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…”
“Acute 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.