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My Haberdashery

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NOTES: A fic inspired by the ep "Her Story." Unbetaed, dashed off during slow times at work. Humblest apologies to Tom Stoppard for the summary. For the dear, nonslasher friend who watches Elliot and Molly every week and says, "They so need to start making out!"

~*~

I stayed calm as I drove home with Perry on the back of my scooter. I knew what was waiting for me when we got back to my place, but I decided not to think about that. I also decided not to focus on how good Perry's arms felt wrapped around my waist. 'Cause my boys (my other boys) weren't allowed to play on the scooter. Not that they had before. Not that there was an incident after the day Perry finished screaming at Doug and then looked at me and whispered, "You're next." Because my boys didn't like that. At all. Really.

Where was I? Calm. Yes. I was calm.

As soon as I turned off the engine, Perry hopped off and started prying my fingers off the handles. "Need a little help there?"

"I'm fine," I snapped. "I'm just a little...stuck." I tried prying my fingers off myself, which didn't work, since I'd gripped them right into the rubber. But I was perfectly calm.

Perry rolled his eyes and headed toward the front door. "I'll be inside, then. When your impressive girl-muscles conquer the mighty task of lifting your own fingers, join me."

I scoffed. "You'll never get in without a--" I stopped when he dangled a set of keys. My set of keys. He sauntered toward the building, whistling jauntily. "How does he do that?" I wondered.

"Newbie!" he barked. "Internal monologue stays inside."

Once I rescued my fingers from the ne'er-do-well bike handles, it was time to face my fate. I'd stepped over a line with the way I'd talked to Perry in front of the interns today. More accurately, I'd jump-roped over a line while singing about Miss Susie's steamboat. But I knew the consequences when I opened my mouth, and I would take any whupping Perry was doling out like a man.

"Miss Susie had a steamboat; the steamboat had a bell.
Miss Susie went to Heaven; the steamboat went t--"

Perry stared at me from where he stood in front of the kitchen counter. "What in God's name are you singing?"

"My 'take it like a man' song?"

Growling, he said, "Get over here."

I got. Standing in front of him, I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for a smack. Only he didn't smack me; he grabbed my head and kissed me. One of his good, hard kisses, the ones that make my toes curly and my head whirly. When he released me, I staggered back and stared at him. "Curly-whirly?"

His smile looked like it was wishing for a way not to smile at me at all. "That's right, J.D. Curly-whirly. I've made you go curly-whirly not because I like you - although, God help me, I do seem to - but because I'm trying something new. You do unbelieveably asinine things around the hospital, and I yell and glare and wave my arms threateningly, but it never works. I realized today that it doesn't work because that's what I've done since the first day it was my misfortune to watch you walk into my hospital. Soooo, you need a demonstration of what's at stake now that wasn't that lamentable first day; namely, sex. So that was your reminder kiss, and you won't get another - or anything else - until you stop. Being. A dumbass."

Each of those staccato sentences ('staccato.' Impressive, huh? Turk got me Word-a-Day toilet paper for my last birthday. Ass words. Awesome!) was punctuated by a whap upside the head. Determined to record my impressions of the sensation, I grabbed my tape recorder. "Ouchie." I put the recorder away and faced Perry. "I admit, I was wrong. But I'm not sorry." There. I said it. It worked so well for Elliot, and I saw no reason it shouldn't work for me.

I'd forgotten that after her little blow-up, Elliot walked away. I was still standing there.

"Gosh, Brunhilda," Perry said, crossing his arms and flashing his 'stab me now' smile, "while it's super that you and Chief Resident Beach House Barbie went to the same Up With People summer camp, the fact is that your hissy fit today was among the most tacky and unprofessional things I've ever witnessed - and, given how you've never once failed to meet your daily quota of tacky and unprofessional things, that's saying an awful lot."

"Hey, if you'd told me the sequined pink top hat looked bad with the orange bolo tie, I wouldn't have worn them to work." Perry looked like steam was about to pour out of his ears, so I hurried on, "Besides, everything I said today was true and needed to be said."

"Oh, absolutely." He leaned forward, taking up ever-larger portions of my field of vision. It was like a 3-D movie without the glasses. Or the popcorn. So, basically, just the monster about to eat Tokyo. "'From now on, call me Dr. Dorian, Perry.' 'If you have a problem with me, talk to me, but not in front of my boys,' you scream in front of your 'boys' - and I know you only ever got as far as second base with a girl, and you don't know if that counts, because you're pretty sure it was an accident, and she was your cousin to boot, but I hope that, as a doctor, you've studied female anatomy closely enough to notice that several of your 'boys' are actually girls. In the course of that little tantrum, you managed - not once, but twice - to do everything you told me not to. I don't know whether you're a bigger moron or hypocrite."

"Lydia is my second cousin, thank you very much, and I'm not sure it was an accident." It's dark underwater. Sometimes it's hard to tell what you're grabbing. "Why does it matter to you, anyway? They're my interns."

"Wrong!" Perry made that whistling noise that I can't perfectly master. Okay, that I can't master at all. "They're the hospital's interns, and if you can't see how that makes the situation matter to me, then your future is - sweet merciful Jesus, say it isn't so - even bleaker than I thought, as a doctor and a boss."

I savored the image of myself as a boss. Then I realized, 'Hey! I am a boss!' Then I realized I'd savored too long; Perry was staring at me and had obviously mistaken my shining moment for fatuousness (go, ass words!). He snapped, "Because I have to work with them, too. My God, J.D., they don't even respect you, and you work with them every day. There's no way they're going to respect the unrespected boss of their unrespected boss." My eyes glassed over; he snapped his fingers in front of them and said, "Don't try to understand me, J.D.; just nod." I nodded. "On top of all that, it's important that we present a unified front for the interns. If you learn anything from Bob 'I scowl because eating your kitten for lunch made me constipated' Kelso, let it be that conflicts in the chain of command makes life sad and confusing for the li'l dears. And Lord knows they're gonna suck enough on their own that we don't need to make life harder for 'em."

Wow. I hadn't looked at it that way before. "Okay," I blustered. "I'm...a little sorry." Perry crossed his arms and waited. "But not completely, because I've put up with your abuse for three years, and it was time I took a stand."

"No, J.D., the time to take a stand was your first day at Sacred Heart, before I decided that making you my newest chew toy might be kinda fun. Now is the time to gather your interns in the morning and tell them that you have nothing but respect for Dr. Cox, and that they should, too, if they enjoy having their necks attached to their shoulders and their fingers attached to their hands."

Since that was true, I saw no reason not to agree to it. And since Perry and I regularly engaged in the horizontal hokey-pokey, I saw no reason not to neck on it, rather than just shaking. But when I went in for that first sloppy kiss, he planted his hand on my chest. "Hey there, Veronique; what do you think you're doing?"

I shrugged. "Sealing the deal."

"No-ho-ho." He continued to hold me off. I could flail all I wanted, but that fiendish elbow, my old nemesis, would never bend. "We discussed this," he said. "What did we discuss?"

"No sex 'til we've resolved the situation," I answered. "Which we now have."

"Uh-uh." He shook his head firmly. I hate firm headshake. "We've talked about resolving the situation. It's not actually resolved until you set those interns straight."

"So...no sex?"

"Not even a dry hump."

I scuffed the toe of my shoe against the carpet. "Just as well," I muttered. "I'm on call tonight."

"That's the spirit!" He cuffed my shoulder too hard. "Now, I'm going home to my son and my one true shrew, and I will see you and your suitably awed flunkers bright and early tomorrow morning."

I laughed. "See, that's funny, 'cause you meant to say 'flunkies.'"

His eyebrow lifted. "Oh, I did, did I?"

Perry walked toward the door, and I followed. "Can I at least get a hug?"

"In your dreams, Claudette." Perry doesn't hug me, even when he's not freezing me out. He winked as he walked out of the apartment. "Night-night."

He stuck his head back around as I was trying to close the door. "Oh, and, no matter what Barbie implies she knows, we are not acknowledging Mrs. Haberdasher."

After I shut the door, I leaned against the counter. Turk and Carla were having 'date night,' so tonight I would be all alone with my dismal thoughts and the mysteriously shrinking Rowdy. I stared at the phone. For once, an emergency at the hospital seemed better than trying to sleep.

~*~

I approached my boys (and girls) the next day with a spring in my step. Okay, it was a drag, but it would have been a spring if I had managed to get more than two hours of sleep. I was ready for the day. Ready to help my interns learn. Ready to fix the mess with Perry. Ready to get laid.

I wasn't ready for the interns to be standing in a circle in front of Curtain 4, staring at the linoleum.

"Good morning, interns!" I was determined to stay cheerful. "What fascinating subject matter has ignited your inquisitive minds this fine day?"

They looked petrified. Lonnie's hand was primed to slap his face the instant I gave the order. "We're sorry, Dr. Dorian; we didn't mean to knock over the specimen cups!"

I downgraded 'determined to stay cheerful' to 'determined not to yell.' "It's okay," I said. "Mistakes happen. How much of the biohazard containment procedure have you done?"

I've seen sedated sheep that looked more alert. "The what?"

I didn't try to figure out which one of them said that as I sighed and demoted 'determined not to yell' to 'determined not to resort to physical violence.' Could Perry be right? Could my boys be that incompetent? Had I been that incompetent as an intern? I shook my head. Time for woolgathering later (and I knew just the sheep for it, too). For now, there were procedures to follow. Hazmat suits to don. FEMA teams to dispatch. Mops to fetch from the janitor's closet. "Nobody move," I ordered, and then, because I had lost some faith in my boys, I added, "Unless a janitor comes by. Or Dr. Cox. Or Dr. Kelso. Just--" I waved my hand. "Don't move."

I sprinted to the janitor's closet. It was a good run for me; I only knocked down two candy stripers, a podiatrist, and one crash cart on my way. The janitor clicked off his stopwatch as I skidded to a stop in front of him. "Fifteen seconds. A new record. Congratulations."

"Thanks," I wheezed, doubled over with my hands on my knees. "I'll...just...be..." I waved my hand toward the door and reached for the doorknob.

The janitor slammed a mop across the door. "Not so fast. I'm afraid I can't let you in there right now."

I stood up and stared at him. "We have biohazard! The really ooky kind."

He shuddered but held his ground. "Sorry. No deal."

"Why not?"

He shifted uncomfortably. "None of your business."

Watching him through narrowed eyes, I said, "That's fine. I'll get the stuff from Mark."

Mark's a rogue janitor who works in on the sixth floor, in Peds. He's a rebel - wears a leather bomber jacket and aviator goggles and drives an enormous vintage Harley - in the hospital, sometimes. Actually, it was just once, and he spent three days in county lock-up for it, but the kids in PICU loved it. I loved it. Threatening to go to Mark, who actually likes me, was guaranteed to get the janitor's goat (and I knew just the sheep for it, too), since he and Mark were sworn enemies.

~*~

They stand toe-to-toe, Mark in his bomber jacket, Crazy Janitor in his squirrel-hunting camo. Crazy Janitor spits on the floor. "This hospital ain't big enough for the both of us."

Mark shrugs. "Sure it is," he says, and walks away. He's a registered pacifist.

~*~

Where was I? Right. The janitor's goat. I started to turn away.

Frantically, he called, "Blonde doctor and Dr. Molly are making out in there."

THWUMP!

That sound you just heard was The Todd doing a full-body slam into the door at top speed. "Hold on, ladies," he crooned brokenly. "Daddy's coming."

I boggled at the janitor. "What? Elliot and Molly are making out in your closet?"

THWUMP!

And that sound was Todd doing it again.

"For how long?" I asked.

The janitor looked soooo guilty. "They've been having trouble finding places to get some privacy. I guard their alone-time, and Dr. Molly...gives me tips on good squirrel hang-outs."

My voice kept getting higher and squeakier. "'They've been'?" I demanded. "Have been? You're talking about a thing! Over time! Quotidian!" Todd whimpered.

The janitor frowned. "Sure. Isn't that what you meant?"

"I meant how long have they been in that closet?"

"Oh." He shrugged. "About fifteen minutes." The Todd was now openly weeping.

I felt like a good cry, myself. Hot girl-on-girl tongue action, involving my ex-girlfriend, was taking place within the very walls of Sacred Heart, and no one told me. But I was more worried about the mess my interns were in, and the fact that that was my primary concern made me really sad. "Then they've had enough time," I said as authoritatively as I could. "I have half a dozen interns standing around a lake of blood and urine studded with fecal islands. Stand aside!"

The janitor stared in horror. "There was no need for that." He rapped the mop against the door three times and said loudly, "I say; it seems dreadfully early in the season for the rutabagas to fall!"

There was frantic scuffling in the closet, like mice in the walls. Topless girl mice. The door flew open, and Elliot and Molly emerged, looking as though they didn't have a care in the world - or a handful of hickeys each. "Thank you, Dr. Reid, for that enlightening tour of the useful items contained in the janitor's closet." Molly was talking like an actor in a junior high PSA as she rebuttoned her shirt.

"You are quite welcome, Dr. Clock," Elliot returned. She was talking the same way - only worse. "If there is anything else I can do for you, please do not hesitate to seek me out."

Molly flushed slightly. "Thank you, Dr. Reid. I'm sure we'll have a chance to talk again soon." She spotted me and grinned. "Hey, Johnny!"

"It's really not--" She had already bounded away. I shook my head and rounded on Elliot. "You!"

She had the gall to look confused. "What?"

There were a million things I wanted to say to Elliot at that moment, but I had really icky things to take care of, so I settled for the first insult that came to mind, which was, "You have broccoli head!" That hard truth delivered, I shoved past her (and Todd, puddled in a heap on the floor) into the closet.

Elliot's hand went automatically to her hair. Then she dropped it and shook her head. "Whatever. Listen, J.D., what's this Dr. Cox tells me about putting on pretty dresses and going to dive bars?"

Zwip! That sound was the wind whistling past my ears as I spun to look at Elliot. "We do not acknowledge the existence of Mrs. Haberdasher or the Right Reverend Applethorpe." On the floor, The Todd started flailing. It looked like a seizure of some sort. I grabbed my biohazard clean-up supplies and rushed away from the closet.

~*~

Cleaning the spill took a while. I wanted to teach the interns the containment procedures, rather than doing it for them, and they took longer to learn than I expected. When we were done, I gave them all a break, because I was exhausted. A few minutes later I spotted Lonnie and Exhibitionist Guy talking to Elliot, which made me nervous. Just because we had an uneasy truce about the whole co-chief residents thing doesn't mean she's above doing naughty things to my interns. I'm sure not, so why should she?

Perry came around the corner on his morning Rounds of Rebuke (as I liked to call them when he wasn't around). Perfect timing.

"Gather 'round, boys," I called. One thing I will say for my boys - they gather well. "It's come to my attention that some things I said yesterday might have given you the wrong impression of Dr. Cox. Dr. Cox is an excellent physician and an important guy around here, so let's show him the respect he deserves."

There was indistinct murmuring and foot shuffling among the interns, but I didn't take it to heart. Most of them were shy (except Exhibitionist Guy). Perry nodded his thanks as he moved to stand behind me. "Any questions?" he asked.

More murmuring and shuffling. Someone in the back said, "No...Mrs. Haberdasher."

Perry's face turned a shade of purple you don't normally find outside of the produce section of your local organic food co-op. His mouth opened wide, like a hinge with a screw missing, and he screamed, "Hephzibah!"

I considered it a prudent time to start running.

~*~

That clinched it. I'd see my retirement benefits before I saw a lick of sex from Perry. I couldn't believe Elliot ratted me out. To my boys! She'd come a long way from the docile naïf I met my first day at Sacred Heart.

I was so proud of her.

I hid in the office. Perry wouldn't come here because Elliot and I had hung our med school diplomas on the wall, and the constant reminder that, yes, we really were doctors made him break out in weird little hive things.

Ten minutes later, the door opened. Elliot was mostly inside the office before she realized I was already sitting there. "Oh. Hey, J.D. I should probably...go."

"No, Elliot, it's okay." I waved her to sit down. I was tired of fighting with her.

She sat. "I got you in trouble with Dr. Cox, didn't I?"

I sighed and stared out the window. Was the janitor stalking squirrels in the hedges across the parking lot? "I was already in trouble. You didn't make it much worse."

She nodded. We sat quietly for a minute, contemplating our respective screwed-up lives. "You and Molly?" I finally asked.

Elliot looked sheepish (and I knew just the sheep for it, too). "I get bored. And the men she ends up with are mostly car thieves, so she decided to try women for a while."

It occurred to me that Elliot having a fling with Molly got me off the hook for breaking up with her.

She smacked my arm. Hard. "Don't think this gets you off the hook for breaking up with me."

"How do you do that?" I found my tape recorder to get the sensation perfectly recorded for posterity. "Owie."

Elliot was laughing as I put the recorder back in my desk. "Dr. Cox really calls himself Mrs. Haberdasher?"

My eyes got misty as I returned to the karaoke bar in my mind. "You should hear her sing Kenny Rogers," I said.

Elliot stared at me for a second. Then she shook her head and stood up. "You are so weird." She peeked into the hallway and then ducked back in. "You'd better figure out a way to fix this. Fast." She disappeared.

"Yeah, right," I muttered, staring at my scarred desktop. "Like an answer is going to walk up to me and say, 'Hi, J.D.'"

"Hi, J.D."

I shifted focus so fast that Perry had little stars circling his head when I looked at him. "Perry! I didn't think you'd come down here."

He pushed off the doorframe and sat in Elliot's chair. "Just this once, it seemed worth the hives."

"You're going to yell now, aren't you?"

Perry sighed heavily. "No, J.D., I'm not going to yell." His voice was quiet and sad, like I'd disappointed him deeply. Again. "I'm going to ask you, in a calm, rational manner, what you intend to do about the situation."

He'd never done anything in a calm, rational manner where I was concerned. I broke out in a cold sweat and tried to decide if hyperventilating was appropriate. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

In the same disappointed tone, he said, "That's kind of a shame for you, isn't it?" He stood. "Later, newbie." Perry walked out of the office, and, without having said a word, I knew what kind of a shame he meant. No Mrs. Haberdasher. No mocking Jordan's wardrobe and parenting skills behind her back. No subsequent running away when it turned out Jordan's hearing was really sharp. Not only would I never get sex again, I'd never get him again.

Drastic measures would have to be taken.

~*~

By 4:00 that afternoon, I had no idea how to fix the situation. The problem was that it wasn't affecting my work life directly. For some reason, Elliot hadn't blabbed about Rev. Applethorpe, just Mrs. Haberdasher. So the interns had no reason to doubt the image of the brilliant and uproariously funny wonder-doctor I'd cultivated. As much of an ass as it made me to admit it, I couldn't convince myself to risk their respect for me to get back their respect for Perry.

So when Perry buzzed Curtain 1, where my boys and I were assembled, I hadn't made my move.

Perry whistled and gestured to Guy Who Looks Like Exhibitionist Guy but Prefers to Keep His Pants On. Guy Who Looks Like Exhibitionist Guy but Prefers to Keep His Pants On (who I called 'Oscar') went immediately, because that's what you do when Perry zip-whistles at you. "Mr. Su in Exam 5 needs a full blood panel drawn, and I've decided you're just the scared-looking intern to do it." Perry smacked the chart against Oscar's chest. "So go do it."

And then the unthinkable happened. Instead of stealing a wheelchair from the first insufficiently alert orderly and rushing to Exam 5 as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels so that he could whisk Mr. Su to the phlebotomy lab, Oscar turned to me. "Dr. Dorian? Should I?"

Last week, Carla told me that aubergine is the new black. That's good, because at that moment, Perry and I sported faces in matching shades of aubergine. I slammed my clipboard on the tiny table next to Mr. Dempsey's bed. "That's it; I've had it," I said. My voice sounded harsh and angry. Like Perry's usually did. "Everybody listen up." The interns gawked at me. "It's true that Dr. Cox has more than his share of personal problems. It's true that I cause most of them. It's also true that Mrs. Haberdasher is alive and well and probably standing next to you at The Raider Bar singing a killer karaoke version of 'Ruby.'" On my left, Perry growled. "The fact is, that doesn't matter. We all have things in our personal lives we'd rather our peers at the hospital not know about - all of us, Oscar, even you; I don't care if you do prefer to keep your pants on." Oscar looked abashed. "It's also true that Dr. Cox is the most talented, compassionate, and dedicated doctor you will find at Sacred Heart, and that is the only thing that does matter." I'd said my piece.

The interns were still gawking. I picked up my clipboard and waved it at them. "Back to work!" As they started to disperse, I added, "Face slap! All of you!" The sound of half a dozen hands smacking their own faces created a warm, tingly feeling in my warm, tingly parts as I went back to my work-up on Mr. Dempsey.

A solid bulk pressed against my back. Perry. Leaning close to my ear, he whispered, "Well done, Reverend Applethorpe."

"Hmph. Don't take your love to town."

"I now consider the situation resolved." He swatted my ass. "Be at my place at 10:30 tonight." He walked off, humming, "Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?"

As I worked through his chart, I grinned at Mr. Dempsey. Who, since he'd been unconscious since lunch, didn't return the sentiment. I didn't mind. My boys respected my man; my man respected me (a little bit, anyway); I was going to have hours of excellent sex tonight; and the two hottest doctors in the hospital were making out on a regular basis. As so often happened here, what started as one of the worst days in months had turned into one of the best I'd had in years.

I wondered if there was an ass word for that.

END