[The L Word/Three Rivers crossover] How can you ever feel whole when half of you is missing?
Categories: Three Rivers
, The L Word
, Finale, What Finale?
, #10 Three Rivers Pre-Premiere Challenge Characters:
Andy Yablonski, David Lee, Jenny Schecter, Miranda Foster, Ryan Abbott, Shane McCutcheon, Sounder II
AU, drama, friendship, tragedySpoilers up through:
3R Season 1, TLW Season 6Warnings:
angst, AU, character death, OOC, strong language, violence
August 18, 2009 Updated:
December 04, 2009
The L Word: In this story I'm ignoring all interrogation tapes, both from the episodes and from showtime.com. The story starts a few months after episode 6x08 and may contain spoilers for all seasons of the show.
Three Rivers: This is supposed to be an AU story that starts about a year after Miranda started working at Three Rivers. At the time that I started working on this (July 2009) and until I finished the first 3 chapters plus outlined the following 10, no episodes of Three Rivers had actually aired. Because of that there's a risk that the characters may be more or less OOC (out of character), at least in parts of the story. You've been warned, so I'd appreciate if you don't comment just to tell me I got them all wrong. Consider this a Shane story with original characters in it if that makes you feel better. It should be said that there are also some parts of the 3R characters' personalities I'm not too fond of on the show, and I will do things to change them in this story, in one way or another.
Disclaimer: I don't own The L Word, Three Rivers or any of their characters or settings. No money is made from this work and no copyright infringement is intended.
1. Chapter 1 - Wake up call by DarknessDescends
2. Chapter 2 - A distance there is by DarknessDescends
3. Chapter 3 - For dear life by DarknessDescends
4. Chapter 4 - Together Alone pt 1 by DarknessDescends
Chapter 1 - Wake up call by DarknessDescends
She saw Alice coming into the room, waving her hands, and all she could hear was her stuttering one word. “Jenny.” She didn’t need her to say more than that before she knew something was terribly wrong, and she rose from her seat, feeling as if the world had stopped moving around her. Seeing her friends hurrying towards the door, they all appeared to be walking in slow motion. She took a deep breath and hurried past them. Once she got out into Bette and Tina’s backyard, it didn’t take more than a second before she saw what Alice had tried to tell them about. Her own girlfriend. Face down, in her neighbors’ pool.
Without stopping for a moment to think, she dove into the lukewarm water, but when her face reached the surface she was standing in a bedroom next to a bunk bed. In front of her on the floor sat a small girl that a second later turned to glance up at her, and she looked back into a face that looked so much like her own when she was ten years old. A face that had tears trickling from its hazel eyes and a small wound on its right cheek. Her gaze swept over the rest of the girl’s body and saw that the thin fabric of her worn out jeans had been torn at the knees and she could see the grazed skin underneath through the holes.
Swallowing, she sat down next to her and tried to look into her eyes without the girl looking away. She saw that her bottom lip was trembling and gently wrapped her arms around her. “What happened?” she asked as softly as she could though her heart began to pound harder in her chest. She already had a feeling she knew.
“Nothing happened,” the girl said stubbornly in a Texas accent just like her own, shaking her head and pulling out of the hug. She picked at her jeans and changed the subject. “These are ruined.”
“You can have mine,” she offered and decided to try again. “Something happened, I know…”
“Just leave me alone!”
“I’m not gonna leave you alone until you tell me who did that to you!”
The girl pulled up her legs in front of her and crossed her arms around them, looking away. “I fell.” She buried her face behind her knees.
“I know when you’re lying, just tell me who did it!” She was getting tired of playing that same old game every time something happened. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself down, she sat there and waited for the girl to talk. After a while she heard the muffled sound of her mumbling.
“Jason?” She wasn’t even surprised. The son in the house they’d been staying at for the past week had seemed to hate them since the moment they came through the door. His sister wasn’t much better.
“He got mad at me and pushed me on the sidewalk,” she explained quietly.
“All right.” She got back up on her feet, angrily forming her hands into tight fists. “Stay here.”
“No, Shane, leave it alone!”
The girl got up and followed her out of their room, down the hallway and into the kitchen where two other kids their age, a girl and a boy, just came in through the back door. She didn’t waste a moment on second thoughts, just stormed through the room, up to the boy that was at least six inches taller than she was, and about twice as wide. Before he had a chance to say anything or even try to protect himself, she smashed her tiny fist right into his face, growling at him through gritted teeth as drops of blood fell from his nose and onto the kitchen floor. “If you ever go near her again I’ll fucking kill you.”
She saw a woman hurrying past her and over to Jason who was covering his bleeding nose with both hands, crying while he called her the worst names he could think of. She turned around and saw that the girl was standing behind her, on a safe distance from all the others, and she was crying too, shaking her head slowly. She opened her mouth to say something to her, anything, but before she got the words out she a sharp felt pain in her right upper arm; a strong hand now had a tight hold around it.
“You’re getting out of my house! Right now, do you hear me?”
He pushed the back door open again and she screamed when he lifted her by the arm and carried her outside. After a few steps he stopped to throw her down on the grass in the backyard. When her back hit the ground it felt like all the air got sucked right out of her lungs, and she gasped for breath as he stood there, watching her.
“I’m gonna go inside and call the agency and you’re just gonna stay where you are until they come and get you.” He shook his head in disgust. “You’re a sick kid. I get why your own parents couldn’t stand you.”
Shane felt something wet touching her face and after a moment of catching her breath from the nightmare she’d just had, she reached for the switch on the lamp by her bed. It took a moment for her eyes to get used to the light and then she saw Sounder standing next to her on her bed, wagging his furry little tail happily.
“Hey…” she mumbled sleepily, lifting one of her hands to scratch his head while she rubbed her eyes and wiped the sweat off her forehead with the other. “Thanks for waking me up.” The last few months he’d been sleeping in his bed on the floor by her door and it wasn’t the first time he’d woken her up in one way or another when she’d been having a bad dream.
It hadn’t been the exact same dream that he woke her from every time she was able to sleep, but it was similar, and they were becoming harder and harder to tell apart. She was starting to lose her sense of which parts were real and not, if any at all. Most of the dream sequences had started to fade from her waken conscience, but one single snapshot remained etched into her retinas. The image of the young girl looking at her, shaking her head with tears in her eyes.
Trying to shrug it off, she looked at the alarm clock on her bedside table; it was almost 3 AM, and she sat up in bed, smiling a little at her dog. “You wanna go for a walk?” she asked him, and yapping in response, he jumped out of the bed to chase his own tail a few times by the door to her room.
“Okay, okay,” she mumbled, “just let me get dressed.”
Putting on a pair of sweat pants and a hoodie didn’t take her long and she followed the Pomeranian through the hallway, swallowing uneasily as she passed the door to what used to be Jenny’s room, but was now Max’s. She couldn’t explain, least of all to herself, why she’d stayed in Jenny’s house for so long after her death. She’d meant to move out but she just never seemed to be able to make herself do something about it. She kept referring to their house as Jenny’s, even though Jenny had left it to her along with everything else she owned, including her dog that now stood waiting for her by the front door.
She searched for his leash in the darkness of the living room while he circled her feet in excitement. “Shhh, don’t wake the others,” she said quietly when she found it, then put it on and took him outside after she grabbed her cigarettes and lighter.
Lighting one, she took a long drag and exhaled into the cool night air. They walked by what used to be Bette and Tina’s house, and like so many times before, she thought about how drastically everything had changed in just the last few months. She’d lost Jenny, and along with her, everything else she’d used to care about, it seemed. Bette, Tina and Angelica had moved to New York like they’d planned to, she barely spoke to them or the rest of her old friends anymore. She never called Alice, and after a while Alice stopped trying to talk to her too. She avoided The Planet like the plague for fear of having to deal with any of it. Max was the only one she still had any contact with since they still lived together.
It wasn’t just the world around her that had changed, she had too. Some days she’d go to work, get through the day in spite of feeling like a zombie, buy more smokes and then head home to take Sounder out for a walk before going to bed. Some days she wouldn’t even get out of bed, the pain she felt just wouldn’t let her. It had all started after Jenny died, along with the dreams and the pain not even she could understand. She’d started seeing a psychologist but only ended up going there three, maybe four times before it became clear to her that the problem wouldn’t be solved by talking, and definitely not with any type of drugs, legal or not. She was just going to have to figure it out on her own, but two weeks ago all of it had come rushing over her again, as if she’d just lost her best friend once more, and after that day it had gotten to the point where she could barely get up in the morning at all anymore.
She knew her recurring dreams had something to do with it, but parts of them were constantly changing and after she woke up from them, the last thing she wanted was to dig back into the images and flashes of memories that tortured her. At first she’d dismissed them and labelled them as nothing more than her mind’s own way of trying to deal with Jenny’s death, but now that she dared to think about it and consider it, she knew with certainty that some of the pain hadn’t even been hers to start with. Something just as bad as what she’d experienced, or maybe even worse, was happening to someone else, and she hadn’t even tried to do anything to stop it.
The last dream had been different. It had been the first time she’d seen her face in one, and now it was obvious that it wasn’t all about Shane herself or what happened to Jenny. It had to have meant something. She tried to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat when she for the first time began to fully realize what it meant, what she’d struggled so hard to suppress even though her mind had constantly tried to remind her.
After quickly putting out her cigarette, she began to run back towards the house with Sounder happily skipping along by her side. They didn’t slow down, and not until Shane put her hand on the door handle did she remember that they were meant to be quiet. Hushing at Sounder who had just began to bark happily, she opened the door carefully and let him in.
“Hey,” she heard a voice whispering from across the room and in the dim light she could see her roommate walking around with his daughter Irene cradled in his arms. “Couldn’t sleep?”
She shook her head. “I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said quietly so she wouldn’t wake the little girl too in case she’d fallen asleep again.
“You didn’t,” Max assured her with a small smile. “She did, but it’s okay.”
“Okay.” Shane bent down to take off Sounder’s leash again and when she looked back at Max she saw him eyeing her with concern.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She hesitated for a moment before she said anything. “Do you think, later maybe, that you could help me with something?”
“Yeah, sure. What?”
Shane sighed and headed over to the dining room to sit down on one of the chairs. “Do you… do you remember three years ago, when I asked you to…”
“Miranda,” he said softly and when she titled her head up to face him, looking a little surprised, he smiled a little, reassuringly. “Yeah, I remember.”
Three years earlier after both losing Dana and finding out what a computer genius Max really was, she’d asked him to help her find her. She hadn’t expected him to find much, but he was the only hope she had left. Every attempt she’d made through the years and been unsuccessful, but apparently her new roommate knew what he was doing. A few weeks later, before she was going to see her father for the first time since she was little, she stopped by to see her too. It hadn’t turned out at all like the way she’d hoped it would and they hadn’t spoken even once since she left.
“I need to find her. She might have changed her phone number, or her name or gotten a new job or a new place… I don’t know, I just have to see her, I have to talk to her. I can’t explain it better than that.” She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, pulling her fingers through her hair.
“No, I get it. She’s your sister. It shouldn’t be that hard to find her, I mean, this time we at least have somewhere to start from. I’ll just put Irene back in her crib first.”
“I didn’t mean we had to do it right now,” she said, slightly shocked, but followed him as he slowly walked towards his room, careful not to wake the baby as he did so. She stopped by the door and waited for him to but the baby back to bed and get his laptop. She never went inside Jenny’s old room anymore.
“It’s fine, I won’t be able to get back to sleep for a while anyway,” he told her, heading back to the dining room with Shane following him around like a little puppy. She didn’t seem to know what to do with herself. Once he’d put the computer down on the table he turned it on, smiling a little. “We’ll see what we can find, okay?”
“Thanks, Max,” she replied and gratefully patted his right shoulder as he sat down by the table. She wondered if he had any idea how thankful she really was that he’d decided to help her. If he hadn’t, she’d had to try to do it on her own, which wasn’t only hard for her because she hadn’t done anything like it before, but because the only computer she owned was Jenny’s laptop. Jenny had left that too for her, but she hadn’t used it or even touched it since she died. Knowing the amount of time her girlfriend had spent in front of it, pouring her heart and soul into it, made it impossible for her to even go near it. She could still sometimes swear she heard her typing on it in the middle of the night, or in the day, even if she was home alone. It just hurt too damn much. For now Max was keeping it for her, tucked away deep inside Jenny’s old closet.
While Max pressed the keys and looked things up for her she sat next to him, nervously playing with her ring and hoping that whatever he’d end up finding, it wouldn’t mean her wake up call had come too late. She wouldn’t have felt the way she did lately if everything had been okay. They’d always been that way, even when they were kids; if one of them was in trouble, the other one just knew somehow. It hadn’t changed when they got older, even though they didn’t talk anymore and lived so far apart.
“There,” she suddenly heard him say and looked up as he wrote something down on a piece of paper. “There’s her address, phone number, workplace, everything.” He held out the note for her to take while he shut the lid of the laptop with his other hand.
Swallowing, she took it and read it a few times, as if she was expecting to sense something just from doing that, but there was nothing. “Thanks, Max…” she said quietly, hoping that feeling, or lack of one, didn’t mean anything. She still lived in Pittsburgh. With a sad sigh she remembered the last and only time she’d been there. Her sister had seemed to be everything except happy to see her, and she’d never figured out what she’d done to make her react that way. But it didn’t matter now if Miranda never wanted to see her again. She just wanted to know that she was okay.
After thanking her roommate once again she took a bottle of water from the fridge and headed back to bed. Sounder was already asleep in his and she set the bottle down on the nightstand, glancing thoughtfully at the TV across the room. The remotes for it as well as the DVD player lay on the other side of the bed and she sat down, reaching out her arm to grab them. It was the same every time she tried to go to sleep. Something inside her told her that it probably wasn’t the best thing she could possibly do for her own sanity, but it was the only thing she had left. One little part of what used to be.
She pulled her comforter all the way up to her face and let her head down on the pillow before she turned the TV on and pressed play on what had only been a test video they’d recorded before Jenny started working on her video project for Bette and Tina before they moved, but to her it had been her only comfort since the night she lost her.
“No, Shane, that’s the wrong button.”
“Like hell it is.”
Laughter and giggles followed every sentence that was said in the video. She knew all the words they’d said by heart now. They were sitting out on the back porch, the sun was shining, and they were happy, in spite of everything that had happened with Niki shortly before that.
“No, it’s that…”
“Jen, I know what I’m doing! It’s on now.”
She’d only turned it on like so many nights before because she needed to hear her voice. And see her smile. That beautiful, beautiful smile. Jenny waved at the camera.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say! Hey, Shane. Shane?”
“May I have the camera?”
“It’s mine, you gave it to me! Hey, I just made you turn red, this is fun.”
“Where’s Sounder? He should be in this too.”
“Sounder! Come here. Yeah, come here. Good doggie.”
“Okay, you can have it. But you have to say ‘please’.”
“Please, Shane. May I please borrow the camera, please?”
“Maybe. If you kiss me I’ll consider it.”
Shane looked away from the screen as the camera, moving from her hands to Jenny’s, caught brief glimpses of them kissing. She’d seen it before, she didn’t have to see it again. She didn’t think she could handle it if she did. Every night when she watched it she stopped looking after Jenny took over the camera. She let the video keep playing so she could listen to her voice, but after Jenny began filming, she only aimed the camera at Shane. What she’d caught on film wasn’t even the same person as the one who now lay in bed watching it. She was happy and looked healthy, nothing like the pale woman with seemingly permanent bags under her eyes that she saw in the mirror whenever she dared to look into it.
“I love you.”
Tears were already streaming down her cheeks and at the last few words she let out a loud sob. Rolling over on her stomach, she buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep like so many nights before, hoping that tomorrow things would finally begin to change.
Chapter 2 - A distance there is by DarknessDescends
It didn’t get any easier with time. Maybe the wounds were still too fresh or she’d hoped for too much too soon, but she kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helped, having Sounder with her, the handle of his leash wound tightly around her right hand while her left had a loose grip around a bouquet of lilacs that she’d just picked up after taking her dog to the vet.
They were practically alone and it was a relief for her. The time she spent there was sacred to her in spite of how much it hurt and how empty she felt each time she left, once again realizing that Jenny couldn’t come with her.
“Hi,” she said softly as she reached her destination. Her tone was still the calm and soothing one she’d always used when she said the first words to Jenny in the morning as she woke up next to her. When she held her close, when one or both of them needed comfort. Her last words before they fell asleep. The way she’d spoken to her the last time they saw each other, at the studio…
She slowly bent down in front of the headstone, placing the flowers on top of it as neatly as she could before she sat down on the ground, looking down at her hands. “I… I need to talk to you,” she managed after a while. Tilting her head up a little, she let her gaze trace along the lines of the letters engraved on the stone without reading them. “I’m leaving town tonight, Sounder’s going with me and I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.”
As she said it, she realized it was true. She didn’t know how Miranda would react when she saw her again or if she’d even want her there – she wasn’t going to try to fool herself into thinking the possibility that she didn’t wasn’t there – but there were other cities than Pittsburgh. If her stay there would turn out to be a short one, she’d probably head to Oregon for a while to see Shay again. It had been too long since she last saw him, and talking to her brother on the phone just wasn’t the same thing. Besides, it would soon be his twelfth birthday. Either way, wherever she was going didn’t matter in the end. She was starting to realize she simply needed to get away for a while, and felt an inexplicable need to explain herself to Jenny because of it.
“I’m going to Pittsburgh,” she went on, swallowing. “There’s something about me that I never told you about, and I know I should have. It just never came up, but uh, I…” She wanted Jenny to know everything. To know her. Jenny had been so open to her about everything about her life, told her things she wouldn’t share with anyone, with the exception of Shane’s jacket and the letter from Molly that she’d hidden in the attic, but even that she found understandable and couldn’t hold it against her. In return, no one knew Shane better than Jenny had and still there were so many things she’d never told her. Important things that maybe would have changed a lot in her life if only Jenny had known about them, but she wasn’t going to torture herself once again with the what-ifs. She didn’t even know if Jenny could hear her now, but she wanted to believe that she could, so she went on.
“Jen… Shay and I…” She paused again and lifted her left hand, pinching the bridge of her nose and squeezing her eyes shut as she felt that familiar stinging feeling in them, trying to will the tears away without even knowing why they were coming in the first place. “It’s not just us,” she went on after a moment. “We have a sister who lives there. Her name’s Miranda and she’s… we’re twins.” Chuckling uneasily through the tears that were just beginning to trickle down her cheeks, she shook her head slowly. “She’s nothing like me at all, though. If you’d ever met her you would have known exactly what I mean. We look alike, but that’s about it. She’s a transplant surgeon and she’s just so unbelievably smart and selfless and I’m so proud of her.”
When she suddenly sniffled she startled Sounder who had been lying down on the grass next to her and he got up and climbed onto her lap. She smiled a little in spite of her tears and gently scratched the top of his head. “I know I should have told you,” she mumbled as a lump started to form in her throat, “but she and I don’t talk to each other and I guess… I guess I was just trying to forget.”
The morning sun shining down on her from a clear blue sky made her feel like it was mocking her for what she’d said. There was no such thing as forgetting something like that. In the daylight she had a chance of at least trying, but it all came back to haunt her as soon as she closed her eyes at night. There hadn’t been a single day since she’d been separated from her sister that she hadn’t thought about her. Wondering how she was feeling, if she was okay, sometimes if she was even alive. When she lost her mother had been one of the most difficult times of her life, but at least they had each other back then. Without Miranda, nothing was the same anymore, and after Jenny… She bit down on her bottom lip, struggling to hold back a sob. She couldn’t even finish that thought and instead tried to go on telling Jenny her story.
“See, I…” she continued, not sure where she’d left off. “Max helped me find her before the wedding. I hadn’t seen her for years, but when you talked me into going to Oregon I went to Pittsburgh and saw her too, that’s why I was gone for so long. We hadn’t talked since we were kids and uh…” Taking a deep breath, she lifted her hand and pulled her fingers through her hair as she sighed. “It didn’t turn out that well. It just seemed like I was making her uncomfortable… so I left. But none of that matters now. I think she needs me so I have to at least make sure she’s all right.”
“You know how they say some identical twins can somehow… just know what the other feels, even when they’re not together? We’ve been able to do that since we were little, even though we haven’t been talking, and even when we’re on opposite sides of the country.” She stopped as she realized she didn’t know for sure if Miranda still could, only that she did, but that was beside the point. “I – I can’t explain it, but that’s how it is. I know something isn’t all right with her right now, and this feeling isn’t gonna go away until I see with my own eyes that she’s okay.”
How she’d managed to stay calm enough to say all of that, she had no idea, but it was quickly becoming too much for her. The words she said were being replaced by images, memories, that flashed before her eyes and rang through her ears, faster than she could push them away again. Thoughts telling her that maybe if she’d done things differently, not kept so many secrets or tried to forget things she needed to remember, things wouldn’t have turned out the way they had.
“And I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you any of this,” she sobbed loudly, taking a breath that hitched in her throat. “But… It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me and – and if I said anything it would have just brought it all back up again.” She squeezed her eyes shut and struggled to breathe as the tears kept streaming down her cheeks. She couldn’t even think anymore, the words just seemed to come out of her on their own accord, and for the first time, she let them. “When they… separated us and decided we weren’t gonna see each other again, it felt like they cut right through me. But it was like, you know, when they take someone’s arm off; you can still feel the pain. And I felt it. I still feel it when she’s in pain and I’m not there with her, and I can’t fix it.”
“And then when I went there to see her, it was just so clear to me that she’s…she’s whole again. She healed and I didn’t. And I don’t want to be broken around her because it’s not fair to her. But I have to make sure she’s okay because it doesn’t feel like she is. That’s why I have to go.” After the last word she quickly covered her mouth with her hand as she felt the vile taste of vomit in her mouth, instinctively swallowing it before the sobs grew more violent and she covered her face in both hands. She soon heard Sounder whimpering in front of her and felt him licking her hands as if he tried to help her wipe away the tears and tell her things would be okay.
“Jen, I…” she said quietly, when she had calmed down enough to be able to speak again. “I really need to leave. Maybe it’s better this way.” Raising her hands to try to wipe away more of the tears that kept coming, she shook her head. “This place isn’t home anymore without you.”
“Even if I’m leaving too…” she added and placed her left hand over her heart, “I’ll still keep you here.”
Chapter 3 - For dear life by DarknessDescends
Miranda‚Äôs friends try to help her through a crisis while struggling with their own problems and Shane arrives in Pittsburgh just in time for when her sister needs her the most.
At Three Rivers Medical Center in Pittsburgh Dr. Miranda Foster had just finished a shift that had ended up longer than it should have, but she still found herself wandering aimlessly through the corridors. She was tired but still hoped someone would turn out to need her help with something, anything. It was better than the alternative – going home to nothing but the thoughts that constantly reminded her of the two lives that had been lost because of her
. The questions echoing through her mind, asking if there was anything it all she could have done and why she hadn’t done it. Questions she had no answers to and didn’t know where to find.
It had been fifteen days, but at the same time it felt like fifteen years or just fifteen minutes. The one person she trusted the most had told her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault, that sometimes things happened that were out of their control, but not even his words could make the pain go away, even the slightest bit. Instead, now that she was back at work after the break she’d been asked to take, she fought harder than ever to do every single thing she possibly could for her patients, hoping that would make up for the lives she couldn’t save, but all it was at the end of the day was a distraction. She’d been told it’d get easier with time, but right now it didn’t feel that way.
There was just one thing she couldn’t bring herself to do – go anywhere near the place where it had all happened. The mere thought of it made it impossible to breathe and the room would start to spin around her until someone brought her back to the present. Every single day at work it was the same thing, but she didn’t feel like she had a choice.
As she walked closer to the reception desk, trying to push the thoughts away, she stopped dead in her tracks when for a second she thought she heard a voice she recognized but knew definitely didn’t belong at Three Rivers. Looking up, she froze and stared at the woman in front of her who seemed just as shocked when she looked back at her.
What looked like a thinner, paler version of herself with dark hair that would probably have resembled her own if it had been its natural light brown color and not such a mess, was standing in front of her in a pair of jeans that were a little torn on one knee, a black leather jacket and a big knitted scarf around her neck. Chills ran down her spine. Was she hallucinating now? She took a shaky breath and swallowed. In spite of how surreal it seemed that she was actually there, she couldn’t be imagining it.
She didn’t know what to do except to keep staring at the woman and try to swallow the lump in her throat as she waited for her to walk up to her. “Hi, Shane,” she managed to say as she looked her sister up and down once again, not needing to see her red eyes and the dark circles under them to know something was wrong.
“Hi, Manda,” Shane replied with a hesitant smile and Miranda hoped she hadn’t flinched at the sound of her childhood nickname. She wasn’t used to it anymore, no one ever called her that except Shane and they hadn’t talked for years.
“How did you…? Are you…?” She stumbled over her words, something that didn’t happen to her very often. “Are you okay? I’m off work in just a little while, do you think you can wait for me and we can talk?” It was a white lie. She was practically ready to go as far as her work was concerned and getting changed wouldn’t take long. But seeing Shane, now, like this out of the blue… She was going to need a moment alone to put her head back together.
Shane nodded slowly and managed a “yeah” followed by another series of nods. “Yeah, sure.”
Miranda struggled to keep herself from sighing deeply as she led Shane toward the waiting room in an awkward silence. Neither one of them seemed to know what to say, but there would be time to figure that out later. “I won’t be long,” she promised but didn’t wait for a response before she turned around and hurried back down the hall and around the corner, silently asking herself how it was possible that she now felt as if she was scared of her own sister. She had just not been ready for this on top of everything else. Taking a deep breath, she leaned her back against the wall and closed her eyes as she pulled her fingers through her hair. Shane hadn’t done anything wrong. If anyone had, it would be her, not Shane. She’d been the one to push her twin sister away for what now seemed like the dumbest and most selfish reason imaginable.
Last time they’d seen each other, probably about three years ago, Shane had told her she was getting married. It hadn’t exactly come as a surprise to her that it was to a woman, she’d always known her sister wasn’t into men and even if she’d thought it was a little strange when they were kids, she’d never judged her for it. Maybe it hadn’t lasted, that could be what was troubling her now. Something had seemed a bit off when Shane told her about it, so it wasn’t out of the question. She’d even been invited to the wedding but after spending a few more hours with her and finding out more about what her life had really been like, she had just known somewhere deep inside that she wouldn’t be able to handle it. Not the wedding, but everything else that would come along with it. Trying to make things what they used to be. She couldn’t have explained it, not to herself, and least of all to her sister, and the worst part was that Shane probably thought she was judging her for the things she’d gone through when that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
That was why it came as such a shock to suddenly see her there. After what she’d done, she hadn’t expected Shane to ever want to see or speak to her again, and even if she’d regretted everything the moment her sister had walked away from her, she still hadn’t been able to bring herself to run after her, or even call her to tell her she was sorry. But maybe… maybe Shane being there meant she didn’t hate her for how she’d pushed her away. Maybe it meant she was getting a second chance to retrieve the piece of herself that she lost so many years ago. Or maybe it meant that… maybe Shane knew
. After everything that had just happened to her, she shouldn’t be surprised if she did.
Blinking, she looked up and saw her colleague and friend Andy Yablonski standing in front of her looking more than concerned and she wondered how long he’d been standing there.
“Are you okay?” he asked and when she didn’t answer immediately he continued. “You’re crying.”
She hadn’t realized it until he pointed it out to her, but now that she raised her right hand to her face she could feel where the tears had trailed down her cheek to her jaw. She wiped them away and blinked. “Oh.”
“You did a great job in there,” he said softly and placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. “But you can’t just take care of everyone else, you need to look after yourself too. Especially after what happened last week. Okay? You’re exhausted, go home and get some rest.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Sniffling a little, she wiped the rest of the tears away. “My sister is here,” she suddenly said and was just as surprised as Andy seemed to be when she said it.
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” he frowned.
“I do, I just wasn’t expecting her to show up here. But I promise I’m gonna go home, I’m just gonna get changed first.” She tried to smile a little and was just about to walk away when she realized something she hadn’t had to worry about for the last twenty years that could possibly cause some problems now. Big problems. “Just… one thing. Shane and I are twins. Identical
twins, so if you see her around here somewhere, don’t… assume it’s me.”
He chuckled a little and nodded to himself, processing this new bit of information. “Okay, I won’t.”
Letting out a deep sigh as she hurried towards the locker room, she silently berated herself for not having thought of that sooner, but then again, they didn’t really look that
much alike anymore, did they? And how much trouble could Shane really cause in the few minutes it would take her to get changed and get her things?~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Shane sat down on one of the couches in the waiting room like Miranda had asked her to and crossed her arms over her chest, shuddering a little. How the people who worked there could run around in those thin scrubs with those short sleeves and not freeze to death, she could just not understand. Pittsburgh was colder than she’d expected and all the crying the last twenty-four hours certainly didn’t help. It had been a long flight there, even though they’d left LAX before midnight, they still didn’t reach Pittsburgh until just before noon. Luckily enough for Sounder, they had stopped in North Carolina so she could take him outside for a while, and get him something to eat too. Though most of the time he’d just slept on her lap and had seemed content with that. Now he was waiting for her in the rental car in the parking lot. She felt horrible for having put him through all that, but she didn’t dare to leave him with anyone else back in LA. Maybe it would be easier on the way back if she just drove home.
Even if Sounder got some rest, she hadn’t been able to sleep for a second. Chaos didn’t even come close to describing what it had been like in her head since she left Jenny’s grave, and when she looked into a bathroom mirror at the airport she’d noticed that her eyes were still red and swollen from the crying, but she just couldn’t bring herself to care. She wouldn’t be able to hide anything from her sister anyway.
Now that she’d seen her, she couldn’t help it, but the way Miranda had kept her distance and barely said anything stung more than she’d expected it to. At least she’d talked to her, that was a start, but she didn’t know what to think about what was going on with her. The short moment she’d just spent with her, she’d looked tired, but that didn’t say much considering the type of job she had. She hadn’t seemed thrilled to see her, but not exactly unhappy either. Mostly shocked, and she guessed that was understandable. Deep down she knew that there wasn’t much of a point in trying to figure any of it out so soon, before they even had a chance to talk, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was all she could do to keep from thinking about how much she really had missed her all this time.
Across the room from her, Dr. David Lee passed by the waiting area. Normally, on a day like this after a surgery that had gone well and he was ready to go home, he would walk around with a confident grin on his face, but not today. It hadn’t happened even once the last two weeks and he was starting to forget what it felt like to just… have a good day for once. Before he would be ready to leave the hospital after spending the whole night there, he just had to check on the one person working there that he knew was feeling even worse than he did.
It didn’t take him long to find her and when he saw her sitting curled up on one of the couches, shaking a little and staring blankly in front of her, it felt like something broke inside him. “Oh god,” he mumbled and hurried through the room towards her. Her hair was a mess and looked different somehow and she had definitely been crying. His heart started pounding as if it was trying to punch a hole in his chest when he realized that she had probably ‘disappeared’ again like she did more and more often lately. She’d shut out the world around her and not hear when someone talked to her, or even seem to notice someone was there at all.
Whatever was going on now, it had to be bad. He hadn’t seen her since before her surgery and had no idea what had happened, but if something had gone wrong he wouldn’t know what to do. That had been one of the biggest reasons why he hadn’t thought she should come back to work this soon. If she’d lost one of her patients now, he didn’t know how she was going to recover from that.
As he reached her he sat down next to her on the couch, feeling his bottom lip trembling as he struggled to speak. “What happened?” he managed after a while. “Are you… are you okay?” She looked up at him, seeming confused and a little… scared? Almost like she didn’t even recognize him. “Miranda?” She blinked at him a few times and his heart sank.
When Shane came down from the initial shock it still took her a few moments to realize what the man that had just showed up in front of her was going on about and why he was even talking to her. It dawned on her that it had been over twenty years since the last time someone confused her with her sister, she just wasn’t used to it anymore. Not that she could even understand why – they might have looked alike when they were little and even dressed the same way sometimes, but now? They were like night and day. “I—I’m not Miranda,” she stuttered when she’d composed herself a little. “I’m her sister.”
At those words, he felt as if the last bit of hope he’d had was gone. She’d broken down so completely this time that she didn’t even remember who she was anymore, and he didn’t know what he was supposed to do to help her out of it. He looked her up and down again, noticing that she definitely wasn’t dressed for the cold October weather, and she already sounded like she was getting a cold; her voice sounded different to him, a little deeper and more hoarse than normal, maybe. Either way, it worried him. “Sweetie, you’re an only child, you don’t have any siblings,” he said softly and looked into her eyes. There was something different about them now, he just couldn’t tell what it was.
Whoever this guy was, it was obvious from the way he worried about her and the way he acted that he and her sister were close, whatever that meant. That made it sting even worse; that he didn’t even know she existed, and Shane swallowed hard, trying not to let that pain show. He would probably take it for something else and freak out worse than he already had. After a few seconds she realized that she hardly had any right to be upset by it since she hadn’t told any of her friends about Miranda either, aside from Max.
Her moment of thoughtful silence had made him worryingly lower his gaze to her hands and he gently took them in his own, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. When he did, his eyes fixed on the tattoo of the number ‘2’ on the ring finger of her right hand and even if a part of him had doubted for a second that it was really her, he knew now that it was. He just had to figure out a way to make her see that.
“Yes,” Shane sighed, not bothering to pull her hands away. “She does. I swear to you, I’m not Miranda. My name is Shane and I’m her sister.”
David whisked a penlight out of one of his pockets and he was just about to hold it up in front of her right eye when she stopped him by grabbing his wrist and pulled it away, blinking a little.
“Okay…” she said, taking a deep breath and glancing at the ID attached to his scrubs that told her this man was Dr. David Lee. It was obviously a little hard for him to accept that she wasn’t who he thought she was, but enough was enough. “Look, Dr. Lee, I’m gonna prove it to you.” She leaned forward enough to be able to reach her wallet in her back pocket and mentally berated herself for not having thought of that sooner. Flipping it open, she held up her driver’s license. “I’m Shane McCutcheon. See?”
He was a little startled to see the picture on it that looked just like Miranda except with shorter, slightly spiky hair that reminded him a little of the photo on her ID, as well as the name that confirmed what she’d just told him. He kept looking at the California driver’s license, from the small circle with the word “donor” in it to the red text under the ghost photo of her, noticing that her date of birth was the exact same as Miranda’s. He felt like a complete and total idiot as everything started to make sense. She had a twin? How could he not know that? “I’m sorry, I had no idea,” he said sheepishly, feeling his face flush; something that didn’t happen often. But it was a huge relief that Miranda hadn’t had a nervous breakdown, and that he was also fairly certain he hadn’t said or done anything that he normally would have if it had
been Miranda Foster sitting there.
“You believe me now?” Shane chuckled uncomfortably and slipped her wallet back into her pocket. What made her the most uneasy at that point was how seeing her and thinking she was Miranda had made him assume something was wrong with her, but she knew he didn’t mean anything by it. It was obvious he cared a lot about her sister. When she turned her head up again she saw two slender and very familiar looking hands resting on the back of the couch and heard someone clearing their throat.
Miranda was wearing a much thicker jacket than Shane that was way more appropriate for the cold weather outside and she crossed her arms over her chest before she spoke. “Hey,” she said quietly before turning to David and letting out an uneasy chuckle while Shane got up from the couch and walked around it and over to her. “You thought she was me?”
David stood up, blinking and looking from one twin to the other. Now that he saw them both together he couldn’t even understand how he could have mistaken Shane for Miranda. They obviously looked alike, but he wouldn’t call them identical. Miranda’s wavy hair was long enough to pass her shoulders while Shane’s was messy and barely even reached hers. He noticed that though Miranda had always seemed a little too skinny to him, her sister was even thinner; just in general Miranda looked healthier in spite of what she’d gone through and how bad she’d been feeling. Shane even appeared to be about an inch or so shorter than her sister, but it would have been impossible to see when she was sitting down. But having realized all this, he wanted even more to just sink through the floor and disappear.
“Yeah, uh… I did,” he mumbled and tried to smile apologetically at Miranda before he turned to her sister. “Shane, I really am sorry.”
“It’s okay, really, it’s fine,” she assured him, holding up her hands in front of her. “Don’t worry about it.”
Together they left the waiting room and walked over to a less crowded corridor where Miranda stopped and stood close to David, speaking quietly. “I’m so sorry I didn’t say anything,” she said, biting down on her bottom lip and looking as if she was about to start crying.
He shook his head, placing his hands on her shoulders and letting them slide down her arms to her elbows. “It’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sure you had your reasons for keeping it to yourself.”
“Yeah,” she mumbled. “I was gonna tell you, but then… then…”
She went silent and he thought he saw tears glittering in her eyes. “I know,” he said softly and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close and feeling her burying her face in his shoulder. “Actually, now that I think about it, some things make a lot more sense now.”
Shane had stopped a few feet away from them and leaned against the wall as she waited for Miranda to be ready to go. While she was completely ignoring their conversation that seemed to be a private one, she could still, out of the corner of her eye, notice the way he held her and stroked his hand over her hair while she hugged him as if she was trying to hold on to him for dear life. Seeing that convinced her that she’d made the right decision by coming there, whether Miranda thought so now or not. Something obviously wasn’t right with her, and even if she already had someone looking out for her, something told her that wasn’t enough. She saw him letting go a little and taking a small step back so he could look into her eyes, and for a moment it almost looked as if they were about to kiss each other, but neither one of them did anything. Shane had absolutely no interest in her sister’s love life unless that was something Miranda decided to talk to her about, but she couldn’t help that she wondered what was really going on with the two of them.
“Hey, Shane,” David suddenly said and she looked up at him while Miranda glanced suspiciously from one of them to the other. “Think you could do me a favor?”
“Yeah…” she replied with a shrug, not knowing what to expect. “Sure. What?”
“Take Miranda home, feed her and make her get some sleep.” He smiled mischievously and ignored the look Miranda gave him from where she stood in front of him, still with his right arm around her. “And you,” he said to her a few seconds later, “you can do the same to her. You both look like you need it. Okay?”
Miranda nodded slowly and sighed. She now wished even more that she had told him about Shane sooner and explained that they didn’t exactly have the best relationship imaginable, but it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t know that things were a little tense between them after all they’d gone through in the past, especially not since they both seemed to do what they could to keep it from showing.
She put her arms around him once again, reluctant to leave the only person on earth that knew exactly what she was going through and could understand, even though she knew Shane was waiting for her.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly with an encouraging smile, “just go home and hang out with your sister and get some rest. I’ll call you later and make sure everything’s okay. All right?”
“Yeah.” She finally let go of him and turned to Shane who still stood by the wall, looking more than just a little anxious to get out of the hospital. Miranda didn’t even have to say anything, she was ready to go as soon as she saw that her sister was, and together they walked down the corridor in the most awkward silence either one of them had experienced in a long time.
David didn’t get more than a few seconds to breathe before he heard a cheerful voice behind him, and he didn’t have to think twice to know who that belonged to – someone who seemed to have a special talent for rubbing him the wrong way. He was sure the poor guy’s heart was in the right place, but most of the time he acted like his brain wasn’t.
“Wow, what was that I just saw?” Ryan Abbott, a transplant coordinator with a certain resemblance to a cartoon character that lived in a pineapple under the sea, passed by him and stopped right in front of him, grinning. “She hugged you? Are you actually starting to get somewhere with her?”
“Who says I’m trying?” David asked dryly, wanting to ignore his co-worker though it was proving to be harder than he thought since Ryan was apparently excited enough to almost bounce around just a little in front of him. As if that wasn’t enough, he’d brought Andy with him.
“The entire hospital knows you’re trying, David,” Andy quipped, smirking with his arms crossed over his chest as he looked down the corridor after Miranda and Shane.
“I’m just making sure she’s okay,” David muttered crankily, but his sour mood didn’t last very long as he noticed that Ryan had turned whiter than the hospital sheets where he stood next to him.
Ryan’s eyes were fixed on the two sisters who had stopped for a moment while Miranda took off her jacket and tried to hand it over to Shane. After a while she accepted it, taking off her own and giving it to her sister before they both put them on. A couple of times throughout that procedure they turned their heads to look back at the guys, and Ryan just stared.
“G—guys?” he stuttered, raising his hand just a little to point discretely in their direction while he looked from David to Andy and back again.
“What?” the other two replied in unison even though they both knew what was troubling him.
He swallowed, blinking a little as the two women took off down the hall again. “We clone people now?”
“What are you talking about?” Andy asked him, struggling to sound serious.
“There’s two… of her.”
“Two of who?” David chuckled while Andy took a step closer to Ryan and looked into his eyes.
“Are you okay?” he asked and Ryan shook his head a couple of times before he changed his mind and nodded a little anxiously in response instead.
David held up two fingers in front of the man’s face and looked into his eyes, frowning. “How many fingers am I holding up?” he asked, struggling to keep a straight face.
“He’s got double vision,” David announced to Andy while Ryan’s eyes grew wider.
“Yeah…” he replied thoughtfully, rubbing his chin with his thumb and index finger as if in deep thought for a while before nodding slowly. “I think it’s best if you just go home and sleep for a while. I told Miranda the exact same thing, now it’s your turn. You’ll feel a lot better in the morning.” He had to pinch himself to keep from laughing when it obviously hadn’t occurred to Ryan that if he did in fact have double vision, he’d be seeing two of more than just the twins and David’s fingers. What he’d told him to do was still as valid though, he had to be exhausted.
Ryan swallowed, glancing uneasily from one of them to the other and back again. “Did—did she have that too?”
“No, that’s just you.” David sighed and gave him a gentle push in the right direction. “Just watch where you’re going!” He waited a little while and then looked at Andy who stood next to him, smirking. “We’re not gonna tell him?” he asked quietly with a chuckle.
“Nah, we can tell him tomorrow if he hasn’t figured it out by then.”
When Ryan had slowly walked away from them in the same direction that Miranda and Shane had taken a few minutes ago, David spoke again, swallowing uncomfortably. Messing a little with their co-worker had been a welcome distraction, but now he had no reason to put it off any longer. “Do you have a few minutes?” he asked while he rubbed the back of his neck. “There’s something I need to talk to you about before I go.”
“Yeah, sure,” Andy nodded and they began to walk in the direction of the men’s locker room, not saying much on the way there. When they entered the room they found that luckily enough, no one else was there and David sat down on a bench, Andy soon following his example. “What do you wanna talk to me about?” he asked, even if he had a feeling he already knew because he had his own reasons for wanting to bring that subject up with him. “Is this about Miranda?”
David rested his elbows on his knees, pressed his palms together and nodded slowly. Even if he knew the conversation was one they needed to have, it still felt next to impossible to get the words out. “She’s gonna hate me for saying this,” he started, “but I didn’t think her coming back to work this soon was a good idea. And I’m starting to think it was a really… bad one.” In his head he could still hear her telling him how she needed to come back to work because it was the only thing that could keep her sane in spite of what she was going through. And at the same time, he thought of the nervous wreck she’d turn into at times when she wasn’t working. Still, he knew deep down he was doing the right thing. She couldn’t work anything out by pretending the problem didn’t exist. “It think… she needs more time off,” he sighed deeply, glancing up at his friend. “She’s not ready for all this.”
“What makes you say that?”
David shrugged. “I don’t know what she’s been like when you’ve worked with her…”
Andy recalled how calm, focused and in control she’d been during the surgery they’d performed only a couple of hours ago; she’d been the same as she’d always been when they were working together. That wasn’t what concerned him. “She seems fine when she’s set on helping a patient,” he said, “but when she’s not doing something that requires her… undivided attention…” He paused and looked at his friend who, judging by the understanding look on his face, seemed to know exactly what he was talking about. “She… it’s like she disappears into her head and sometimes it’s hard to get her out of there again.”
“I hoped it was just me,” David said quietly and swallowed. “That I was just imagining things.”
“You’re not. If you are, then I am too.”
“I’ll talk to her and think she’s listening, but after a while I can tell that I’ve said or done something that’s… taken her somewhere else. Back to that day.” As far as he knew, Andy still didn’t know what had really happened and he knew Miranda didn’t want anyone else to know, so he had to leave out a lot that would explain her behavior. That he was having this conversation behind her back felt like a big enough betrayal but he didn’t feel like he had much of a choice anymore.
“I know,” Andy said, nodding slowly as he felt a lump forming in his throat. “About half an hour ago I found her crying and she didn’t even seem to know she was doing it. She didn’t even notice I was there at first. I wasn’t sure if that had anything to do with anything until now.”
“I think it does.” That must have happened right around the time when he was talking to Shane. He wasn’t even surprised, he’d already seen it so many times himself, but it still hurt to think about it. “She doesn’t cry if she knows she’s doing it. She… she won’t even talk about what happened. Sometimes I wish she’d just yell or throw something, just to get it out of her, but she just… she just sits there as if she’s in a daze.” Andy nodded but didn’t say anything, so he went on. “It’s just different when she’s here, because she seems like she’s fine most of the time, but outside the hospital she’s a completely different person. I think when she’s here she can try to forget what happened and pretend it never did, so she works harder and longer for each time she’s here, and it’s gonna break her. No one can handle that much and not fall apart.”
“You know I don’t know what happened to her,” Andy started, feeling just as helpless as he had every day since Miranda’s problems had started. When he didn’t know what was wrong and wasn’t allowed to ask, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do to even try to fix it. “But she could have PTSD…”
Stress Disorder,” David said, trying not to sound offensive as he corrected him. He’d thought about it himself; the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder did fit her behavior to some extent but not the time frame. “It’s only been fifteen days.”
“It feels longer than that, doesn’t it?”
“To me it feels like it happened yesterday,” he replied quietly, tilting his head down to let his forehead rest in his palms as he bit down on his bottom lip for a moment. “Or a lifetime ago,” he said, slowly exhaling a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “Time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me anymore.” That day had probably been the worst of Miranda’s life, but it had been for him too, and the conversation he was having with Andy now was the first one he’d had where he’d actually been able to talk to someone about it. Even if he had to keep the details to himself he knew it was a good thing and that he’d needed it much more than he’d thought.
“I hope you know that… I’m here if either one of you needs someone to talk to.” Andy couldn’t help that he felt a little left out. Not because David and Miranda had a secret that they couldn’t let him in on, but because it left him feeling so completely powerless. His friends were falling apart right in front of him and he had no idea what he could possibly do to help them. If only David had said something sooner, but then again, it made sense that he couldn’t have. From what he’d just heard it was obvious that he was in just as much pain as Miranda, he was just better at pushing his feelings aside. Something that in this case probably wasn’t the best thing he could do.
“Thanks.” David nodded slowly and glanced at him for a moment before he turned away again. “It just doesn’t feel right to do this, but I can’t just stand there and watch her get worse. She needs a break and I—I think she might need help. She can work when she’s better, her health has to be more important than that.”
When he heard all that David said, he had to admit to himself that he probably had been terribly wrong about him. He knew David had a history of breaking women’s hearts and he hadn’t exactly been too excited about chance of that happening to Miranda when they’d started to become close friends earlier that year. Of course it made sense, they worked together in what could be a very stressful environment and they hardly ever had time for something resembling a social life outside of the hospital, but he hadn’t felt that he could trust that David wouldn’t take advantage of her in some way.
She was one of the strongest and most determined women he’d ever known, but he also knew her well enough to know that when something went painfully wrong, she could fall apart like a house of cards and become the most vulnerable instead. What she needed was someone to lean on that had no ulterior motives and wasn’t just going to use it to get her into bed with him, dump her the next day and step on what was left of her. Anyone who tried to hurt her like that… He clenched his jaws together and swallowed, not even wanting to think about that happening or what he’d do to the person responsible. She was almost like a little sister to him. Though now more than ever, it was crystal clear to him that he’d never do something like that to her. David had been the only one there with her when the thing that haunted her ever since had actually happened and he’d probably saved her life. As if that wasn’t enough, he now insisted they take away the most important thing in her life as far as he knew – her job. That was hardly a smart move for someone who was trying to sleep with her, but something you’d do if you feared for a close friend’s health or her life. It wasn’t the first time he regretted a conversation he’d had with David a few months ago, but now he did so more than ever. He no longer remembered his exact words, but he’d made it very clear to him that he wasn’t going to let him hurt Miranda in any imaginable way. It hadn’t pissed him off like he’d half expected it to, but seemed to deeply hurt him and David hadn’t said much after that so he’d never mentioned it again.
“The thing is,” David went on, “I know that she’s an excellent surgeon, and she cares more about what she does than anyone I’ve ever met. But I’m scared that she’s gonna get so taken over by this that she’ll end up making some kind of mistake, and that she won’t be able to get over it, professionally or emotionally. Because that’ll be the end of her. She’s not even herself anymore. At least if she’d get angry or just… anything. Then at least I’d know she’s still there.” He covered his eyes with his left hand and sat in silence for a moment until he looked up at Andy who saw tears glittering in his eyes. “I’m scared we’re gonna lose her. She’s…” He paused to rephrase what he’d been about to say and chuckled uneasily at the small drops that had begun to trickle down his cheeks. “She’s my best friend.”
“We’ll get her help,” Andy said quietly, wrapping an arm around David’s shoulders and giving one of them a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll make sure she’s okay. We’re not
gonna lose her.” It was the first time since that day two weeks ago that he’d seen his friend cry, and the second in the whole time he’d known him. It wasn’t until then that he realized a few tears had already found their way down his own cheeks but he didn’t bother to try to wipe them away. “You can go and get some rest if you want and I’ll talk to Dr. Jordan about it.”
“If she decides something and she’s gonna talk to her, I should probably be there,” he replied slowly, trying to imagine what would probably happen in a situation like that and he felt a lump forming in his throat. “She’s not gonna be happy about it. I’m the one who started this, if she’s gonna take it out on someone it should be me, not Dr. Jordan. I’m the only one who knows.”
Andy nodded and stood up, preparing to leave the room so that he could set it up as soon as possible. “I’ll tell her that, and I’ll tell her to call you when she knows something. There’s no one in this hospital that knows Miranda better than the two of you, so I don’t really think there’s a better way to do this. I’m gonna go and look for her right now so maybe we can do something about this today.” It was the least he could do for both of them, and if something else came up he wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
“Thank you,” David replied, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. Just when Andy was about to open the door, he realized something. “Just one more thing,” he said.
Andy turned to look at him and let go of the door handle. “Yeah?”
“Do you think that if she does get a break from all this for a while, if someone asks where she is, you can just tell them she’s spending some time with her sister?” He’d gladly take anything that would keep people from asking more questions, even if they were just concerned.
“Yeah,” Andy said again, “I can do that. Hey, did you know she had a twin?”
“I had no idea.” David shrugged, wrinkling his nose a little as he tried to forget how he’d made a complete ass of himself in front of her. Hopefully she’d understand why. But those thoughts didn’t remain in his mind for a long time after Andy had said bye and closed the door behind him when he left. It wasn’t the awkward first meeting with Shane that he was really worried about, but how what he’d just done could have either saved both Miranda and her career – or the opposite. The worst part was that he’d had to do it behind her back. He’d never
even considered something like that before and he didn’t know how she would ever be able to forgive him for that, no matter what reasons he’d had for doing it or how necessary he’d found it to be.
Wasn’t she hurting enough? Did he really have to go and get her job taken away from her on top of everything else? She’d told him over and over again how she needed that to at least maintain some level of sanity and normalcy, and now she wouldn’t have that anymore. At least not until she’d shown that she was feeling better again and would be ready to come back to work and all the responsibility and stress that came with it.
Overcome with anger and disgust directed at nothing and no one but himself, he raised his right leg without as much as a thought to what he was doing and kicked the sole of his black Adidas sneaker right into his locker with all the force he could muster, causing the whole row to shake. Pain shot up through his leg and he grimaced, squeezing his eyes shut as he muttered various profanities under his breath. When he managed to calm down a little, relieved that no one appeared to have heard him, he spotted the dent in the middle of the door.
“Fuck,” he muttered. He didn’t care so much about the door; he could pay to have it replaced, but there was something inside the door that he couldn’t. He obviously wasn’t thinking clearly and struggled with the combination lock before he finally managed to open the door. Inside it was a picture he’d stuck to one of the metal trims and seeing that he hadn’t damaged it in any way, he took it down, grabbing his wallet from his jacket before he sat down on the floor, leaning against the door. He looked at the photo, but it couldn’t put a smile on his face like it always had in the past. It was a picture of him and Miranda in the plane before takeoff, about to go on a donor run, and he had finally been able to talk her into sitting with him. She’d been really tense and he’d decided to try to make her relax if only a little. He’d picked up his phone to take a picture of them before he had to turn it off and told her he was gonna need proof or Andy wouldn’t believe it ever happened, and while she tried to tell him how stupid that was, he’d taken the picture. As a result of that, he was grinning into the camera with one arm around her shoulders while Miranda looked at him with her mouth half open and a slightly shocked expression on her face. Now of course, the picture looked slightly different since none other than Miranda herself had decided to draw a moustache on him.
He sighed deeply and put it in his wallet where he already had two other pictures. One of his family – his girlfriend; three months into her pregnancy she had only just started to show and she was sitting on the couch while looking over her shoulder, smiling at him as he took the photo and she looked so beautiful… and happy
. So much had changed since that picture was taken and no matter how much he wanted them to, he wasn’t sure that things would ever be what they used to be again. They hadn’t planned on having kids that early in their relationship, hadn’t even had a chance to discuss it, but it happened and somehow it had just seemed right
. That was, until the day when everything had just fallen apart right in front of them. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to will away the flashes of memory that had come from nowhere to cloud everything around him. After a moment he opened them again, focusing on the other picture.
It had been taken not too long after they had started seeing each other and she was asleep in his bed with the comforter pulled up all the way to her chin in an attempt to protect herself from the cold of that early spring morning. She never slept like that anymore. All he could remember now were all the times she’d woken him up in the middle of the night, even though she didn’t mean to, when she was having a nightmare. Reality in general was starting to resemble one and all he wanted was to wake up for once.
There was too much going on in his life right now, and even after talking to his friend a few minutes earlier there was still so much more he needed to let out, but he didn’t have anyone he could talk to about any of it. Not even Miranda, she had too much to deal with and there was no way he’d say anything that could bring her down even worse.
Too exhausted to care if someone walked through the door and saw him there, he crossed his arms on top of his knees, rested his head on them and let the tears come.
Chapter 4 - Together Alone pt 1 by DarknessDescends
This chapter has nothing to do with the episode called "Alone Together". I named my chapters before the episode titles were announced and saw no reason to change it. And it was not meant to be this long, that kinda just... happened.
When Shane and Miranda walked away from David there was no ‘I missed you’ or a ‘how have you been?’ and definitely no warm hugs, but just the awkward, uncomfortable silence they had both come to know so well in each other’s presence since last time, one neither of them seemed willing to break. ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Miranda glanced to her left at her sister, noticing how she pulled up her shoulders and had curled her fingers into loose fists as if she was still freezing, even though they hadn’t left the hospital yet. “You’re not dressed for this weather,” she said quietly and Shane turned to look at her as if the sound of her voice had startled her somehow. Miranda stopped and Shane followed her example without saying anything, not even when Miranda began to take off her jacket.
Shane blinked, trying to catch on to what was going on, but the lack of sleep the last few days was really starting to get to her and she felt as if she was in a daze. “What are you—what are you doing?”
“You’re gonna freeze to death if you go out there wearing that,” Miranda replied, pointing with one hand at Shane’s black leather jacket while she offered her her own jacket with the other. “Take this, you’re gonna need it. Shane, come on.”
“But you…” she began to protest, but her sister cut her off and shook her head.
“I’m used to it, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania most of my life and winter tends to happen every year, believe it or not. I’ll live.” She tried to smile a little when she saw the dejected look on Shane’s face, feeling like an asshole for having pointed it out as bluntly as she had, but it was reality that they had spent most of their lives on opposite sides of the country. “Stop arguing with me and just take it.”
Shane did as she was told, took the jacket and slipped out of her own, holding it out for her sister to take, still wondering if it was really such a great idea but it would probably be best to just do what Miranda wanted for now. As they both put the jackets on, they turned to look back in David’s direction and found that he and two other guys Shane hadn’t seen before were standing there, looking at them. Miranda didn’t seem to care about it though, so she didn’t either, and they took off down the corridor and left the William H. Foster Transplant Wing, heading towards the exit. The uncomfortable silence was back, and like before, Miranda was the first to say something.
“How long are you here for?”
“I don’t know yet.” She hadn’t made any solid plans for anything, it all depended on how long Miranda would want her around, but there was no way for her to tell her that at this point without making the situation even more uncomfortable, or maybe even risking being asked to leave right away.
“Well, where are you staying then?”
Shane shrugged. “I haven’t decided yet.” She looked at her sister and seeing her frowning at her in the exact way she used to when they were kids and she thought she was acting like an idiot, she realized she might need to explain herself. “See,” she said licking her lips, “I have a dog and I brought him with me and I need to find a place where they’ll let me have him. I mean, he’s a tiny little one, but…”
“You brought your dog with you?” Miranda asked, unable to keep herself from smiling a little at how Shane held her hands up in front of her to show her the size of her dog. They exited the hospital through the main entrance and she noticed that Shane shuddered a little when the doors opened and the cool air swept toward them from outside. She knew Shane couldn’t help it; her sister had spent her whole life in a much warmer climate than she was used to, but it still amused her since she didn’t even think it was that cold. Sure, it was colder than it usually was in Pittsburgh in the middle of October but it wasn’t that bad.
“Yeah, I couldn’t leave him in LA,” Shane sighed hopelessly as she turned and walked towards her car over at the hospital parking lot.
“But where is he now?” Miranda asked slightly confused and caught herself looking Shane up and down as if she was half expecting her to pull the tiny dog out of one of her pockets. The lack of sleep, especially over the last couple of days, was making her feel dumber than ever and she realized it was definitely not the best time imaginable to try to work things out with Shane but she didn’t seem to have much of a choice.
“Well, I rented a car and I let him stay in there because I figured it wouldn’t take me that long to find you. But he’s probably gonna want to get out of there about now.” She pulled her phone out of the right pocket of her jeans and looked at the clock. It hadn’t been too long since she left him, he should be okay.
Without putting any thought to it Miranda let her right middle- and index finger rub back and forth over her bottom lip as she struggled to find the right words. “You know,” she started with a flick of her hand, “you could have called me before you came here.” That didn’t come out right. “I—I mean…” she stuttered and squeezed her eyes shut for a second, “if I’d known you were in town I could have at least picked you up at the airport.”
Shane couldn’t help but hang her head slightly at Miranda’s words. It wasn’t as if she didn’t already feel bad for showing up the way she had without even telling her about it. “It wouldn’t have made any difference, you were working,” she mumbled. “But I—I did call you though. Probably about four or five times before I left LA, then I decided to just come here.”
For Shane, talking to Miranda felt almost like being Bambi on ice, she just didn’t know how to act or what to say and she couldn’t get over how she could feel so close to her but still so far away from her when she stood right next to her. She knew that some part of Miranda had to be the same person she’d been so close to all those years ago; she had to be, otherwise she wouldn’t feel so strangely connected to her after all the time that had passed since they were separated. And the type of bond they had just didn’t wither and fade – it was something unique that not too many people ever got to experience and if it had been up to her she’d never have let anyone try to throw away. It was just obvious enough that her coming to Pittsburgh was a huge inconvenience to her sister, at least that was how her behavior made it seem to her, but deep down she knew she had a damn good reason for going there and she wasn’t leaving until she’d done what she came there to do.
“Oh, fuck,” Miranda muttered when it dawned on her what the problem was. “Just…” She was about to put her hand in the right pocket of her jacket when she realized she was wearing Shane’s and instead walked over to her sister, apologizing as she dug her phone out of the pocket of the one she was wearing instead. She had two missed calls from the same number and figured it was safe to assume it was Shane’s. “I’ve been at work since yesterday, I didn’t…”
“Yeah, I know that now,” she sighed hopelessly. ‘Way to act like a crazy stalker, huh, Shane?’ she thought to herself before she went on. “Look, I’m sorry. I called the one at your house a few times too.”
“But why?” By the time Shane started calling her she’d according to the list of missed calls on her phone already been at the hospital, but she hadn’t even set foot in her own house for a few days before that. But she would be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that it did make her uncomfortable that Shane was suddenly so eager to see her when they never as much as talked on the phone otherwise.
“I was…” Shane started and glanced over at her, “I was worried about you.”
Miranda swallowed. “You were worried?” After she said it she felt a cold shiver run through her but it wasn’t because of Shane’s jacket or the weather at all. She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, feeling completely naked as Shane looked at her with concern written all over her face. ‘She knows.’ She still didn’t know how or why or how much, but Shane had always had a way of picking up what she was feeling, especially when she wasn’t okay. But this was just one of the times when she really didn’t want her inside her head, especially not when she was right there with her. She was going to ask questions, ones she had no answers to, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t end well – at least not for her.
Seeing the way Miranda looked at her almost angrily for a second and without knowing what she’d done wrong this time Shane turned away and stood quiet for a while, looking out over the parking lot before she finally shrugged. “That’s the reason why I came here to begin with.” She sighed hopelessly and gave her a pleading look. “Manda, look, it’s complicated and I don’t think I can try to explain everything in the parking lot outside your hospital where it’s fucking freezing,” she said. ‘And I haven’t slept for days,’, she added in her mind. “Can we at least go some place where it’s warm?”
“You could stay at my place if you want, I have an extra bedroom,” Miranda offered, her expression softening a little, before she even had a chance to think about what she was saying and she nervously bit her bottom lip. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ she asked herself silently but immediately felt a twinge of guilt at the thought and heard a voice scolding her in the back of her head. ‘She’s your sister, goddammit, and she came here because she cares about you. Give her a break, at least she’s trying, and it’s not her fault you got separated in the first place. It’s yours.’
Shane blinked a few times, wondering if she’d really said what she thought she had. That had been the last thing she’d expect to come out of her mouth. “You sure? You don’t have to, I mean, it’s…”
“No, it’s all right. We can figure out the rest later.”
They looked at each other for a moment, both feeling equally nervous and panicky and wondering what the hell they were really getting themselves into staying in the same place for the first time since they were in foster care, and they remained silent until Shane finally nodded a couple of times.
“Okay, if you’re sure it’s okay, then yeah. Thank you.” She managed a small smile and was relieved to see that Miranda shot one back at her.
“Think I can ride with you over there?” Miranda asked sheepishly when she remembered that her own car wasn’t even in the parking lot and she slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans after having realized she probably should have worn gloves after all.
“Yeah, definitely, you shouldn’t have to ask.” Shane’s rented one wasn’t too far from them now, it probably wouldn’t even take them a minute to get to it. “Wait, you don’t have a car?”
Miranda let out a small chuckle and lifted her hand to brush a few strands of hair away from her face. “No, I do, but…” she started, turning around and looking over at the part of the parking lot closest to the hospital that was reserved for the doctors. “I got a ride with someone else yesterday.” The Mercedes SLK 300 she’d come to the hospital in the morning of the day before was still standing there, not that she hadn’t expected it to. “I guess I just forgot about that for a moment.”
Neither one of them had a chance to say anything else when Sounder spotted them through the window on the passenger side of Shane’s car as they closed up on it and he began yapping at them, happily bouncing up and down and waving his tail around.
Shane chuckled and unlocked the door, opening it slowly and holding up her left hand to keep him from jumping right out of the car in excitement. “No, Sounder. Stay,” she said softly and the little Pomeranian sat back down on the seat, impatiently waiting for her to find his leash that he’d managed to knock down on the floor after she’d left him. “Good boy,” she told him when she’d picked it up and opened the door to let him out.
“This… is Sounder.” Smiling to herself as he quickly ran over to greet Miranda, she felt a warmth inside that she hadn’t been able to feel for a long time when she saw her sister light up if only for just a moment as he smelled her hand before nudging it with his nose to make her pet him. “Sounder, this is my sister,” she told him in a baby voice and smirked to herself when something occurred to her. “He doesn’t seem to have any problems telling us apart.”
Miranda’s eyes widened and she glanced nervously at Shane for a moment. “David didn’t—he didn’t say or do anything…?”
“What? No,” Shane replied with a slight shake of her head. “He just… he just thought I was you for a moment.” Her answer seemed to calm Miranda who sat silently scratching Sounder behind his right ear for a while until she looked up at her with a puzzled expression.
“I never pictured you as a Pom person.”
“Yeah, I guess didn’t really either,” Shane shrugged. “But I didn’t get him myself, I got him from a friend of mine.”
Shane’s face had fallen just barely at her last words, but it had been enough for Miranda to pick up on it. Maybe she could ask her about it later, right now definitely didn’t seem to be the best time. A second later Sounder managed to distract her from it when he jumped up and licked her right in her face, causing both her and Shane to burst out laughing.
“Haha, great,” Shane grinned, “he’s found himself a new best friend.”
Miranda leaned forward and pressed a kiss on top of his head. “Aren’t you adorable. I miss having a dog.” She noticed how Shane shot her a questioning glance and swallowed, wishing it wouldn’t have to be so hard for her to share any kind of personal information with her sister but the least she could do was try. “I haven’t had one since Remy,” she said, a small smile forming on her lips as she thought of the mix breed she and Shane had had when they were little and still living with their mom. “My… My adoptive mom had two cats when I was growing up though. But it’s not the same.”
“There ARE two of you! I knew it!”
Sounder barked and both Shane and Miranda looked up to find Ryan standing next to them, his eyes looking like they were about to pop out of his head as he stared from one of them to the other and Miranda stood up slowly, peering at him as she spoke.
“A—A—Andy and David said I was seeing things and that…” he began, stuttering.
Miranda pressed the palm of her left hand against her forehead and sighed deeply in an unsuccessful attempt to hide her annoyance while shutting out the sound of his voice as he ranted on. She didn’t need to hear the rest to be able to figure out what he was gonna say. Ryan had only been working with them for a few months and had turned out to be great at his job, but with other things, such as dealing with his co-workers, he could be so damn naÔve. Normally she and Pam, Andy’s operating assistant, didn’t mind clearing things up for him when Andy or David, though mostly David, had decided to pull some kind of prank on him, but enough was enough. She was exhausted nearly to the point where she might burst into tears in the middle of the parking lot and she didn’t feel like adding anything new to the already unnerving amount of things she needed to worry about. She knew it wasn’t even Ryan’s fault and she’d hate to take it out on him, but if she’d seen any of the other two walk out the doors at that moment, they probably would have ended up wishing they hadn’t. Why it was so hard for three men in their late twenties or early thirties to act like adults when they were in the same room was beyond her.
She closed her eyes and licked her lips, taking a moment to try to calm herself down so she wouldn’t say something that would only make things worse. Ryan already looked pretty miserable after the initial victory in figuring out that Shane wasn’t a figment of his imagination, but if she didn’t tell him like it was, he’d probably never get it. “They’re messing with you again,” she sighed. “Ryan, I’ve told you at least half of everything David ever says to you that has nothing to do with work is just a bunch of crap he tells you because he can and because he thinks it’s fun. If you keep believing every single word that comes out of his mouth he’s never gonna stop. You’re enabling him.” To be completely honest with herself, Ryan did seem like the kind of guy who’d have had to put up with the same kinds of things in high school and before that, and she found it hard to believe the concept was new to him.
She cast a glance over at David’s Mercedes again and smirked to herself for a moment. David had been going through a lot lately, she knew that and felt her heart sink as she thought about it, but if he could pull pranks on Ryan he should be able to handle a few himself. “Put some fake boobs on the headlights on his car or something and get back at him.” For some reason it had been the first thing that came to mind but on a second thought she realized he might actually like something like that or at least just find it amusing. He probably would, and it made her feel less guilty for having suggested it. “Ryan, I don’t know. Just be creative, you’ll think of something.”
Shane had been kneeling on the ground with Sounder, quietly observing the two as they spoke but couldn’t be bothered to focus enough to figure out what was going on. She hadn’t been paying too much attention until she heard boobs being mentioned and shrugged out of her reverie. She now got up and with Sounder’s leash in a loose grip she walked over to them and stopped next to her sister. Miranda explained that she had a twin and introduced her to the guy she was talking to who couldn’t seem to stop staring at the two of them until he suddenly began to jump around a little for no apparent reason. At least it seemed like it until she realized Sounder had decided to start humping his leg.
“Sounder! God, I’m so sorry,” Shane apologized, quickly picking her dog up off the ground and getting licked in the face by him, as if nothing had happened and he couldn’t possibly imagine what he’d done wrong. She turned to Miranda with a devastated look on her face. “He started doing that to some people, uh… after…” Her voice trailed off. For some reason ‘after my girlfriend’s death’ was just still too hard for her to say. “A few months ago,” she tried instead. “I thought he’d gotten over it.”
“It’s okay, really, it’s fine,” Ryan assured her, but he looked everything except fine and backed away from Shane, seeming to keep a safe distance between himself and Sounder, even though the latter was now calm and seemed more than pleased to be back in his mommy’s arms. Shane noticed and decided to get both Sounder and herself back in the car.
Miranda didn’t really think what just happened with the dog was gonna do wonders for the poor guy’s self esteem but there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about it now. She was about to get into the car when she realized there was one thing she wanted to ask him. “Hey, Ryan, did you see if David was going home?”
“No, I didn’t really think about it,” he said with a shrug. “No, wait, I think I heard them saying… he and Andy had something they needed to talk about, I don’t know where they went though. Why?”
“It wasn’t important. Thanks though.”
“No problem. I—I should get going. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Ryan started to walk over to his own car and Miranda was left feeling slightly uncomfortable for a reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She had no reason to think David and Andy had been talking about her behind her back, and yet she did. After breathing in some of the cool air and slowly exhaling, she decided the idea was ridiculous and she was just being paranoid again. Regardless of anything else that was going on in their lives at the time, they were still her best friends and they wouldn’t be doing that.
After Miranda had managed to calm herself down again she joined Shane in the car and while Miranda gave instructions on how to find her house Shane drove them over there. In spite of having made a couple of wrong turns and getting scolded just a little by Miranda, she managed to find her way there pretty fast since it was – as she soon figured out – not that far from the hospital at all.
They grabbed their things and walked up to the door, and for Shane it was a strange but yet amazing feeling to be invited into her sister’s home for the first time. Still, it wasn’t too hard to pick up on the tension and figure out that Miranda was slightly nervous about her being there. At least it was nothing compared to what her reaction used to be when Shane decided to set her foot down on Miranda’s side of the small room they’d shared as kids, even though Miranda herself had had no problems wreaking havoc on Shane’s side when she was having a bad day.
Miranda’s condo didn’t seem to have many rooms from what she could tell where she stood in the hallway, but the living room looked huge and there was a staircase left of the front door leading up to a second floor. Shane noticed that the place was neat and tidy and most things had their place, almost to the point where it seemed like no one actually lived there. The exception was a few boxes standing around in both the hallway and the living room and she frowned a little in confusion when she spotted them. “You just moved here?”
Her sister shook her head and put Shane’s jacket in the closet by the door after taking it off and then did the same with her own that Shane handed to her. “No, I got this place a little over a year ago when I moved here from Philly. I just haven’t been home much and I was thinking about moving somewhere else, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen anymore.”
Miranda’s home wasn’t what she herself would call fancy, at least not by society’s standards and nothing like the house she’d grown up in but it was in a solidly built complex and relatively close to the hospital so it fit her perfectly. She hadn’t been looking for something long term when she bought it since she hadn’t been sure whether she could handle living in the city she’d grown up in again after all that time, the things she’d had to go through and the loss of both of her parents. Even though she had more than enough money to get a nice house, it had seemed completely pointless to her to waste a fortune on a place she’d hardly ever get to spend any time in. Besides, most of the money in her bank accounts came from her father’s inheritance, which to her seemed like a ridiculously huge amount that shouldn’t even belong to her and she hadn’t touched any of it since his death, nor did she plan to, at least not any time soon.
“Wa—wa—wait,” Shane stuttered, holding her hand up in front of her as if in an attempt to stop the world for a moment and give her some time to think. What Miranda had just said didn’t make any sense at all. “You lived in Philly? For how long?”
Miranda shrugged. “About ten years.”
“But I was here last time…” Shane began, her confusion written all over her face.
“I was just here to see my mom, I mean, my adoptive mom. I’m sorry if I didn’t explain that back then.”
“How come you moved back to Pittsburgh?”
“I got a job here.” That was the short version. If Miranda was going to tell her sister the longer one, she needed some time to think it through first and decide if that was something she really should share this soon. Not that it was a very interesting story to tell, but it didn’t put her in the best light imaginable either. Besides, she felt like whatever she said it was just going to lead to more questions from Shane, but she couldn’t blame her. She’d been the one asking questions last time and she knew that now it was inevitably going to be her turn to give some answers. In an attempt to decrease the risk of having to talk about it, she nodded at the stairs and changed the subject. “The bedrooms are up there. The first door is the bathroom, the room to the right is my bedroom and the other one is the guestroom.”
While Shane cast a glance up the staircase, Miranda walked over to the answering machine that stood blinking on a table in the hallway, red numbers showing the number ‘4’, and she blinked a couple of times. She usually didn’t have that many. Most of the people calling her knew her through work and they also usually knew her cell phone was the easiest way of reaching her. She wearily pressed the button to start playing the messages, seeing Shane in the corner of her eye as she shifted uncomfortably when the first message started.
“Hi, uh… It’s me. I know we haven’t talked in a long time but…”
“All four of them are from you?” Miranda asked skeptically, her forehead creasing as she once again glanced over at Shane who rolled her eyes at the sound of her own voice.
“Probably,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry.”
Miranda decided to let the messages keep playing just in case one of them wasn’t from Shane but she didn’t pay too much attention to what she’d said on her machine. The first and second messages sounded pretty much the same to her so she walked over to the kitchen instead.
The first thing she did was look through the cupboards until she found a small bowl that she filled with water and put down on the floor for Sounder who immediately scurried over to it and started lapping while wagging his big fuzzy tail happily. “There you go,” Miranda said softly and scratched his head before she washed her hands and opened the fridge, realizing it was about as empty as it always was and the few things that were there she hadn’t even put there in the first place. She didn’t spend too much time in her own home and hadn’t been there for three or maybe four days. She wasn’t even sure how long it had been. However, the bread seemed okay as did the tomatoes, the lettuce and the cheese, but that was about it.
“We can make some sandwiches,” she announced and Shane nodded even though Miranda couldn’t see that since she was kneeling on the floor next to Sounder and Miranda had her back turned.
“Yeah, sure. You want me to help you?” Shane realized she could use the distraction. She kept torturing her mind with questions, asking herself over and over again how that day would have been different if Jenny had still been alive, if she’d gone with her, whether or not she and Miranda would be getting along. When she tried to picture it all in her head she was tempted to assume that Jenny would probably have more in common with Miranda than she did either one of them, but she’d never know the answer to that…
“I can do it,” Miranda replied and placed everything on the counter before grabbing a knife and a cutting board. She rinsed the vegetables and glanced down at her sister as she started slicing a tomato. “Have you learned to eat tomatoes yet?” she smirked, suddenly remembering how picky Shane had been with them when they were kids.
Shane blinked a few times, then let out a chuckle and shook her head. “I can’t believe you remember that. And no, not really.”
“It’s okay, you don’t…” Miranda stopped mid-sentence as she felt a sting in her left hand and looked down to see the blood cascading from a cut on her index finger. She dropped the knife on the counter and swallowed, staring at her hand. She never cut herself. If there was something she knew she was always in control of, it was her hands, and things like that just didn’t happen.
“Manda? What’s wrong?” Shane couldn’t see what was going on from where she sat so she quickly stood up and walked over to her but Miranda didn’t even seem to notice she was there.
Drops of blood had started falling from her hand and Miranda let her eyes follow them down to the floor and on her jeans and the moment she saw it staining her clothes the room around her started to fade. In its place a long winding corridor began to appear and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. David was there and she could see his lips moving, calling out to her even if she couldn’t hear him as he ran towards her but it seemed to take forever for him to get there. The only thing she could hear was the sound of her own heartbeats pounding in her head and she looked down, seeing blood all over her scrubs. ‘This isn’t happening.’
“Miranda!” Shane raised her voice but her sister still didn’t react. She grabbed Miranda’s hand and put it under the faucet, turned it on and rinsed the blood off before she wrapped the bleeding finger in some paper towels, they would have to do until she found something better. She still didn’t get a reaction and she felt chills running down her spine. It wasn’t the wound on Miranda’s hand that scared her, but the empty look on her face as she kept staring at something Shane couldn’t even see.
“Miranda, listen to me, okay?” she said and heard her own voice quiver as she spoke. She fought to stay calm as she held Miranda’s injured hand in one of her own and wrapped her free arm around her to hold her steady when it looked like she was about to collapse onto the floor. “I don’t think you need stitches, but we have to do something about this. Where do you keep the bandages?” As she spoke she led her over to the table and eased her down on a chair. She sat down on the floor in front of her and tried to look into her eyes but she didn’t even seem to know she was there. “Miranda? Should I call for help?”
Miranda shook her head and Shane let out a sigh of relief. She had no idea what had just happened, but her heart was still pounding fast in her chest as a result of it. “Where are the bandages?” she asked again.
“In the bathroom,” Miranda said quietly and finally looked up to meet Shane’s eyes, allowing her to see the tears covering her cheeks as she breathed shakily, struggling to calm herself down. “The downstairs one in the medicine cabinet.”
Shane swallowed and nodded, reluctant to leave her there like that if only for the short time it might take her to find what she needed, but she knew she didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t make her go with her either if she could barely stand on her own legs. “Will you be okay while I go and get that? Do you need anything? Some water?”
Miranda nodded and Shane quickly got her a glass that she took a few sips out of before putting it down on the table. Tears were still trickling down her cheeks and she raised her uninjured hand to wipe them away.
Seeing that was a huge relief for Shane, at least now she was reacting to what was going on around her, but she still needed to do something about Miranda’s hand. She sat down in front of her again, took her right hand and wrapped her sister’s fingers around the injured one that was still wrapped up in paper towels while Miranda sat there and stared at her.
“Just… hold on to that, it’ll stop the bleeding,” she told her and immediately felt like an idiot. Someone like Miranda hardly needed instructions for things like that, but she didn’t say anything about it, she just did as she was told. “I’ll be back in a sec.”
As she was about to leave the room she let out a deep sigh when she noticed that Sounder was sticking his nose into the bloodstains on the floor. She couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it at that point; most of it seemed to have ended up in the sink and on Miranda’s clothes anyway.
Whatever was going on with her sister, Shane didn’t get it. She could just be tired or she was stressed out about getting an uninvited visitor all of a sudden, or it was something else, something she couldn’t even imagine. It seemed like some kind of panic attack, but what would have caused it? She’d seemed at least somewhat all right before it happened. The fact that she hadn’t even said or done anything at all when she cut herself was the worst part. Shane was well aware of the fact that Miranda was all grown up now and that she couldn’t be expected to scream and cry like she would have in a similar situation when they were kids, but staring blankly into nothingness just wasn’t a normal reaction for anyone, that much she was certain of.
For Shane herself the whole thing had been a painful reminder of the time when she’d found Jenny on the bathroom floor four years ago, even though the two incidents were completely unrelated – in Miranda’s case it had clearly been an accident – she couldn’t get the memory out of her head.
Finding the first aid kit in the bathroom didn’t take her very long and she hurried back to the kitchen to find Miranda still in the chair, absentmindedly playing with Sounder with her foot. She didn’t look up when Shane entered the room, she didn’t even notice she was there until she started talking to her.
“Found it,” Shane announced and Miranda nodded slowly, sniffling a little. “Are you okay?” Shane swallowed as her sister gave her another nod in response and she pulled up a chair next to her and sat down so she could take a look at her hand. She removed the paper towels as gently as possible at the same time as she tried to read Miranda’s expression and body language. It hurt a little to realize it was a lot harder than it used to be. She knew she couldn’t expect everything to be the same, but they were still twins – there should still be at least something there and she wouldn’t give up this time. She had to keep trying until she figured out what was wrong. It almost seemed as if Miranda was ashamed which wasn’t too surprising, she’d been the same way when they were little and she fell and grazed her knees. But there was something else too – guilt? What reason did she have to feel guilty?
Pushing the questions in her mind aside, she looked at the wound on Miranda’s hand. Seeing that the bleeding had almost stopped and that the cut didn’t seem deep or wide enough to need stitches made her relax a little. It had looked worse that it really was.
“What just happened?” she asked as softly as she could and tried to look her in the eyes without any success while she prepared the gauze but she soon gave up and focused on the task at hand.
“Nothing,” Miranda mumbled, avoiding looking at her but Shane noticed her glancing at her for a moment out of the corner of her eye. Shane was about to go on but barely had a chance to open her mouth before Miranda cut her off, raising her voice this time. “Nothing, Shane! I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to.” Shane tried to give her a reassuring smile but the annoyed sigh she got in response made it pretty clear that Miranda probably wasn’t going to talk about what happened at all and she just had to accept and respect that – at least for now. “There you go, you think that’s okay?” she asked when she was done with the bandage on her finger. Miranda cast a criticizing glance at the result and Shane tried but couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “I know you would have done a much better job, but you hurt yourself and I’m just trying to help my little sister here.”
“I’m not your little sister,” she muttered crankily and the defiant look she gave Shane in that moment reminded her so much of all the times Miranda had told her the exact same thing when they were kids, that she had to struggle to keep herself from bursting out laughing.
“Yeah, you…” Shane grinned before Miranda interrupted her.
“Five minutes, Shane. We were five minutes apart and it doesn’t count.”
It was strange how even though they’d been apart for most of the last twenty years, apparently some moments could still make it feel like they’d spent their entire lives together. Miranda could glare and mutter at her all she wanted, but Shane knew her sister’s bark was a lot worse than her bite and that she wasn’t really mad at her. They both had their own ways of keeping people at a distance and Miranda’s had always been a bit more aggressive while Shane had realized she was more inclined to simply push people away or manipulating them into doing it to her. The bickering was an obvious sign that whatever had happened before, she was feeling better now, at least good enough to bother to argue with her. Miranda had always been sensitive about the insignificant age difference between the two of them and it had been the most common thing Shane had used to annoy her with. Apparently it still worked.
“Yeah, it does,” she chuckled and began to put the gauze she’d taken from the first aid kit back in the box and clean up the mess. It wasn’t too bad but she wanted to get it done before Sounder had a chance of making it worse or Miranda tried to get up and help her. “It definitely counts and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“At least I’m taller than you…”
“Did you say something?” Shane smirked, glancing over her shoulder at her.
Miranda sat in a thoughtful silence for a while before she sighed and leaned back in the chair with her arms crossed over her chest, her expression softening a little. “Thanks for helping me.”
Shane grinned at her and picked up the bloody paper towels she’d used on Miranda’s wound and threw them in the trash. “That’s what big sisters are for, right?” she dared to joke, half expecting Miranda to throw something at her but instead she received a barely visible, almost sad smile from her when she replied.
“Don’t push it, Shane.”
“All right, I’ll clean this up and you take it easy for a while,” she said, waving her hand at the floor and the cupboard door under the sink that still had some of Miranda’s blood on them, “and when I’m done I can order some takeout or something. I promised that friend of yours I’d make sure you ate so don’t argue with me. Okay?” Miranda nodded and she started working on it. “You up for anything in particular?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Miranda shrugged, “I just wanna get it over with so I can take a shower and get some sleep.” She got up and walked over to the drawers by the stove, digging out some takeout menus David had left there and handed them to Shane who was nearly done cleaning up her mess. “If it’s okay I think I’m gonna shower before we eat, so you can pick whatever you want. I think most of those places deliver and I’m sure there’s something there that doesn’t have tomatoes in it.”
“It’s not the tomatoes,” Shane grimaced as she stood up from the floor and leaned against the counter, flipping through the menus. “It’s the… icky stuff inside them that I don’t like.”
“No one ever taught you it’s the inside that counts?” Miranda smiled teasingly and Shane couldn’t help but laugh.
“Go and get in the shower already, smartass. I think I can figure this out.”
“I’d give you my address,” Miranda began as they left the kitchen, Shane following her to the hallway to put the first aid kit back in the bathroom. “But uh…I have a feeling you already have it since you managed to track me down.”
“Thank you for making me feel like a stalker,” Shane yelled back at her when she leaned into the downstairs bathroom to put the box back where she’d found it in the medicine cabinet. She left the room realizing Miranda was standing on the stairs waiting for her, looking as if she wanted to say something for a moment, but seemed to change her mind and shrugged a little.
“If you get bored you can just take a look around, but there’s not a lot to see. Or turn on the TV… It might take me a while” She held up her hand, grimacing at the lumpy bandage on her finger. “I’ll try to be quick.”
“Just take the time you need, there’s no rush.” Shane smiled softly, still feeling a little bad about the poor job she’d done with her finger but at least it was better than nothing. “I can wait a while before I call them so you don’t have to worry about it.”
When Miranda left her and went upstairs Shane grabbed her jacket and Sounder’s leash and took him with her outside for a while. She left the door unlocked but she wasn’t planning on leaving the front door out of sight for the few minutes it would take her to smoke. Besides, it seemed to be a pretty good neighborhood.
How Miranda had freaked out so completely over something as simple a cut on her finger still puzzled her. Was something like that likely to happen again? How was she supposed to handle it? She had no idea what was causing it, because something told her that in the end it didn’t have anything to do with the small accident itself, and she didn’t know how to make it better or what she was supposed to say. She wanted nothing more than to be able to help her but she was obviously no mind reader and if she couldn’t get Miranda to open up to her there wasn’t a lot she could do about any of it.
After exhaling a cloud of smoke and putting out her cigarette she began to walk back to Miranda’s house with Sounder by her side and she knew that even if Miranda decided to make things hard for her to figure out, she had to keep trying – there was just no other way.
When she was back inside she took out her phone and called one of the Chinese restaurants on the menus Miranda had handed her to order what would probably be a pretty late lunch. After she ended the call and put the phone back in her pocket Miranda was still in the shower and she decided to take a look around the place. Even if Miranda had told her she should she still felt a need to justify to herself what she was doing when she walked back into the living room. Last time Shane went to Pittsburgh Miranda had been the one to ask all the questions and when Shane left again after telling her pretty much her entire life story she still knew next to nothing about her long lost twin sister. Chances were it wouldn’t be any easier to get her to open up this time. She didn’t want to snoop around in Miranda’s home, but she still didn’t feel like she knew much about her own sister and she hoped she’d at least see something that could help her figure out what was going on in her life that had been so painful for her that she’d felt it in spite of how far from her she’d been.
The wall closest to her where she stood in the living room had a wide bookshelf that for the most part was full of books about anatomy and medical subjects that all looked like pure gibberish to Shane. There were some books that could be considered ‘normal’ works of fiction but they were all at the bottom and she didn’t bother to check what the titles were. Instead she looked on the far end of the shelf, to the left, where she’d spotted some framed photos, the biggest one in the middle showing five people; all of them wearing scrubs except the scatterbrained blonde guy she’d met outside the hospital. He was on the far end next to a male doctor she was sure she had seen before, possibly while she was at Three Rivers. He had one arm around the shoulders of a cute Hispanic woman in purple scrubs who was the only one aside from Ryan or whatever his name was that wasn’t wearing a white coat. The last two people in the picture were Miranda and David – the guy who’d mistaken her for her sister only about an hour or two ago; he had his right arm around her back and rested his hand on her hip and all five of them were smiling into the camera.
Next to the picture there was another one just like it except Shane couldn’t recognize a single person in it, her sister wasn’t even there. She decided to just assume it was Miranda’s friends from her old hospital in Philadelphia or something and moved on to a photo of a middle-aged couple that were probably Miranda’s adoptive parents. She hadn’t even met them and barely knew anything about them, but she already knew she liked them. They’d taken care of her sister when she wasn’t able to and right now that was all she needed to know.
On the far right she noticed one frame had fallen forward and had almost been knocked down off the shelf so she picked it up, intending to put it back in place so it wouldn’t end up falling down on the floor, but then she saw what it was and froze. Miranda and David were sitting together on a couch in a room that she didn’t recognize and the picture was probably at least a few months old; even if Miranda’s hair looked almost the same as it did now, David’s was definitely shorter. Neither one of them was looking into the camera – Miranda seemed to be talking to someone outside of the frame on the right side while leaning against David who had his left arm wrapped around her waist. He used his free hand to tuck a few strands of her hair behind her ear and the look in his eyes answered the question that had already been on Shane’s mind for hours. The guy was definitely in love with her sister and from the looks of things, at least when the picture was taken, the feeling was mutual. Miranda was smiling like she’d never seen her smile before. Shane tried but couldn’t remember a time when she’d seen her look so happy and comfortable. Something had obviously changed since the picture was taken but she just didn’t know what and it was starting to make her frustrated.
She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Miranda had turned the picture upside down on purpose for some reason, maybe the two of them had been going out but weren’t anymore, something that would explain the weird vibe she’d gotten from both of them earlier that day. Just to stay on the safe side, she turned the framed photo around and was just about to put it back the way she’d found it when she noticed something written on the back. Before she was able to stop herself, she’d read the short note.
Blinking a few times after she’d read it, she realized she now had at least some kind of answer to her question even if she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. There was no signature, but it was pretty obvious whoever wrote it was one of David’s siblings. She quickly put the picture back, upside down like she found it, but pushed it in a little deeper on the shelf, which had been her intention in the first place – not to pry in her sister’s love life.
The last picture on the shelf was a small one but even where she stood a few feet away and without her glasses, there was something familiar about it. As she took a few steps closer, she felt as if her heart had suddenly stopped. It was a picture of a young girl, maybe five or six, sitting on the floor holding something in her hands that she couldn’t quite make out what it was. She had shoulder length light brown hair, one of her front teeth was missing and she looked so much like Miranda when she’d been that age. Except it wasn’t Miranda. For the first time since she and her sister were separated from each other, Shane was looking at a picture of herself from when she was little. It wasn’t the fact that Miranda had the picture that shocked her so much because she knew every single photo they’d had left from when they were kids had stayed with Miranda when she ran away, but she’d framed it and kept it where she’d see it every day…
She couldn’t stop smiling and had to wipe a tear out of the corner of her eye. If Miranda couldn’t stand her as she’d thought was the case for the last three years, she wouldn’t have framed a picture of her, would she? Though there was always the possibility that Miranda had mistaken it for a picture of herself, but she doubted it. Even if some people couldn’t see the difference between them, they’d always known how to tell each other apart, even in pictures of them when they were really young, too young to even remember the picture being taken. She let out a sigh of relief and blinked a few times before she looked at the picture again. She didn’t hate her. Miranda didn’t hate her.
Letting out a relieved sigh she turned around and walked over to the couch, contemplating turning the TV on while she waited for Miranda. Instead something caught her eye on the table and she looked down at it, seeing a different kind of picture on top of a pile of books on different topics but as far as she could tell they were all related to the subject of twins. Having already noticed that, it wasn’t too hard for her to tell that the picture, an ultrasound picture much like the ones Tina had been showing off before she had Angelica, didn’t have one unborn baby in it, but two.
She didn’t want to stick her nose into someone else’s business because both the books and the picture most likely had something to do with one of Miranda’s patients, even if there was still a small possibility that she’d been reading up on it since she was a twin herself. As she looked at the picture again, she couldn’t help but smiling a little to herself. A little bit over thirty years ago, that was what she and her sister would have been like. Miranda had been the first person she’d been close to, the first one she’d ever met and that before she was even born. There was no way anything or anyone could ever take that away from them, even after everything that had happened since then. They’d gotten through so much already – they could get through this too.
Miranda tilted her head back and let the warm water wash over her while she held her left hand up against the wall and out of the way. Mixed with the noise from the shower was the all too familiar crying sound somewhere in the back of her mind, and she couldn’t block it out, even when she knew none of it made any sense. She’d never heard that exact sound anywhere except in her head and yet it felt like a memory. She could try as hard as she wanted to wash it all away but she knew it wouldn’t go anywhere. Her whole world was spinning out of control. What had just happened right in front of Shane wasn’t acceptable. Up until that point the only person who’d seen her lose it like that, as far as she was aware, was David but she knew he understood her at least to some extent. Shane on the other hand must have thought she was insane. Maybe she’d even be right in that assumption, after her little accident in the kitchen not half an hour earlier she was beginning to wonder herself.
She wasn’t even sure she could understand exactly what had happened to her, but she knew it wasn’t the first time. Sometimes things just happened around her that made all too hard for her to hold on to the reality of the moment and she’d slip. She knew what she’d experienced hadn’t been real in that moment, but it felt real. It had been real, no more than fifteen days ago.
It was starting to make her doubt in her own ability to do her job as a surgeon and the mere thought of ending up losing her job made her knees weaken a little and she had to hold on to the metal handle on the wall with both of her hands to keep herself steady. It couldn’t get to that. Not on top of everything else. She had to get a grip, get over it before it was too late. ‘Get over it?’ A short joyless laugh escaped her lips and she covered her mouth with her right hand while a tear began to trickle down her cheek. How did anyone ever get over something like that? How was that humanly possible?
She’d tried to talk to David about it. If parting your lips and then looking away as the tears started to come could even count as trying. It helped a little that he already knew. That she could be around him without having to explain why the smallest things could upset her for what appeared to be no reason at all. But it scared her every single day to realize that she was the only one who reacted that way. Maybe it didn’t work like that but somewhere it felt like he was supposed to be hurting too, if not in the same way as she was, then at least in some way. She knew he cared about her, but did he care about what happened at all?
It was just too much to deal with right now and she pushed the feelings away, far away to a place where she wouldn’t have to think about it for the time being and grabbed a towel after turning the water off. A few seconds later the silence brought the thoughts back up in her head and deep down she knew there was no other way around it – she and David needed to talk. They owed each other that much, no matter how hard it would turn out to be or how much they both wanted to just run away from it.
She caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror and glared at her reflection. She could barely look at herself anymore after what she’d done and it didn’t feel like that was about to change any time soon. How David could still stand her after everything she’d put him through was beyond her, but she was thankful that he did. Even though they worked together he could just as easily have decided to never speak to her again unless he had to and she wouldn’t have blamed him at all.
‘How can he not hate me?’
Kneeling down to pick up her dirty clothes she took a deep breath, knowing she’d see them again; the dark stains all over the front of her jeans. Even though they weren’t anywhere near the size of the ones from two weeks ago they still made her more than just a little uncomfortable and she had to clench her jaws shut to keep herself together when she saw them. She had to keep reminding herself that they had nothing to do with what had happened then and there was no reason for her to freak out about it, but it was easier said than done. She wasn’t over it, not even close. She gave herself a moment to breathe and then tossed her clothes in the laundry basket before slowly backing away.
When she left the bathroom with one towel wrapped around her body and another one around her hair she heard voices from downstairs and hurried across the hallway to her room to get dressed. It didn’t take her very long and she was soon rushing down the stairs heading toward the dining room where she found Shane setting the table.
Shane had a small somewhat insecure smile on her lips and every little part of her seemed to scream at her to just run over to her sister, hug her and tell her everything. She knew Shane was only trying to help and not a single part of her was questioning her motives – her sister had always treated her like gold whether she deserved it or not and no matter how she’d behaved towards her – that was just what she was like. Something told her that if she did open up to her about what she’d been through, perhaps not everything, but maybe a part of it would somehow be okay. She saw the whole possible scenario playing out inside her head but in reality she couldn’t bring herself to move from where she stood by the door. None of it really mattered in the end. Even if they were together at last for the first time in ages and had even been able to hang out for a while and joke around, she still felt unable to talk to her and she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d ever felt so lonely.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.