I haven't written anything fanfiction-related for ages, and hoping to get back to that I looked over my old files, and found this fic – which was complete but never posted, written five years ago or earlier. I played around with it and I think it's ready to be shared. It came out longer than I expected, so I split it into three parts. Happy reading, I hope you like it!
Love You All Over Again
The wheels of the taxi skidded across the asphalt as it came to an abrupt halt in front of the ER. He thanked the driver hastily while blindly throwing a few notes at him, then rushed his daughter out of the car the best he could without hurting her further. The engine roared back to life shortly afterwards so he figured he somehow got the fare right, but to be honest, he just couldn't care less even if that wasn't the case.
It was a cloudless night, but the air was crisp, and he shivered. He did get a chance to grab a jacket before they left, but he had dropped it around her shoulders earlier on in the hope the thin material would keep the cold away.
She cuddled against his chest as if to shield her face from the chill. He tightened his grip on her. She had stopped crying somewhere along the short ride to the hospital, but from a momentary whimper or a sniff, he could tell she was still in pain. It made him anxious. At least she was still conscious, he told himself. He was beginning to feel faint, and carrying her didn't help in alleviating the sensation. He could practically smell the blood, even though he wrapped her arm the best he could with a towel. He couldn't see the gushing wound, but knowing it was there was enough to make him dizzy.
He rushed through the automatic doors and nearly bumped into a doctor who happened to pass by. He swayed unsteadily and tightened his grip of his daughter. Her head drooped against his shoulder. For a second, he feared she had fainted. A young man in green scrubs rushed towards them, asking him what was wrong.
"She fell and cut her arm. I think she needs stitches." She shrank in his arms at the word. He bit his lip and wished he could just keep his mouth shut. She began to whimper softly, as if the events of the last hour had finally begun to sink in. He hushed her gently, caressing her hair, and threw the doctor a pleading glance.
"Here, put her down," the doctor said, nodding towards one of the beds across the room, miraculously empty. "Someone will be with you right away," he said, drawing the curtain around the bed.
He opened his mouth to protest, but the doctor had already disappeared around the curtain. Who knew how long they'd have to wait now, he thought, holding back a curse. He took a deep breath. Just stay cool, he told himself. "You okay, Jordan?"
Her eyes looked huge, exactly the same color as his. "Yeah, Daddy."
Her voice was trembling, so he knew she was only acting brave. He used his thumb to wipe a few stray tears from her cheek. "Next time you want something from a high shelf, wait for me to get it for you. Don't try playing Spiderman, okay?" he teased her, tucking a strand of honey-colored hair behind her ear. It wasn't the first time something like that had happened to her. She was a bit of a tomboy, his daughter. There were scars and faded bruises all over her body. No one could blame him for those, at least; she got them while living with her mother.
He and Gillian had been separated for nearly three years now. Shortly before she got a job in Boston, she had told him she wanted a divorce. It didn't catch him off-guard. For the last few months, their marriage was going downhill. He knew she'd been planning to confront him about it for a while, and he did everything in his power to avoid her demands. He thought he was doing pretty well, too, until her relocation had been finalized, and she faced him with a new ultimatum: she was leaving, and she was taking Jordan with her.
It was a tough blow for him, even tougher than Gillian wanting out of their marriage. His daughter was the only thing that still mattered. His life had lost its meaning somewhere along the way. It was like an old picture where the color had slowly faded through the years. Instead of vivid colors, now he had grey in abundance. Until Jordan was born, he'd forgotten what other colors looked like. Somewhere between the death of the last of his friends, and his marriage on a precipice, he sort of sank into fathomless apathy.
"Sir?" He raised his head at the unfamiliar female voice. It was a different doctor than the one who had admitted them. She looked his age, give or take a year. "I'm Dr. Gilmore. Is this your daughter, Mr….?"
"Cohen," he replied, "Mark Cohen. That's Jordan, my overly-curious six-year-old."
"Hi, Jordan," Dr. Gilmore smiled. She had a nice smile, he mused. And pretty eyes. And she was a doctor, which had always been a plus at the Cohen household. Stop it, he reproached himself. You're here because Jordan hurt herself, not to hit on the medical staff. "What happened to your arm?"
"I cut it," Jordan said gravely, her bottom lip curling in a pout.
"She tried to reach a shelf twice her height," he said, cringing as he thought back of it. Gillian was reluctant to leave him behind at her place, but she had this gala event at work she couldn't get out of. He was fixing dinner for both of them in the kitchen when it happened. The faint 'thud' of her hitting the floor was still ringing in his ears. The sight of the carpet, drenched with her blood, was impossible to shake off. The floor was still a mess. He hoped Gillian wouldn't freak out... much.
"Do you want to let me have a look?" asked Dr. Gilmore, and gently took Jordan's arm. She removed the towel he had so carefully wrapped around it not an hour before. "It looks pretty deep," she said as she examined the wound. Jordan bit her lip; he found himself doing the same. "Let's clean and stitch it up first."
The examination room to which she'd led them was small, and the noise from the hallway was hardly audible once the door was shut. He tried not to look when the doctor cleaned the gash, and reached for her sewing kit. "Where were you when it happened, Mr. Cohen?" she asked, barely raising her eyes to his. Her tone was scolding and also a little blaming. The question hurt more than he had expected it to.
"I was in the other room," he answered, feeling incredibly guilty all of a sudden. Useless, as always. He shouldn't have let her out of his sight.
"So you don't know if she hit her head when she fell."
"No… I suppose she did," he said, his voice merely a whisper.
"We'll do an x-ray to eliminate a concussion," she said, adjusting the bandage she'd just wrapped around Jordan's arm. Then she looked up at him. "You can go back to the waiting room, and I'll come find you when we're back."
He meant to be assertive and tell her there was no way he was going to leave his daughter in the hands of a perfect stranger, but there was this no-nonsense air about the doctor, like Mary Poppins in scrubs. He walked them to the door and didn't take his eyes off Jordan until she disappeared from his sight.
Well, he had put it off for as long as he could. He took a deep breath, then took out his phone. His fingers were shaking as he composed a text for Gillian. He had lost all sense of time since they rushed in; hospitals tended to do that. He explained the incident as best as he could, asked her not to worry and promised he would keep her posted as soon as he knew more. Then he set the phone on silent mode and stuffed it in his pocket. He couldn't face her reply.
For ten minutes or so he just wandered aimlessly in the hallways. He couldn't remember where the main desk was, and everyone looked too busy to ask for directions. He passed by the gift shop and stopped there to get Jordan a stuffed pink unicorn. It was chubby and cross-eyed and it made him smile, despite himself. When he reached for his wallet, he suddenly spotted the main desk just outside of the small shop. From there on, the waiting area was easy to spot. He eyed the rows of orange chairs with apprehension, but walked over, chose one of them at random, and sat down reluctantly.
He hated hospitals. In the short hiatus he'd had from them, he forgot just how deep his loathing had gone. He hated the plastic chairs, the sour-faced receptionists, the dreary linoleums and dim florescence. Most of all, he hated the smell, not just of chemicals and detergents, but that of death and disease. It was faint in the area in which he was currently sitting, but he could still feel it, lingering in the air, clinging to his clothes, threatening to suffocate him. He put his head between his knees and focused on his breathing. It didn't help. It felt as if he was going to throw up or pass out, but he was determined to do neither, at least until he knew Jordan was going to be okay.
When the nausea began to fade, he slowly looked up and around him. Things seemed to have calmed down in the time that had elapsed since their arrival. There were fewer people around. Three other people had occupied the plastic chairs. The halls seemed emptier. The cacophony of incoming phone calls seemed to weaken, and a random ring resounded every few minutes or so. A different receptionist now manned the main desk. He glanced as his wrist watch. It was nearing midnight. He held back a yawn as he reached for the forms he'd left on the table, and began to fill them in. Luckily, he didn't have anything planned for the next day, as it was Sunday. His next conference was planned for Monday morning.
He was in Boston for business. He had never imagined he would once use those words, but that was his miserable reality now. He used to love his job, as head of the photography department in a children's magazine. But the long working hours, often well into the night, were the first catalyst to him and Gillian drifting apart. And over the years, his passion for the role had waned as well, and he was simply going through the motions. Only a decade earlier, he was all for art and ideals. A beautiful dreamer, always the optimist. His camera was his refuge, the most loyal of friends. Measure your life in love and No day but today were nothing but alien philosophies now, a foreign language he once spoke, but lost the hang of at some point of his life.
He started, then blinked. He looked around disoriented as the waiting room slowly swam into focus. Shit, he didn't mean to fall asleep. Every muscle in his body felt sore. His glasses were askew; he pushed them up the bridge of his nose. Now he could make out the pretty doctor from earlier. Dr. Gilmore, was it? He wasn't sure. He must have been really out of it, he thought. "Mark," he corrected by force of habit.
"Mark." She didn't crack a smile, and he was wondering if she was trying to appear intimidating. She wasn't really successful, as far as he was concerned; her strict poise didn't reach her eyes. "Jordan's x-ray came back and it looks good, but I'd like to keep her here overnight for observation."
"Yeah, okay, of course," he said, feeling almost dizzy with relief.
"I gave her something for the pain; it should knock her down for a few hours. You can see her now," she said, with something quite close to a smile curling at the corner of her lips.
He followed her silently down the hall, terrified of what he was going to find in the room she was leading him to, but when she opened a door and ushered him in, he felt like laughing at himself. "Hey," he smiled, relief surging through him again as he approached the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"'Kay." Jordan's voice was low, her eyes somewhat unfocused due to painkillers and exhaustion. Her feet barely reached the middle of the bed. The bandage made her arm look enormous, but other than that she seemed fine. There was some color in her cheeks, and she looked warm and cozy.
"I've got something for you," he said, holding up the pink unicorn he'd picked for her. She observed it for a second, then gave him one resentful look. Oh-uh. "What?"
"Unicorns are for little girls, Daddy," she scolded him, looking so damn serious he held back his laughter. It had always amused him, how she would sound so much older than her six years of age sometimes. They're growing up so fast, his sister Cindy used to say. He thought he knew what she meant, now.
"I'll ask a nurse to bring in a blanket for you," Dr. Gilmore's low voice came through, cutting short his frenzied thoughts. He forgot she was still in the room. He nodded distractedly. As if she noticed, she showed herself out, turning off the main lights on her way out. The room was immediately wrapped in semi-darkness, with a few emergency lights still on.
"Try to get some sleep now, okay, Jordan?" he whispered, tucking the blankets more tightly around her. She nodded and closed her eyes. It wasn't long before her breathing slowed. She was fast asleep within minutes. As he stood there watching her, he realized he was cold. He reached for his jacket at the foot of the bed and slipped his arms through the sleeves, zipping it as high as it could go. Then he placed the unicorn next to her, and sank into a chair on her bedside, snuggling into the jacket.
Seeing Jordan so peaceful reassured him, but he was too wired to feel truly relieved. Even if she was okay now, what difference did it make? It was all his fault. He wasn't there when it happened; he wasn't there to prevent it. She was under his responsibility and he wasn't paying attention. He could already picture Gillian's rage when she found out.
He took out his phone, and sure enough, five texts from her were awaiting him. No unanswered calls, thankfully. She must still be occupied at the gala. He gave her an update and pleaded with her to not come over, that there was no point. Only after promising he would keep her posted throughout the night, she relented. He breathed a sigh of relief. One less thing to handle.
He didn't take his eyes off Jordan, fearing that he might miss something, as if being observant now could redeem him. When Gillian became pregnant, he vowed that being a dad would be the one thing he'd excel in, after failing in every other respect. He considered it his last chance, the one thing left for him to be good at, but he had come to know the signs by now. Jordan's injury would leave a scar, no doubt, and that was enough of a reminder for a lifetime.
This was why he had objected so fiercely when Gillian brought up the divorce issue. He refused to believe there was another failure ahead of him. He'd had two unsuccessful relationships before her – one that had ended faster than he could say 'viva la vie bohème', and the other one had turned up to be a long-termed illusion from which he had sobered too slowly. Things were supposed to be different with Gillian. They were dating for nearly a year before he proposed. He didn't even know what pushed him to do it. It came as a surprise to him as well. But when he put that ring on her finger, he decided that this relationship was going to last. He was tired of doing the wrong thing.
From a very early point, though, it was clear it wasn't working. They both had demanding jobs that ate away at their time and energy. When Jordan was born, he felt they were granted a second chance. However, it turned out to be just another delusion. Jordan was just the glue for another crumpling relationship. Nonetheless, he was determined. It was the one relationship he was going to salvage, for Jordan's sake, if not for his own. But Gillian insisted, and separation was a compromise to which she halfheartedly agreed.
Since she'd moved to Boston with her mother, he'd hardly seen Jordan. He'd come over for a day every other weekend. She always cried when he left, and he always spent the train ride to New York trying to erase her tearful face from his mind. He always told himself that he'd come for a longer visit when he got a chance. When this conference in Boston came about, he was the first to sign up for it. He was thrilled to have a chance to spend time with Jordan. Who knew; maybe she'd send some of his bad luck away.
And now his bad luck ricocheted right at her.
No. He shouldn't think that. She was going to be okay. It was just a nasty cut, that's all. They kept her overnight just as a precaution. Dr. Gilmore would have told him if something was –
There was a light knock on the door before it creaked open, putting an end to his musings. He sat up and stretched. There was a silhouette of a woman, hesitating on the doorway. In his hazy state of mind, he figured it was probably the nurse Dr. Gilmore had promised to send over. "Come in," he whispered.
She nodded and walked into the room. "Dr. Gilmore said you'd need – " She stopped abruptly as her eyes met his. She gasped. The blanket she held fell noiselessly to the floor. "Oh my God."
He recognized her the moment she did him, and slowly stood up.