side and threw a blanket over him. York, who’d already spent the past half hour forcing Wash to drink water, placed a water bottle in reach and a packet of ibuprofen.

Then the two of them left.

Wash fell asleep quickly.


“It is the decision of this court that Doctor David Washington was an unwitting participant in the malpractice suit brought before us today, and as such will be allowed to continue practicing medicine.”

Wash stared down at his hands, gripping the edge of the table.

**

“They can’t do this, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Wash told Connie desperately. “You’re the one who went to them! You’re the only reason they have a case!”

Connie turned away from him. “I’ll be fine, Wash,” she said. “Don’t worry about me.” She placed a hand on his arm. “You still have a chance, Wash.”

**

Maine was led away, and Wash glanced at the lawyer’s smug grin.

He hadn’t seen anything about the Director or Price in court yet, he realized.

**

“We lost another one,” Carolina told him. Her eyes were surrounded by dark circles.

“Who?” Wash demanded, heart racing.

Carolina dragged her hands down her face. “The man who was stuck in the collapsing building. Terrence, or whatever.”

“I thought he was stable!”

“Delayed reaction,” Carolina said. “They’d been giving it to him in small doses before they skipped to the full procedure.” She reached up to fiddle with her necklace. “They’re blaming Maine for this.”

“It’s not his fault! We didn’t know about Epsilon!”

“I don’t think it matters to them anymore,” Carolina murmured. “They want someone to pay.”

“And what about you?” Wash asked, stomach churning.

Carolina bowed her head. “I… I don’t know.”

**

“Medical malpractice? All of us? This has to be some kind of joke.”

“It’s not,” Allison said, leaning against the doorframe. She sounded tired. “People are dying, Washington. We’re killing them.”

“You!” Carolina strode across the room and punched Allison in the jaw. They all leapt to their feet to hold her back.

**

“Doctor David Washington? You’ve been served.” An envelope slapped against his chest, and just like that, the whole world changed.


Wash opened his eyes, and for a moment, he didn’t know where he was.

Tentatively, he got to his feet. York had apparently made him drink enough water that he wasn’t hungover, but his mouth still felt like something had died inside of it, so he grabbed the water bottle and drank greedily.

As he slowly woke up, he glanced around the apartment. It was small and simple. The walls were plain white, but heavily decorated with photographs. The couch he was sitting on was across from a TV, sandwiched between two bookcases that were haphazardly filled with books, DVDs and video games in no particular order. A door led into the kitchen, and another open door showed the hallway that probably led to the bedroom or bedrooms and bathroom.

Curious and wanting answers, he got to his feet to examine the photographs.

In the first one, Tex was in the midst of the nurses. One arm was wrapped around Church’s waist, the other thrown over Tucker’s shoulder. Caboose was beaming, leaning close to Sheila to talk with her. Kai was sprawled across all their laps, laughing at something. Junior was perched behind Tucker, looking delighted to be included.

The next one was York outside of a different bar. Both eyes intact, his arms were wrapped around the skinny shoulders of a man with a strong resemblance to Church, who had a fondly exasperated expression on his face.

The next one had two teenagers who had to be York and Tex, looking incredibly uncomfortable in formalwear, standing next to each other. A yellow rose corsage was on Tex’s wrist, and a matching one was pinned to York’s jacket. Both of them looked like they’d rather be anywhere than where they were.

Below it was one of two very young kids at a playground. The girl was standing on top of the slide, the boy sat on the bottom. Both of them were laughing, facing each other rather than paying attention to the camera. They couldn’t have been older than five or six years old, but it was still clearly Tex and York. Childhood friends, then.

Finally, Wash got to one that made him pause. York in a t-shirt and cut-off shorts, with his arms wrapped around the waist of a women in an aquamarine sundress, both of them gazing into each other’s eyes, blissfully unaware of the photographer.

The woman was Carolina.

“They were engaged,” Tex said, making Wash jump guiltily.

“I… I didn’t even know she was dating anyone,” Wash said, frowning.  

Tex grinned. “The Director didn’t approve. He’s just a bartender, after all.”

“What happened?”

Tex glanced at him sideways. “York sued the MOI for medical malpractice.”

Wash froze. “What?”

“He was one of the major accusers,” Tex said.

“He… he…”

“He was in a fire that destroyed his last bar,” Tex said, rapping her knuckles against the picture with York and the other man that Wash had noticed earlier. “He was taken to the MOI for surgery. I was his surgeon. His files had been altered to remove an allergy to most anesthetics and painkillers, because the Director wanted to try out one of his experimental new drugs that he was sure wouldn’t have side effects, even though one of the major ingredients was something that York was allergic to.”

“Epsilon,” Wash whispered.

Tex gave him a grim smile.

“If Tex hadn’t realized, I’d have been dead,” York had snuck into the room while Wash was distracted. “Luckily she checked the ingredients and remembered my allergies to… well. Basically everything.” He gave them a grin, but it didn’t reach his eye. “Anyone feeling pancakes? I’ll make pancakes.” He walked into the kitchen.

“Permanent nerve damage,” Tex said, before Wash could ask. “And he lost that eye. I could have saved it, if they hadn’t…” She snorted. “Well. You know what Epsilon does to people.”

Wash skirted around that line of thinking. “So she broke up with him because he was suing the hospital?”

“No,” Tex said. “She broke up with him because she didn’t want him to feel like he couldn’t.”

Wash shook his head. “But then…?”

“I don’t ask,” Tex said. “We don’t pry. It’s why we’re still friends.”

“So why are you here then?”

Tex tilted her head to one side, cracking her neck. Evaluating him.

“I couldn’t practice anymore,” Tex finally said. “I froze up. I nearly killed someone else. Needed a break. Needed to use my hands for something else for a while before I get them bloody again.”

Wash turned that over in his head. “So you just left? Without a word?”

Tex scowled at him. “You’re the one who spent all last night drunkenly bemoaning how no one ever understands.”

Wash’s fuzzy memories of last night corroborated that story, which was mortifying.

“I don’t want them to understand,” Tex said. “You take out your issues on Donut. You don’t get to judge me for taking a fucking vacation.”

“I wasn’t taking my issues out on Donut!”

“Yes you were,” Tex waved her hand at him. “Everyone likes Donut. The guy hit me with an expired bag of blood on my first day and I like Donut. You fucked up Washington. If I were you, I’d start groveling. Maybe you can taste coffee again before you retire. Or I come back. Whichever comes first.”

Wash sat down on the couch. “Are you coming back then?’

Tex shrugged. “Maybe. It’s… I’m still finding my feet.”

“They could use you,” Wash said. He paused. “They miss you.”

“Of course they do,” Tex said fondly. “They’re saps like that.”

Wash remembered something, and looked up at her. “And pretending to be in another country?”

Tex grinned. “No one said I couldn’t have fun raising Church’s blood pressure, just because I’m being emo for a while.”

“A truly honorable pastime! I love your blog!” York yelled from the kitchen.

“I based it off your livejournal from high school!” Tex yelled back.

Wash glanced back at the prom photo. “You two went to high school together?”

“We’ve known each other since kindergarten.” Tex shrugged. “We went to school together until York chose community college and I fucked off to the city for pre-med.”

“And yet, one of us doesn’t pay rent, and it’s not me,” York said. “Pancakes are almost ready, grabs some plates, will you?”


“Donut’s back at work today,” Carolina told him as he walked through the back entrance. She'd been waiting for him, clipboard tucked under one arm. 

Wash stared. “What?”

“I’ve got a meeting with the board in three days to discuss his case. But in the meantime, we’re understaffed. So he’s back.”

Wash flinched.

Carolina shrugged. “Sorry. We need the ER fully-staffed.” She didn't look particularly sorry. 

“I know,” Wash said, slinking towards his office.

Partway there, he reconsidered as he remembered Tex's advice, and turned towards the nurses’ station instead.

It wasn’t hard to find Tucker’s tiny corner. Junior’s basketball photos were plastered all over the walls, as well as one of those quote of the day calendars, only with sexual innuendos. Tucker himself was perched on his chair, looking down at the small pile of paperwork on his desk. Tucker's dreads were loose and thrown over one shoulder, leaving the back of his plain teal scrubs exposed. Wash noticed, suddenly, that Tucker hadn’t worn his glasses since he’d gotten mad at Wash. 

“Tucker?” Wash asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “Can I talk to you?”

Tucker didn’t look up. “Not like I can stop you.”

"... you're wearing plain scrubs," Wash said stupidly. 

"What's the matter, hoping I'd wear my normal ones so you could report me too? Inappropriate behavior or some shit?" Tucker kept writing. 

“Tucker, please. I… look, I…” 

“Save it,” Tucker snapped, finally turning his chair to look at Wash. “You nearly got one of my best friends fired because you threw a hissy fit. He still might be fired. I don’t want your apologies or whatever it is that you’re going to say.” His voice was rising to a shout. “I’m putting in for a transfer to stop being your fucking nurse the second we can find someone else who’s willing to work with you! So why don’t you just fuck off?”

Wash closed his mouth. “Alright,” he said, after a long pause. “I understand.”

He turned away and went back to his office, where he could be certain he wouldn't be disturbed. He sat down in his chair hard, burying his face in his hands.

A part of him wanted to protest against Tucker’s reaction, but he knew better. This was deserved.

It didn’t mean he liked the idea of Tucker leaving any better though. He wondered who they’d find to work with him instead.

Wash glanced at the photograph of Tucker and himself on his bulletin board again, and swallowed. He really should take that down.

How had this all happened so quickly? At least at the MOI he’d had a few precious good years before everything had fallen to pieces. It felt like Wash had only barely arrived at Blood Gulch, and yet everything he’d thought he’d been able to build was gone.

In all the stories last night, Tex hadn’t had an answer for him for how to fix things. 

“This is an all-hospital alert!" Wash jolted back, staring up at the intercom in shock. "There was a severe fire at the New Republic Free Clinic! Everyone available is needed in the ER!” Sheila’s voice sounded stressed, even over the intercom.

Wash leapt to his feet, barely remembering to put on his scrubs before racing out of his office.

Belatedly, he realized that he was changing into the new blue ones Tucker had given him for the first time. He hesitated for a single second, considering reaching for his normal grey ones across the office, but he forced himself to keep going. There was an emergency. This was no time for worrying about Tucker glaring at him for having the audacity to wear blue, or to get upset remembering the events of that day. 

Wash sat off towards the ER at a full run. He pushed open the doors into the ER, only barely remembering to catch himself as he moved from the carpet of the clinic onto the highly polished (red) tile.

The ER was crowded already, with every doctor and nurse that Wash knew, and a few he didn’t recognize there. Nervous tension filled the room, making Wash’s heart start to race. He tried to take a deep breath to settle his nerves, tried to make sure that he was ready for this. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

The doors to the ER burst open, and the first ambulance load arrived.

Wash glanced from Tucker, to Carolina, to Caboose, to Church, to Kai, to Grey, to the Reds, including a rather subdued doing Donut, and then got to work.

Chapter Text

Wash had never seen anything like this, not in all his years of medicine.

Shouts filled the air as nurses darted back and forth, making sure that people who needed oxygen tanks had them and that the triage was set up correctly. Everywhere Wash look there were concussions and burns and cuts and bruises. Several people had shrapnel injuries from being near sensitive hospital equipment when it had exploded from the heat. Three others had been hit by a car while trying to get out of the hospital. One person had been forced to jump off the roof.

And that wasn’t even counting all the people who’d been at the clinic for their various injuries and ailments, which now were worse because of the hurried nature of the evacuation.

Families were pouring into the ER, looking for loved ones. People shouted about insurance and hospital bills and cried about lost belongings. The Wi-Fi was swamped and cell service was non-existent and Wash was fairly sure they were minutes away from a riot.

“We’re overwhelmed here!” Wash yelled to the receptionist when he stopped to catch his breath. “Are you sure you paged everyone?”

“Fuck off!” She yelled right back. “That’s the first thing I did! Stop taking your fear of failure and crushing guilt complex out on me and go help people!”

“Sherry!” Doctor Vera Ohio screamed while running by, her target obviously the heavily pregnant woman who had started screaming about her water breaking. “Stop freaking out David with your body language reading powers and just keep triaging!”

“Fuck you too!” Sherry screeched, but she returned to work, ignoring Wash.

“Everyone’s in?” Wash stared out at the waiting room, which was still too crowded for everyone to even have chairs, and felt his stomach churn.

“The ambulance is already shipping as many as we can handle out to bigger hospitals,” Sherry said, shoulders slumping. “The helicopter’s made three trips. Even Flowers showed up, and he only ever comes in on Saturdays. There’s no one left.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

Wash and Sherry both jumped.

In front of them, wearing the darkest scrubs Wash had ever seen, was Tex. Her hair had been pulled into a bun without a single hair out of place. Her smirk was stretched thin, but her eyes were bright and dangerous.

“Tex?” Wash yelped.

Tex held up a pager. It was exactly like the one clipped to Wash’s own belt. “You called?”

Sherry recovered in an instant, flipping through her clipboard. “Doctor Texas! If you could report to Operating Theater Five, that would be ideal!”

“Great,” Texas said, turning and striding into the depths of the ER, pushing the (red) doors of the waiting room open. There was a confidence to her walk that declared with every step that she belonged here. This was her hospital.

As the doors swung open, Wash saw heads turn and jaws drop.

“Tex?” Church looked like he’d been hit by a bus. He looked hilariously out of place in the ER; even his scrubs clashed with the decor. “You’re… you’re here?”

“I got paged,” Tex said blandly.

“You’re back?” Tucker asked, unable to hide his hopeful expression. Wash looked away, quashing the bitter, jealous feeling as best he could. This was no time for petty, selfish things.

Even if he couldn’t remember the last time Tucker had looked at him with anything but disgust.

“For now,” Tex said. Wash glanced at her, and kept his mouth firmly shut. She turned to Wash, choosing to ignore Tucker and Church for now. “I’ll need a nurse to assist. Got any recommendations on who I can poach?”

“Donut,” Wash said without thinking. “He’s the best nurse in the ER.” Realization hit him belatedly, but he clenched his jaw. It was true. He wasn’t about to take it back.

He could feel the stares of the nurses on him. For a second, he thought he saw Tex smile.

“Great,” Tex strode towards the familiar pink scrubs.

“Get back to work,” Wash told Church and Tucker, before throwing himself into the thick of things once more.

Wash lost track of time, until eventually Tucker grabbed his arm, stopping him from moving on to the next patient. Wash stilled, trying not to think about how this was the first time Tucker had willingly come near him since he’d reported Donut.

“Hey Wash? Can I talk to you for a second?”

“I swear, if you’re going to make me look at a rash, I’m going to hit you.”

“Oh, shut up. No, I need you to talk to Kimball! She’s starting to freak me out, and the patients too!”

“Kimball?” Wash blinked, confused.

Tucker pointed, and Wash stared as he realized that the ER staff currently included a doctor he’d never seen before.

“Who is she?” Wash frowned.

“She’s the doctor in charge of the clinic,” Tucker said. “She’s… she’s not taking it well.”

Wash looked back at Kimball. She was around Wash’s age, wearing beige and blue scrubs, and she had the same frantic but determined look that Wash remembered seeing on his own face, right before the malpractice trials had begun.

“Why can’t you talk to her?” Wash asked.

Tucker gave him a look. “Because she’s my friend and she won’t listen to me. But you’re a doctor. She might listen to you.”

Wash glanced around. Things had finally started to calm down, ever so slightly, and none of the triage nurses had grabbed him in a while to take care of something urgent.

So he went to Kimball. She’d just finished up with a young girl with minor burns on her arms, and now she was leaning against the wall, a hand over her eyes. She practically radiated exhaustion. As he approached her, he noticed another important detail he’d missed while speaking with Tucker.

“You’re bleeding!”

The largest one he could see had already been crudely wrapped with what looked like an old t-shirt, but that was soaked through. There were a few more on her arms, hands, and face. They were mostly scabbed over, but they clearly hadn’t been looked after.

“I’m fine,” she growled, not removing her hand from her face. Despite her clear exhaustion, her voice was strong and steady.

“Doctor Kimball. You’re bleeding. You might be infecting your patients, and you could even be infecting yourself. Come with me now, and get those looked after.”

Kimball lowered her hand to glare at him, and Wash understood, suddenly, how the underfunded and cramped New Republic had stayed open all this time. There were the eyes of someone who would keep doing what she knew to be the right thing, even in hell itself.

Wash steered her into a curtained off area for the sake of privacy.

“What happened?” Wash said, forcing her to sit down.

Kimball glanced away from him. “I broke a window.”

What?”

“I needed to get the kids out. It wouldn’t open. So I took a fire extinguisher and broke open the window. But it didn’t work quite as well as I hoped.”

“I see.” Wash grabbed a pair of tweezers and started looking for glass shards in her cuts.

There was a long pause while Wash carefully set to work. Kimball hissed and winced whenever he found a piece of glass, but otherwise didn’t complain. She was an excellent patient.

“Have you seen Felix?” Kimball asked, abruptly. “He was supposed to be in tonight, but I haven’t seen him.”

“Felix? The Pharmaceutical Rep?”

“Yes.” She flinched again as Wash removed out a larger shard. “He’s a friend. He gets us access to discounted medicine for our patients.”

Wash’s brow furrowed. That was… oddly charitable. “No,” he said slowly. “I haven’t seen him.”

The hand that Wash wasn’t working on clenched into a fist.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Wash assured her, getting to his feet. “I’ve got the glass. Now stitches. You want anesthetic?”

“No,” Kimball said firmly. “I need my head clear for when I get back to work.”

Wash nodded in understanding and started getting out everything he would need. “How did this happen?”

Kimball hung her head. “I’m not sure,” she whispered. “It was so sudden. We were having a busy day—Fridays are always our busiest days—and then… there were screams, and then there were flames.”

“Where did it start?”

Kimball shrugged. “I’m not sure. It felt like it was everywhere at once. We barely had enough time to get the patients out, and I’m not sure we got everyone.”

Wash began to stitch up the biggest gash on her arm, taking his time.

Kimball suddenly started to laugh. The sound was full of hysteria and exhaustion, and it set Wash on edge.  

“Doctor Kimball?” Wash said, alarmed.

Kimball buried her face in her other hand. “I just… I just remembered. The fire marshal inspected us last week. He told us to make changes, because our building’s old and not up to code for a clinic that serves as many people as we do. I was making plans for fundraisers.”

Wash’s brow furrowed. “Last week?” 

“Yes.” Kimball snorted again. “The worst damn luck.”

Wash said nothing, turning his attention to cleaning a nasty-looking cut on Kimball’s forehead. “So what happens now?”

“The building’s a loss,” Kimball said spitefully. “We own the land there, but… building a new clinic is way more than we can afford. Not with the FAC soaking up all potential donations.”

“Have people been trying to buy it from you? The land?” Wash asked, as casually as he could.

Kimball’s eyes snapped up to his face, eyes focusing suddenly with something terrifyingly sharp and dangerous. “You think someone set it,” she whispered, understanding his meaning immediately.

“I do,” Wash said, dabbing away the blood which was covering her forehead. “Who else knew about the fire marshal?”

“Just… just me and the board,” Kimball said. “But… no one would set that just to get their hands on some real estate. We have children in there.” But there was doubt in her eyes.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Wash said. “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.”

Just like it had been a coincidence, back at the MOI, that so many people had reacted badly to their latest experimental drug.

“A coincidence,” Kimball whispered. “Right.”

They didn’t say anything else for a while, the worry hanging over their heads.

Eventually, Wash finished patching up Kimball and put away his supplies. “You’re fixed up, Doctor Kimball.”

“Thank you… I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know your name.”

Wash held out his hand. “David Washington,” he greeted.

“Washington?” Her smile twisted ruefully as she shook his hand. “Good to finally meet you. Tucker talks about you a lot.”

Wash stared at her in disbelief. “He… he does?”

Kimball snorted. “Oh, you have no idea.” She moved aside the curtain and the two of them exited their corner of the ER.

Across the room, Tucker was talking with Tex, head bowed low as he clutched a cup of coffee in his hands. He looked up when he saw Tex nod at them.

His eyes met Wash’s from across the room, and he smiled, bright and brilliant and gorgeous, and for a second, it was like the past few weeks had never happened.

Wash smiled back, unthinking, something warm filling him at the sight of Tucker looking happy to see him again.

“Thank you,” Kimball said to him quietly.

Wash nodded, his eyes not leaving Tucker’s.

“We’ll figure this out,” he promised Kimball.

“Oh yes,” Kimball said. Her voice was solid steel. If whoever had set the fire—if it had been set deliberately, like Wash suspected—had hoped to burn her out, they’d made a grave error.

Wash was rather looking forward to see what Kimball would do, given the chance.

Chapter Text

A few days later, Wash was sitting in Carolina’s office, picking at his lunch.

“What’s wrong?” Carolina asked, glancing at him across from her desk. Her lunch wasn’t any more impressive than Wash’s—a tuna fish sandwich, an apple, and a bottle of Gatorade. Sometimes Wash wondered if they’d sacrificed their cooking abilities to get into medical school without knowing it.

Wash shifted in his seat, considering. He should have brought this up sooner, but the fire had put it out of his mind.

“I met York.”

Carolina froze.

“Oh,” she said, quietly. Her hand raised to her neck for a second, before dropping to her desk again. She twisted the stem of her apple in her hands.

“I just wanted to let you know,” Wash said. “He might come around, because of Tex. They’re rooming together.”

Carolina’s mouth twisted. “Right,” she said.

“That’s why you punched her, wasn’t it?” Wash asked. “Because of him.”

“I punched her because I hate her,” Carolina snapped. Wash took careful note of the present tense. “But… yes. She’d nearly killed him and I–I didn’t understand yet.” The stem broke off in her hand. “I didn’t know,” she said, almost too quietly for Wash to hear. “I didn’t know what he was doing.”

“None of us did,” Wash reminded her. “Carolina…”

“It doesn’t matter Wash.”

“Alright,” Wash acquiesced. He certainly had no right to try and force someone to talk about what happened at the MOI.

“Have you talked to Maine lately?” He asked, instead.

Carolina shook her head. “You?”

“He wouldn’t take my calls,” Wash said. “Guess I gave up.” He should try again. Maybe Maine would answer this time.

Carolina nodded. “Have you heard from Connie?”

“Last I heard she was going to Canada,” Wash said. “She figured she could take the boards there, practice medicine again.”

Carolina nodded and took a bite out of her sandwich. She set it down on her desk right away.

“I’m glad you stayed.”

He glanced up at her, surprised. “Boss?”

“Everyone else left. But you stayed. And I’m glad.”

Wash managed a smile. “What are friends for?”

Carolina’s returning grin was small, but genuine.

“Do you ever think of starting again?” Wash asked.

Carolina blinked, her smile disappearing. “Starting what?”

“Practicing medicine. Being a doctor, not just a pencil pusher.”

Carolina’s expression turned panicked. “Wash. I can’t. Not after—so many people died, Wash.”

Wash shrugged. “Okay.” He started to peel his orange. He considered telling her that Tex had felt the same way, but decided against it. Carolina would figure it out for herself, eventually. When she was ready.

Carolina went back to her sandwich. They sat in silence for a long time before Carolina broke it again.

“Was he okay?”

Wash looked up at her, and something caught his eyes. Her shirt had shifted, and Wash realized for the first time what Carolina was always stopping herself from touching when she reached for her throat. Hanging from her neck was a fine chain, from which hung a silver engagement ring.

“York was fine, Boss,” he said, dragging his eyes away from the ring so that he could meet her eyes.

“Good,” Carolina whispered, her fingernails digging into her apple. “That’s… good.”


Wash walked through the halls back towards his office, hands in his pockets.

“It’s good for you two, eating together. I think you’re putting on weight!”

For once, Wash wasn’t surprised by Doc’s presence. The man was cleaning windows today.

“Why do they call you Doc?” Wash asked suddenly.

Doc looked embarrassed, his ears turning red. “I failed out of medical school,” he said delicately. “Church thought it was funny.”

A confirmation that one of the others had interacted with Doc. Wash felt oddly relieved.

“Then why do you use it? If it’s a nickname?”

Doc seemed surprised that Wash was still talking to him. “I guess it stuck!” He tapped the patch on his chest and grinned.

Wash tilted his head to one side, accepting it. He’d heard far weirder things since coming to Blood Gulch, and Doc was probably one of the more normal names among the hospital staff. “What’s your real name then?”

Doc looked absolutely baffled now. “Frank. Frank Dufresne.”

Wash nodded thoughtfully. “I should get going.”

Doc shook his head. “Doctors,” he sighed, and went back to his cleaning.

Wash turned the corner towards his office, and stopped.

There was a new sign there.

It was simple and black, with the white letters curved and simple and indented.

DOCTOR DAVID WASHINGTON, M.D.

“Donut’s been cleared,” Tucker said from behind him. Wash jumped and spun around, coming face to face with Tucker.

Tucker’s hair was loose today, and he was wearing his stupid femur… no, not femurs, Wash realized, several months too late, boners scrubs. He was wearing boner scrubs, and had been for months now, and Wash hadn’t noticed.

But… Wash stopped.

Tucker was also wearing his glasses again.

“It’s funny,” Tucker said. “Apparently it was a technical error. Not anyone’s fault. So the charges were dropped. And Donut performed outstandingly under pressure with Tex. Apparently the board is considering commending him for it.”

Wash swallowed, heart thumping a little too hard and too fast. Tucker was standing very close. “Glad to hear it,” Wash said.

Tucker stepped forward again. Wash moved backwards, his back hitting the door to his office.

“Guess you’re not as bad as I thought,” Tucker said, smirking.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wash said stiffly.

“Sure you don’t,” Tucker said. Then he stopped, barely an inch from Wash. Wash struggled to breathe normally, not wanting to let Tucker know just how much his proximity was affecting him.

Tucker’s smirk transformed into something softer, kinder. “You’re wearing the scrubs we bought you.” He leaned forward further still, planting his hands against the door, on either side of Wash’s shoulders.

Wash swallowed. “Yes.” He’d been wearing them more and more frequently now

“You look good in blue,” Tucker said, and there was something heavy in his voice that made something warm blossom in Wash’s chest.

“Tucker,” Wash said, but his voice cracked. He swallowed again, and licked his lips, stalling for time. Tucker’s eyes darted down to his mouth, following the movement.

Kai leaned around the corner. “Are you two gonna start making out already?” She demanded. Tucker jumped back from Wash, leaving Wash slumped against the closed door to his office. “Cuz you’ve got patients in the waiting room and I can only stall Sheila for like five more minutes so if you guys want to have a quickie—”

Wash flushed so brilliantly red that he wouldn’t be out of place in the ER.  “Call in the first one,” he said, and winced at the way his voice rose and cracked. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Right,” Kai sighed, before flouncing away.

Wash looked towards Tucker.

“We’re good, right?” Tucker asked, seemingly unaffected by everything that had just happened.

“Right,” Wash said, trying to pretend that relief didn’t flood him at hearing that.

“Good. It was annoying being mad at you.”

Wash grinned. “Good to hear. Angry nurses can make my life very difficult. Lesson learned.”  

“Fuck yeah we can!” Tucker’s smile was wide and wonderful, and all Wash wanted to do was lean in and tangle his fingers in Tucker’s dreads and kiss it.

Flushing again as he realized that he was at work, Wash darted into his office to grab his stethoscope.


The next day, Tucker grabbed him by the arm and propelled him into the cafeteria for lunch.

“You know Tex, right?” Tucker said, as he sat Wash down right across from her. Tex, wearing her customary black scrubs, was eating the cafeteria food without a single sign of hesitation.

“Yeah,” Wash and Tex said together.

Church, looking happier than Wash had ever seen him, sat on Tex’s right side, carefully eating out of a plastic container of pasta. Kai was on Tex’s other side, and also was eating the cafeteria food.

“Washington,” Church said, but it lacked his normal bite. Wash narrowed his eyes. One of Tex’s hands was out of sight. So was one of Church’s.

For his own sake, he didn’t look under the table.

Wash took out his lunch, and ate in silence, letting Kai and Tucker and Caboose’s chatter fill the room, soothing him.

The door opened, and Wash looked up, expecting maybe the Reds, or Carolina.

Instead, York poked his head in. “Hey Tex, you forgot your lunch on the counter. Figured you’d want it… ah, I see I’m too late to save you from the evils of cafeteria food.” He sighed. “Tragic.”

Tex smiled slightly. “Thanks York. Don’t worry,” she held up a spoonful of whatever it was she was eating. “I’m immune.”

“Well,” York huffed, slipping into the seat next to Kai. “I didn’t want to send my best friend off to her first day back at work without a proper meal.”

“It’s leftover pizza,” Tex said.

“A proper meal,” York repeated.

Wash snorted.

Tex glanced at him. “He did this in high school too,” she told them. “He’d bring two lunches, because he was convinced there were chicken beaks in the mystery meat.”

“There were, I maintain this is true,” York said, grinning. “And my sandwiches were way better than mystery meat.”

“I’ve had surgeries more pleasant than mystery meat,” Tex smirked. “That’s a pretty low bar, York.”

York gasped, offended. “Delta says my sandwiches are great!”

“Let’s just say there’s a reason he’s the cook at the bar, not you.” Tex threw a piece of wadded up tinfoil at York, which nailed him right on the forehead.

“Attacked!” York yelled, ducking behind Kai. “Attacked by my own best friend! My dearest, freeloading best friend!”

Tucker nudged Wash in the side. “Look at Church’s face,” he muttered. Wash risked a glance. Church’s good mood had evaporated, and he was scowling into his food as Tex and York continued to banter about Tex owing York rent.

Tucker’s hand was resting against Wash’s thigh, and Wash was hyper-aware of this, nearly causing him to miss the next part. “I can’t fucking believe you were hiding out above the bar this whole time,” Church snapped.

And, that’s my cue to leave. Make good choices!” York said, getting to his feet with surprising speed.

And, because the universe had an awful sense of humor, that was when the door swung open and Carolina walked into the cafeteria.

“York,” Carolina said, her voice perfectly even.

“Carolina” York looked baffled. “Wait. You work here?”

It was Carolina’s turn to look confused. “You… didn’t know that?”

York spun on his heel, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted in their direction. “I hate all of you!”

Kai giggled and Tex cackled, while Tucker’s snickering made Wash grin. Even Church’s mood seemed to lift at this.

“Especially you!” York pointed at Tex.

“York,” Carolina said. York’s hand fell, and he turned slowly to face her. “Can we… can we talk?”

York looked at her in silence for a long, long time. Finally, he stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Alright then.”

They walked away.

Kai got to her feet, clearly intending to follow. Tex’s hand sneaked out and caught her by the sleeve of her scrubs.

“No,” Tex said. “They need privacy for this.”

“Tex!” Church’s face twisted in disgust. “That’s my sister!”

“Look how little I care,” Tex said, going back to her meat of dubious origin, perfectly content.

Tucker’s hand on Wash’s thigh was warm. Wash tried his best not to move, very aware of it despite the pants of his scrubs separating their skin.

Suddenly, it disappeared, and Tucker went back to his own lunch. Wash tried not to feel disappointed. He had no reason to be. It probably hadn’t even been there on purpose.

Suddenly, the doors to the cafeteria burst open and Donut barreled in at full speed, eyes ablaze with delight.

“You guys have to come!”

They all waited patiently.

“And see this!”

Before Tex could grab anyone, the nurses were all out the door, following Donut. Wash and Tex looked at each other, shrugged, and went after them.

York and Carolina were surrounded by the rest of the ER staff, looking distinctly annoyed.

“Seriously?” York said.

“Son,” Sarge placed his hand on Carolina’s shoulder, glaring ferociously at York. “Aren’t you going to finish what you started? It’s not nice to keep a lady waiting.”

York glanced at Carolina, who looked bemused. “You were the one who made a production out of it.”

“I was being traditional,” York protested.

“You’re a sap!” Tex called.

“I’m confused, have we met?” York yelled back. But, rolling his eyes, he got down on one knee.

“Last time, you made the speech,” York said. “So I think I’ll skip the embarrassing parts, because Tex is probably recording this and neither of us want that. So I’ll just say this: you still want to marry me? Even though I kind of got your dad thrown in jail?”

Carolina let out a laugh, grabbed York by the collar of his shirt and pulled him to his feet, kissing him.

“I’m taking that as a yes,” York said, when she finally pulled away. “You’ve still got the ring, so I don’t have one to give you. Unless you want the one you gave me. I’d be happy to trade.”

Carolina swatted him on the shoulder, smiling in a way that Wash hadn’t seen since the MOI.

Something that Wash hadn’t known was tense in him uncoiled at that.

Chapter Text

This time around, instead of going to the FAC, Wash put on a pair of his worst jeans and a baggy shirt that he thought might have once been Maine’s, and headed to the remains of the New Republic to see what was still salvageable.

“Doctor Washington,” Kimball greeted him. She looked like she hadn’t slept since the last time they’d seen each other. The stitches were out of her hands and arms, but the ones on her forehead were still there. They were probably going to scar. “Thanks for coming down.”

“No problem, Doctor Kimball. And please, call me Wash.”

“Kimball then,” she smiled at him slightly. A few of the worry lines on her face vanished as she did so.

“Wash!” Felix bounded up towards them, one arm slung over Tucker’s shoulder in a gesture that was far too familiar for Wash’s taste. Felix, like the rest of them, was dressed for clean-up. The short sleeves revealed intricate tattoos on his arms, normally concealed by the sleeves of the suits he wore. “Great to see you again!”

“Felix.” Wash forced himself to smile. The second Felix had appeared, Kimball’s expression changed, leaving her looking more exhausted and stressed than Wash had ever seen her before.

Kimball clearly had not forgotten their conversation from the last time they’d seen each other.

And she, like Wash, had probably gone through the list of board members and came to the same conclusion that he had.

Isaac “Felix” Gates was a member of the board and one of the only people who’d known just how much destruction a fire could cause at the New Republic Free Clinic. Who’d been mysteriously absent the day of the fire.

“So what are you planning on doing now?” Wash asked, surveying what was left. The fire had burned fast and hot, leaving a burned-out shell of a building. They all walked through what had once been the front door, leaving footprints in the ash.

Even a passing glance at the remains told Wash that the New Republic had never been as in good shape as the FAC. The building had been older, more vulnerable, and in a worse neighborhood. Wash swallowed, looking at the destruction.

They’d been lucky so few people had been hurt.

“Doyle’s offered,” Kimball spat, resentment radiating off her in waves. “To host us at the FAC while we ‘find our feet.’”

“You will.” Wash blinked, surprised as Tex appeared to say that, wearing a black tank top that exposed just how well defined her arms were. Wash did his best not to stare. Tucker, however, had no such inhibitions, and was openly drooling.

Wash didn’t know why that bothered him so much, and found himself scowling.

Kimball shook her head. “I’m not sure,” she said. There were tears of frustration in her eyes. “The board’s already given up. They’ve sold the property. They’re talking about consolidating.”

“With the FAC?” Wash said, frowning. “What would be so bad about that?”

“They’re paper pushers, who care more about the paperwork than helping people!” Kimball snapped. “We’re not going to be able to help half the people we normally serve if we have to follow Doyle’s stupid procedures and regulations. People deserve—”

Felix laughed, finally letting go of Tucker’s shoulders. Tucker, Wash noted with displeasure, seemed completely unbothered by the contact with Felix. “C’mon Vanessa. Let’s yell about the evils of bureaucracy and insurance premiums after we get this stuff moved!” Still grinning, Felix moved further into the remains of the clinic.

Wash stepped closer to Kimball as the others moved away and started working. “So?”

Kimball’s face grew tighter. “The land was sold to Malcolm Hargrove, the CEO of Charon Industries.”

“Felix’s boss?” Wash asked, managing to dredge up where he’d heard that name before.

Kimball nodded. “And I asked around. He’s been making offers to Doyle.”

“Had he made you an offer before the fire?”

“Yes.” Kimball brushed a layer of soot off a sign that had hung on the wall. “He had.” She turned back to look at Wash. “How can I ask my staff to work at the FAC, when it might get them killed? Doyle’s been turning Hargrove down too, and if he gets impatient…”

Wash looked at her. “Do you really think they’d do that again?”

Kimball slammed her fist against the sign, shaking the soot off and filling the air. They both coughed and gasped for air.

“I’m not sure,” she whispered, when the dust settled and they could breathe again. “Why would he risk such a thing? For this?” She gestured wildly to the former waiting room. “Someone could have been killed! It was only luck that no one was!”

Either that or Felix was worryingly good at setting fires. Wash wasn’t sure which one it was. He wasn’t sure which one was worse, either.

“Sometimes,” Wash said, struggling to keep his voice even. “Sometimes people like that don’t care. As long as they get what they want.”

Kimball looked at him. “So then what can we do?”

“About what?” Tucker asked, and they both jumped.

“Tucker,” Wash said.

“C’mon! What are you guys whispering about?”

Wash glanced at Kimball, and then looked back at Tucker.

Tucker had waged war against Wash for weeks because Wash had jeopardized Donut’s career. If anyone could be trusted to side with them on this tangled web of conspiracies and lies, it would be him. The certainty of that gripped at Wash. It had been a while since he’d been quite so certain about anything.

“We can trust him, Kimball,” he said. There was a weight to his words that he didn’t dwell on.

Kimball smiled at him slightly and rolled her eyes, a reminder that she had known Tucker a lot longer than he had. “I know.” She gestured towards the hallway, where Felix and Tex were, sorting through the debris. “You go ahead, Wash. Tucker. Walk with me?”

Tucker gave them both a curious glance, but fell into step beside Kimball, his fingers trailing against Wash’s arm as he brushed by him. Probably by accident, Wash reminded himself. It didn’t mean anything.

Wash walked into the depths of the clinic, and prepared himself for a long afternoon of salvaging and avoiding Felix.


“Charon Industries?” Carolina asked him that night. Wash had finally bothered to finish unpacking all of his boxes, and to celebrate he’d invited Carolina over for pizza and a box of wine he’d bought at the store last week in a panic while trying to avoid eye contact with a man who he’d examined for genital warts the previous week.

“You know them?” Wash asked.

“They’re trying to buy Blood Gulch,” Carolina said, frowning. She twisted the ring she’d started to wear on her finger instead of around her neck. “What’s this about, Wash?”

Wash stared. “Buy Blood Gulch?”

“Sure,” Carolina said. “They’ve got a whole chain of private hospitals. Good ones, too.”

“Is Blood Gulch even for sale?”

Carolina hesitated. “Sort of.”

Sort of?” Wash shrieked.

Carolina sighed, picking up her glass of wine. “We were formerly a subsidiary of MOI,” she informed him. “It’s why Tex worked here. When they went down, the board organized things so that we consolidated into a private, investor-owned hospital. Charon can buy Blood Gulch if they buy the majority of shares, just like anywhere else.”

Wash’s skin crawled. “How many shares do they have?”

Carolina frowned. “I’m not sure,” she said. “I haven’t been watching. It really won’t change much, except maybe cash flow…”

“Carolina,” Wash interrupted. “Kimball thinks they burned the New Republic to force her to sell.”

Carolina froze. Then her eyes hardened into two dangerous green points.

“Explain,” she demanded.

Wash did, laying out every piece of evidence they had. Then he went into their theories, and the conclusions they had come to.

“But what we can’t figure out is what would they have to gain? Buying up everything? If they’re trying to buy Blood Gulch, that’s every hospital in the area!”

“Prices,” Carolina said abruptly. “They gain a monopoly. They close the free clinics, force everyone to use Blood Gulch. And if they own us, they can force us to only prescribe their products.”

Wash stared at her. “Oh god,” he muttered. Suddenly, he straightened up, something Felix having said to him months ago when they’d first met niggling at his brain. “Carolina, what kind of medicine do they develop?”

Carolina frowned, her brow furrowing. “I’m not sure,” she said slowly. “Hang on.” She took out her phone and dialed a number. “Sheila? Sorry to bother you this late, but could you access some things for me? I need to know what those drug trials Charon’s been trying to get us to sign up for are.”

She suddenly blanched. “What? Say that again?” She paused. “Are you sure? Right. Of course you’re sure. Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.” She hung up.

Carolina was shaking as she looked at him again. Wash had never seen her like this, not in all the years he’d known her. “Wash. They’re developing a new variation of Epsilon.”

Wash flat out flinched. “What? After everything?” Side effects, deaths, life changing injuries, lawsuits. Maine, the Director, and Price in jail, Connie and several others disbarred.

“Sheila told me the scientific name. They bought the patent!” Carolina said. “They bought it, changed the name, and are trying to promote it as the new generic painkiller!”

“We figured out it destroyed the cognitive centers and could cause nerve damage!” Wash yelped. “There’s no way—”

“It’s FDA approved,” Carolina said, pale. “Wash…”

“We need to stop this,” Wash whispered. “We have to.”


“What do you mean the records don’t exist?”

Sheila turned her glower to him, and Wash leaned back. “They don’t,” she said primly. “I can’t find any indication of this drug you and Doctor Church are so sure existed. You can’t prove it.”

“What about the trial records?” Wash said, tugging at his hair.

“They don’t refer to the drug by technical name,” Carolina’s voice was calm and blank now. “We… we don’t have any proof that their new drug is the same as the one the Director developed.”

Wash slumped against the wall. “So we’re back at the start,” he said. “We can’t prove anything.”

“We can’t?” Tucker said, poking his head in.

“Tucker!” Wash glared at him. “You’re not supposed to be here!”

“Sherry called me and said you came in early, thought you might need a hand. Bow-chicka-bow-wow. And what can’t you prove? That Felix set the fire?”

Carolina glanced at Wash. “He knows?”

“Only what Kimball and I figured out,” Wash told her. “Tucker, I’ll explain later, let’s just…” He ran his fingers through his hair, feeling helpless.

He remembered the way the kid—Theta, that had been his name—had been screaming when they’d put him on Epsilon. How his legs still hadn’t been working, months later, at the trial. He’d been far from the only one, but he’d been one of the worst.

And, Wash thought, glancing at Carolina, who was twisting the ring on her finger again, it had nearly killed York.

Wash picked up the dossier on the drug that Carolina had scrounged up from the mountain of paperwork in her office.

He could read between the lines. In the dosages that they were prescribing it in, it would take longer. The effects would be slower. Less noticeable. It would just slowly tear away at everything it touched, destroying nerve endings, until things stopped working.

But there was nothing they could do. Nothing they could prove.

Wash’s shoulders slumped.

“Let’s get back to work,” he finally managed.

Carolina shook her head. “I’m going to go over things with Sheila. Maybe there’s something they missed. They have to have made a mistake somewhere.”

Wash glanced at Tucker, who nodded, and the two of them went back into the clinic.

They were nearly back to his office when his cellphone rang.

“Hello?”

“Wash? It’s Kimball.”

His blood ran cold. “Kimball? What’s going on?”

“There was an accident at the FAC,” Kimball said. “Equipment malfunction. There was… we nearly lost people. The families are threatening to sue for malpractice. There are lawyers here and people are talking about violations and… I think Doyle’s going to sell, Wash.”

“Wait, Doyle can sell on his own?” Wash said, distracted.

“He’s the primary owner,” Kimball growled. “He can do whatever he wants.”

“Who’s the lawyer?” Tucker asked suddenly, having been blatantly eavesdropping. Wash needed to turn down the volume on his phone.

“What was that?” Kimball asked. Wash glared, then grabbed Tucker and dragged him into his office. He closed the door behind them before putting Kimball on speaker.

“Who’s the lawyer?” Tucker repeated.

“Some man named Locus is the one in charge, but there are others… why does this matter?”

Wash and Tucker’s eyes met. “You think he works for Hargrove too?” Wash asked.

“It makes sense,” Tucker said.

Suddenly, Wash remembered something, and got to his feet to grab his spare set of scrubs, the ones he’d last worn to the FAC, what felt like a lifetime ago.

In the pocket was still Locus’s card. He glanced at it, already knowing what it was going to say.

Sure enough, it identified Locus (the only name given on the card) as an employee of Charon Industries.

Tucker looked at him, vaguely horrified. “Why do you have his—?”

“Later,” Wash hissed. Tucker scowled. “Kimball? Try to stall. We’ll think of something.” Wash hung up and clutched at his desk, trying to calm down the whirlwind of emotions.

They were too late. Too little, too late. Again. If Wash had…

“Wow,” Tucker said. “This really has you worked up.”

Wash’s head stayed down. “They’re using the drug that the Medical Observation Institute was working on,” he muttered. “The drug that got us all on trial for malpractice.”

“Wait, you were what?” Tucker yelped.

“I was sued for malpractice, Tucker,” Wash explained impatiently. “We all were. Tex, Carolina, me.”

Tucker looked disturbed. “What the fuck?”

“We were cleared,” Wash said, irritable. “I got off with a warning—”

“Wait! Is that why you flipped your shit on Donut for committing insurance fraud?” Tucker was staring at Wash like he’d never seen him before, his mouth hanging open.

Wash shifted slightly, finally letting go of the desk. “Maybe. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

Tucker glanced down, and picked up the business card again. “Why do you have this? You planning on joining up or something?”

Wash sighed. “No. Locus tried to recruit me a while back. Said his employer was always looking for new medical talent.” Unconsciously, he rubbed his wrist.

For a second, Wash thought he saw something flash across Tucker’s face, but when he looked closer, it was gone. Tucker shifted, dropping the card back onto Wash’s desk. “I’ll… I need to talk to the others about this.”

“Be careful,” Wash said. “We don’t know who we can trust.”

Tucker shook his head, snorting. “Yeah we do,” he said. “Carolina. Tex. The Reds, the proper ones that is, not like, the random ER staff. Church, Caboose, Kai, Grey, Sheila. We’ve got your back, Wash.”

Wash stared at Tucker. “How is it so… so simple for you?” He demanded.

Tucker rolled his eyes. “Just because you like to make shit complicated, doesn’t mean my way of things is simple,” he said, hand on the doorknob. “You just can’t see what’s right in front of you.” He tilted his head at Wash and smirked before leaving.

It was only then that Wash realized that Tucker had been wearing his glasses again.

Chapter Text

Click.

“This is Connie, leave a message.”

“Connie… Connie please pick up. I… it’s Wash. It’s… Connie I don’t… someone’s using Epsilon again and this time a lot more people are going to get hurt and… no one knew Epsilon like you did, you understood what was going on way before we did… we could really use you. Just. Call me back? Please?”

Click.


“Hey Wash?” Church stuck his head in the office, looking oddly concerned.

“Church?” Wash said, wary. The only time Church had come near his office was to fight Wash over Donut. He usually sent Caboose or Kai to get Wash if there was something that he needed to talk to Wash for.

“Have you seen Tucker?” Church said, right to the point.

Wash blinked. “Kai said he called in sick today.”

“Yeah, except that’s bullshit,” Church was tense. “When Tucker calls in sick, he makes shitty jokes about the great sex he just had. He doesn’t say that he’s got a fever. He doesn’t even say that when Junior gets sick.”

Wash froze slightly, pen over the place where his signature was supposed to go on the file he was working on. “Did Tucker talk to you guys last night?”

“About the thing with Charon? Yeah,” Church said. “What, do you think Tucker would… try and… do something… stupid?” Church’s expression was appropriately horrified as comprehension dawned on him.

“Who else is out sick?” Wash demanded.

“I’ll go check!” Church dashed for the nurse’s station.

Wash spun in his chair, turning towards the phone on his desk and pressed the button that would forward his call to Tucker’s cell.

It rang through.

Hey you’ve reached Tucker, nurse of loooo-ooooove! If you’re hot and interested, leave your name and digits and I’ll get back to you! And if this is Church, fuck off.”

Wash hung up, burying his face in his hands as he tried to figure out what Tucker was possibly going to do.

“Grif and Simmons are both out sick,” Church reported. “Sarge is flipping his shit and Donut’s trying to collect all the bets about them getting together because he’s assuming morning after, not… this conspiracy bullshit.”

“You think they’d be who he’d go to?” Wash asked, drumming his fingers on the desk. “Why’d he talk to them? And why would he go off on his own?”

Church crossed his arms, suddenly looking very uncomfortable. “Well… he might have wanted to try to talk to Felix,” he said slowly. “Just… he said some things last night and…”

“Why would he talk to Felix?” Wash said, bewildered.

Church took an extreme interest in the plastic cactus that Tucker had bought Wash last week to “brighten the place up”. It had an uncannily phallic quality to it that Wash knew better than to think was coincidental. “Because they used to fuck.”

Wash’s brain crashed spectacularly, causing him to miss the next few sentences Church said.

“Tucker had sex with a Pharmaceutical Rep?” Wash said, aghast, when he managed to make his way back to reality.

“I know! That’s what I said when he told me!” Church said, throwing his hands into the air. “But no. Tucker has to fucking go and fuck the worst kinds of people, because he has no fucking taste!”

Wash closed his eyes, thought about Felix’s arm around Tucker’s shoulders at the New Republic, and then forced himself to his feet.

“You try calling him,” Wash said. “He might be ducking my calls.”

“How can we find them?” Church said, throwing his arms into the air. “They could be anywhere!”

“Why don’t you ask Lopez?” Doc said, broom in his hand. “Lopez can always find everyone, you know!”

“That’s… actually not a terrible idea, Doc,” Church stared at the janitor, incredulous. Wash took a single moment to be relieved that Church could see Doc too, before refocusing.

“I’ll get Lopez then,” Wash said. “We need to figure out where they are now.”


You lost them? Then why would you try to find them again?” Lopez looked bored as he glanced between them.

“That’s right Lopez!” Donut said. His face was bunched up with concern. “We need your help! Can you track their phones?”

No. But I have all of you microchipped. I can use that.

“Wow Lopez! You sure like playing with your toys!”

Please, stop talking. I track all of you so I know who to blame when things break.

“You sure work hard, Lopez! I hope you take all the me-time you’re entitled to!”

If I find them, will you leave?”

“That’s right! We’ll be leaving to find them soon!”

Good. Don’t come back.

Lopez gave them a print out for an address on the other side of town.

“Say Wash, don’t you think you’ll get in trouble for skipping work?” Donut asked as they headed to the car. “I mean, Sarge called in some of the other guys to cover for us, but you didn’t call anyone!”

Wash’s ears heated up. “I have the day off.” A fact which he had forgotten until he had checked his calendar to see if Tucker was scheduled to be elsewhere.

Sarge and Donut gave him a look.

“Son,” Sarge said. “That’s just sad.”

“Great, we’re all here,” Church said, keys dangling from his fingers and Caboose looming over his shoulder. “Wash is pathetic and has no life outside of work, this is news to no one. So let’s go save Tucker before he gets himself killed!”

“Did you call Carolina and Tex?” Wash asked.

“Tex is in surgery, Carolina will meet us there,” Church said, getting into the driver’s seat. Wash reluctantly got into the passenger seat.

Church drove like it was a video game. He swerved wildly, cut people off, drove at least fifteen miles over the speed limit at any given time, and cursed out traffic lights, other drives, and especially the unfortunate pedestrians who crossed his path.

Wash clung to his seat and regretted every single decision he had ever made that had led to him being in that car with Leonard Church as a driver.

Sarge was in charge of navigating from the back seat, and he managed to use Lopez’s directions (despite them being in Spanish) to bring them to a sketchy-looking park in the center of the city.

In the parking lot outside of the park, Grif and Simmons were sitting on the tailgate of a battered pickup truck, hunched over a laptop.

“What are you two doing?” Wash demanded, only slightly clinging to the door of the car in order to remind himself that he was safe now.

The two of them started guiltily.

“Ah…” Simmons said, flushing slightly.

“Well, I can tell you what we weren’t doing,” Grif said.

“Grif!” Simmons yelped, blushing harder.

“Simmons! Grif!” Sarge yelled. “I order you to confess your devious plots! And your infernal schemes! You were corroborating with a Blue! And that’s a serious charge! Why, I otta—”

Grif sighed dramatically, and reached over to grab a bag of chips. “We stole a bunch of equipment from Lopez and Simmons got Tucker wired,” Grif said, popping it open before dumping half the contents right into his mouth. “Tucker’s getting Felix to monologue. We’re streaming it to the local news site.”

Wash blanched. “He’s what?”

“It doesn’t take much,” Grif said. “The guy loves the sound of his own voice. Probably why Tucker started fucking him, just to see if he could shut him—”

Suddenly, Simmons raised a hand to the headset he was wearing, going white as a sheet. “Sarge! Felix just pulled a gun!”

Panic overrode all common sense. “Call the police!” He yelled at the Reds as he raced into the park, not caring if any of the others were following him.

He plunged into the line of trees surrounding the park, scrambling over the knee-high fence. Felix had a gun. Felix knew Tucker was up to something. Felix might shoot Tucker.

Suddenly he ran into something, sending him flat onto his back.

No, Wash realized. Not something. Someone.

Locus looked even taller when Wash was sprawled out on the ground.

“Doctor Washington,” Locus said with a sigh. “How disappointing. I’d have thought you were smarter than to get involved with this.”

Wash’s hands curled into fists as he sat up. “Don’t you realize what Hargrove is doing? People are going to die!”

Locus’s expression didn’t so much as flicker. “Unfortunate,” was all he said before reaching down.

Wash tried to roll away, but Locus was fast despite his size, and he yanked Wash into a headlock.

Wash’s vision began to swim as Locus raised him off the ground, his elbow directly under Wash’s jaw, cutting off his air. Wash scrambled for purchase, trying to find something to brace himself against so he could breathe. He tried do kick, but he couldn’t seem to find an angle that would work, so he just flopped around ineffectively.

“After I kill you and Felix finishes that pathetic nurse of yours, I’m going to kill the idiots in the parking lot. You should not have brought them here, Doctor Washington,” Locus murmured in his ear. Wash tugged at the arm around his neck, but his movements were growing weaker, and he was starting to see spots. “This is your fault.”

Suddenly there were loud screams, and Locus dropped Wash, who hit the ground hard for the second time.

As Wash panted for air on his hands and knees, he noticed a stone about the size of a baseball resting next to him, covered in blood.

“Five points you dirty whore!” Donut howled.

“Charge!” Sarge yelled, having managed to find a large stick about the size of a rifle. Grif, Simmons, and Donut all charged Locus, screaming variations of “Attack!” “We’re all going to die!” and “Get him!”

“Go find Tucker, Wash! We’ve got this!” Donut yelled.

Wash scrambled to his feet, his mind still foggy from the assault. But he listened to Donut, running further through the trees, towards the park and away from the Reds, where Tucker and Felix would be.

He didn’t have a plan. He was going into the park without a weapon, and Felix had a gun.

But Tucker was there.

Wash finally tripped into the clearing.

“Take one step closer and I shoot!” Felix’s voice rang out authoritatively, confident and sure of himself. The smarm was gone, replaced by something dangerous and smooth.

Wash glanced up, staring at the scene before him. It was like a stand-off in a movie, with Tucker’s hands in the air, and Felix’s gun pointed right at him. The effect was somewhat ruined by the run-down playground in the background.

“You think you can just, what?” Felix laughed, holding out what appeared to be Wash’s dictaphone in his hand. “Record me? Take it to the police? Jeeze, you really were just a pretty face!” He laughed, throwing it to the ground and smashing it beneath his heel.

Tucker rolled his eyes. “Of course not!”

Felix paused. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not a recording,” Tucker said, a shit-eating grin appearing on his face. “Why do you think I brought Grif and Simmons? It’s a broadcast.”

“That thing?” Felix scoffed, poking at the pieces of the dictaphone with his feet. “That’s technology from the eighties, like everything else at your clinic!”

“Oh sure,” Tucker agreed. “But the button-cam I’m wearing is working just fine.”

Felix became very still. “Button cam?”

Tucker’s smirk widened. “Gotcha.”

“It’s over, Felix,” Wash called, managing to keep his voice steady. “You’ve lost.”

For a second, Wash thought they’d won, as Felix tilted his head to one side, looking at Tucker. “Maybe,” he finally said. “But you won’t get to enjoy it.”

Wash realized just a second too late what was about to happen, and lunged at Felix just as Felix flicked off the safety of the gun.

Wash collided with Felix just in time to throw his aim off, but it wasn’t enough. Tucker let out a scream—a sound that Wash knew would haunt him for years—and doubled over.

“Tucker!” Church yelled, somewhere in the distance.

But Wash was preoccupied scrambling with Felix for the gun, unable to do anything to help Tucker—he had to believe that Church knew what he was doing, that he could help Tucker. He was on top of Felix now, pinning him to the ground, but the fight was far from over, not as long as Felix was still armed…

Suddenly, a foot appeared, slamming down on Felix’s wrist, trapping the gun in place, pointed away from anyone.

“Felix,” Kimball said, voice deceptively mild. But her face was stormy.

Felix’s expression turned appropriately terrified. “Vanessa!”

“You son of a bitch,” Kimball said. “You son of a bitch!”

Carolina was there, and she knelt down to grab the gun out of Felix’s hand, disassembling it.

Wash suddenly leapt off Felix. “Tucker!” He rushed towards where Tucker had fallen to the ground, but not before he spotted Kimball kick Felix right in the stomach, forcing the skinny man to curl up on the ground in pain.

“He’s fine,” Church said, when Wash got there. “It only grazed him. Guess you tackled him in time.”

“It fucking hurts,” Tucker whined.

“Good!” Church snapped. “Because that was stupid, and you could have died, you fucking idiot!”

“We needed to prove it quick!” Tucker protested. “And it worked, didn’t it?”

“Only because I thought to bring back-up!” Church snapped.

Wash glanced at him. “Oh, that was you, was it?”

“Shut up, Washington.”

Wash rolled his eyes.

“That was really stupid,” Wash told Tucker.

Tucker shrugged. “Hey. No one died.”

“Because you were lucky,” Wash said. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the Reds dragging an unconscious Locus into the clearing. “If we hadn’t come…”

“Wash!” Donut said, horrified. “Like Tucker wouldn’t always make sure that you did!”

Wash had to stop due his blushing and Tucker’s laughter.

“No one died,” Tucker repeated.

“I wouldn’t make that call until Kimball’s done with Felix,” Tex said, having apparently arrived with Carolina and Kimball. “That was stupid,” she added to Tucker. “That’s why you have backup, dumbass.”

Church nodded at his girlfriend. “See? Tex agrees with me.”

“Wait, I’m agreeing with you? Never mind then.”

“Tex!” Church squawked. Tucker let out another snicker, only to break off in a yelp as Church pointedly dug his fingers into the wound on Tucker arm.

 “Let’s get you back to Blood Gulch,” Wash said, examining Tucker’s arm. “We need to clean this.”

“I think that’s going to have to wait,” Tex said.

“Why?” Wash said with a frown. “He could get—tetanus or something from this if we don’t clean and close it…”

“Yeah, but I think the cops are going to want a statement first.”

Wash glanced up, spotting the uniforms and lights.

“Oh,” Wash said.

“Yeah,” Tex said, sitting down on the park bench, already looking bored. “We’re going to be here for ages.”

Chapter Text

Things were a bit of a blur after that, Wash had to admit. But he was willing to blame at least part of it on the adrenaline crash that happened as soon as the police dragged Felix and Locus away.

There was a bit of a media circus in the weeks that followed. There were arrests. Wash breathed easier once he saw that Locus and Felix both had life sentences for a variety of charges that included murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, attempted voluntary manslaughter, arson, attempted arson, sabotage, corporate sabotage, corporate espionage, blackmail, extortion, and a laundry list of pettier services that were so numerous that it read like a HIPAA agreement.  

Kimball and Doyle managed to come to an agreement after a solid three hours of arguing, and set up a joint free clinic, using the insurance money and reparations that Charon was forced to pay out by the courts.

The Chorus United Free Clinic was going to open its doors in the spring, and Wash was pleased when Kimball told him. Not the least of his reasons was that CUFC couldn’t be mangled into anything. Although he was sure that the others would do their best.

He had faith in them.

Slowly, things returned to normal.

Or at least, as normal as things ever were at Blood Gulch.


The peace of the past month was shattered abruptly when Wash received an email late one afternoon.

To: Washington, David

From: Church, Carolina

CC: Tucker, Lavernius; Church, Leonard II

Subject: Upcoming Transfer

Wash,

I’ve just approved a transfer request from Tucker. In two weeks, he will no longer be serving as your nurse. I’m sure he’s already talked to you about it, but I just wanted to let you know…

Wash leapt to his feet before he finished reading the email, stuck his head out the door and shouted. “Tucker!”

Tucker appeared in moments, wide eyed and worried. “What?”

“What is this?” Wash gestured to his computer. “I thought… I thought you’d changed your mind about transferring!”

Tucker shifted, looking as awkward as Wash had ever seen him. He couldn’t meet Wash’s eyes, and Wash felt his heart falling. He’d thought they’d fixed things, he thought Tucker had forgiven him. He’d thought things were fine. “Ah. Well. About that.”

“I thought we were over this,” Wash said, dread building in his stomach. He couldn’t do this without Tucker. He just… he couldn’t.

IGraduatedLastWeek,” Tucker said, way too fast for Wash to keep up.

“What?” Wash said eloquently.

“I graduated last week,” Tucker said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “You know my night classes?”

Wash paused, before remembering that Tucker had indeed mentioned those several times. “Yes?”

“I’m registered to be a Nurse Practitioner now,” Tucker said, straightening up proudly. “So… I’m not leaving you to be someone else’s nurse. I don’t need to work with a doctor anymore. I can do my own thing, you know? And I get better hours, so I can spend more time with Junior.” 

Wash stared at Tucker, shocked. “I didn’t realize that was what you were studying for,” he said.

Tucker frowned at him. “What else would a nurse go back to school for? Okay, maybe physician’s assistant. But still!”

Wash closed his mouth. “Sorry,” he said. “I should have thought.”

Tucker laughed at him, and Wash couldn’t help but smile again. The sound was mocking, sure, but Tucker’s entire face was lighting up, and it made something stir in Wash’s chest. “You’re an idiot.” He stepped closer to Wash, causing his breath to hitch slightly. “But hey! There’s one advantage to me not being your nurse anymore!”

Tucker was wearing his glasses again, Wash realized as Tucker moved into his personal space. Why did he always focus on that?

“And what’s that?” Wash managed to say.

Tucker smirked, and took another step forward, pushing Wash against the wall of his office.

“I can do this without it being weird,” Tucker said, tilting his head up to kiss Wash.

Wash didn’t hesitate at all, melting into Tucker, tangling his fingers in Tucker’s dreads. It was better than Wash had ever thought it could have been; the texture of Tucker’s hair in his hands, the smoothness of Tucker’s lips, the heat of his body pressed against his, the way his heart raced as Tucker laughed against his mouth.  

The door closed with a slam, and Wash glanced up and saw a glimpse of yellow scrubs right before it closed, and he realized that Kai must have just walked by and chosen to give them privacy, but Wash couldn’t even focus on that, not when Tucker’s hands were slipping beneath the shirt of his scrubs, tracing up and down his chest.

They finally broke apart, Tucker’s hands still under Wash’s shirt and Wash stood there, panting for a moment.

“Oh,” Wash managed. His lips felt tingly.

Tucker smirked. “Oh is about right. Been wanting to do that for months.” He began to kiss Wash’s jawline.

Wash managed to find his voice. “Is that…” He broke off in a strangled gasp as Tucker bit down on his neck. “Is that all you’ve been waiting to do, Nurse Tucker?”

Tucker’s smirked at him and his hands began to wander downwards at a leisurely place, fingers tracing circles on Wash’s stomach as he went. “Why Doctor Washington! In a hurry, are we?”

The door burst open, and Wash and Tucker both froze, Tucker’s fingers an inch above Wash’s waistband.

“Did you kiss and tell him?” Donut demanded.

Wash leaned his head back against the wall, and tried not to regret saving the man’s job.

“Tell me what?” Wash asked.

“Well,” Donut said. “Tucker mentioned that you had a hole you had to fill! And I’m always happy to help a man fill some holes!”

“What he’s saying,” Tucker muttered, breath hot against Wash’s ear. “Is that you’ve got a new nurse.”

Wash pushed Tucker back.

“Wait. What?”

“Well, you can’t do this all by yourself,” Tucker said, smirking.

“Wash certainly looks like he needs a hand, Tucker!” Donut agreed. His smirk told Wash that, at least this time, Donut knew exactly what he was saying

“I hate all of you.”

“Party in the secret agent man’s office!” Kai yelled, pushing Donut in further as she moved past him.

The others piled in, shouting about some bet or another that Wash didn’t understand. Wash threw his hands into the air, but he was grinning, and when his hands made their way back down, Tucker took his hand in his, leaning against the wall beside him, soaking in the image the others were forming.

His office was small enough that everyone was pressed against each other, the volume loud enough that Wash felt that he should be wanting to run and hide, but there was something warm and comfortable in the air that seemed to soak into his bones, making him smile despite himself.

Even Doc had managed to make his way in. The janitor, in his customary bright purple jumpsuit, was sitting on his desk, talking with Donut. The two of them were moving their hands wildly as they talked, both of them smiling  brightly.

Caboose, for some reason, had picked Church right off his feet and was holding him in a tight hug, to Church’s annoyance and Tex’s amusement. Freckles sat at his feet, tail wagging and barking loudly

Grif and Simmons were arguing about something; probably how Grif had managed to claim Wash’s desk chair and was sitting in it, his feet up on Wash’s desk, a can of soda in his hand while Simmons shrieked, face flushing.

Sarge and Grey were standing right next to each other, glancing at some chart or another that Grey had picked up off his desk, chatting cheerfully, shoulders brushing against each other’s.

And Carolina was leaning back against the door, a smile on her face as she watched them. Her eyes met Wash’s, and she gave him a nod, eyes flickering to Tucker briefly before her smile turned teasing. She raised a hand to her neck and let it fall, and that was how Wash realized that Tucker must have managed to leave a mark already

Wash shook his head and groaned, head falling back against the wall.

But he smiled.

He had a text message from Connie in his pocket, a day off tomorrow, and Tucker’s hand was warm in his.

For the first time in a very long time, Wash knew that things were going to be okay.

And he could work with that.

The End