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By CathyNH


When he opened the door, she was lying back on the exam room table, flipping quickly through a recent issue of The Lancet. That wasn’t standard waiting room reading material… shit – another Disease of the Month patient.

She sat up and tossed the journal onto the counter next to her backpack as he came in. Short brown hair, blue jeans, thirty-something. Nondescript and unremarkable.

“Good morning!”

Oh, *hell* – she was *perky*, dammit.

“That depends on your point of view. *My* point of view is one where I don’t have to actually see patients.” He tried not to wince as he maneuvered himself and the chart he hadn’t yet looked at onto the exam room’s stool. Coffee and Vicodin had been more important than clinic prepwork.

She raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Oooh-kay… Who peed in your Wheaties this morning?”

“My boss – *her* point of view is that *my* point of view does not produce money for the hospital. Which then does not produce paychecks for its employees. Which I have the good or perhaps the mis- fortune to be.”

“Sounds kinda like she’s got a valid point of view.” She was smiling as though he *amused* her. The nagging little worm voice in his head whispered, better that than pity.

He sighed. This time a pained expression *did* cross his face. “Why are you here?”

“Caught a cold two weeks ago. I think it’s evolved into a sinus infection.” At least the matter-of-fact-ness was less annoying than that sunny cheerfulness. And maybe her self-diagnosis was more palatable than the internet self-medics he’d already seen this week. Maybe.

“If you’re a doctor yourself, why bother coming to the clinic? Sounds like you’ve got it *alllll* figured out.”

Cuddy had been after him about being more polite to patients, but she did it with the air of someone who’d given up, and was going through the motions out of habit rather than any hope of effecting change. He took pride in that as a minor victory on his part.

A steady direct gaze replaced the smile. “OK. Granted, I do not have half the letters of the alphabet hanging off the end of my last name.” Her sarcasm started to peg the red zone on the meter. “And granted, I do not have your years and years… and years of medical experience. On the other hand, I *have* been living inside this skin for... most of my life. I’m kinda familiar with it.”

He got up, trying *not* to be obvious about being careful, and started checking her ears. “And this, of course, makes you an expert. I can recite all the New York Yankees player stats for the past thirty years, which makes me an expert – and I, of course, will be pinch running for them next season.” *His* sarcasm wasn’t deliberate… usually. Just when the pain was bad. Or when people annoyed him. Or when they didn’t.

Or when he was going through the motions out of habit. He was pretty sure that wasn’t any kind of victory. Over anything.

She sighed. “Let me put this more scientifically, more *medically*, for you. This particular set of symptoms, progressing over this particular period of time, usually responds to an antibiotic. I just need you to check the usual orifices and give me a prescription.”

“’Orifices’? Oooh, fancy word. Open up your orifice and say ‘ahh.’”

That one either went over her head or she was a very good actress, but least the tongue depressor shut her up for a moment. Then: “Sorry. I’m a writer. Words are my business.”

Good actress. He checked her glands. She grinned again. “Why do they make you say ‘ahh’? Why not ‘appendicitis’ or ‘lactose intolerance’?”

“Because unlike you, Ms. Webster, most patients would be hard-pressed to find *any* polysyllabic words in the dictionaries they don’t carry around.” He nodded over at the journal on the counter. “Medical writer?”

“Whatever helps pay the bills.” He started scribbling a prescription. “My name hasn’t been published in the Lancet, but my landlord’s happy.”

“At least someone is.” He gave her the scrip, started limping for the door.

“Uhmm… hang on.” He stopped, turned, made no effort to hide long-suffering and impatience. “I’m allergic to this.” Which they both knew he would have known if he’d looked at her chart. Shit – today was going to be *really* bad.

“Fine. What do you usually get for Darwinist colds?”


“Fine.” More scrawling.

“Thanks, doc.”

She watched him limp away. If he’d turned around just then, he’d have seen her looking very soberly after him.

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