Oct. 18th, 2013

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 "Nice" wasn't something people usually described Lucas as. Not since that incident anyway. To say he had changed a lot, would be an understatement. Words usually associated with his present self would be cold, overambitious, even impersonal. He was undeniably courteous, but courteous in the way a crystal glass was against a pair of warm lips. He did what he was supposed to do, exceptionally well, but that was that. He knew that. He had chosen that. Nonetheless, he felt a little glad Nathan thought he was nice. His stomach felt light and jittery. 
 
He wondered if Nathan was very different now than from his usual self. If he learned anything from his residency, it was that most people changed when they were very sick. They either got desperate for company, or bitter as hell. 
 
"I'll be right here", he nodded to himself, looking at his feet. 
 
"If I leave, who knows, you might try to run off again", he ventured for something light-hearted to say. 
 
Sitting opposite the other man, plastic cup cradled in his lap, he blinked. 
 
"Something about me?", he said, biting his lip. Lucas was quiet for a long time. He wished he had something he could offer, something to say that would make Nathan like him. It was terribly hard though, finding it in himself to divulge personal things. Like a muscle that hadn't been used in a long time, his social skills really have atrophied over the years. Knitting his eyebrows, he started tapping his feet. 
 
"Um. Yeah.. this is my first year of residency. I'm turning 25 this year. And neither. My drink of choice is Dr Pepper. Unhealthy but...", he quirked the corner of his lip. He looked back at Nathan, searching for acknowledgement. At the mention of a cat, though, Lucas' face instantly perked up. He had always wanted a pet, and was especially fond of cats. He thought they were very clever, and very cute. 
 
Coming from a relatively large family though, having another mouth to feed was out of the question. He'd probably have had to give up a meal to afford kitty litter. Now that he was an adult though, why hadn't he gotten a cat yet? He would have to look into that soon. 
 
"You have a cat? What's its name?", he asked, trying to hide the excitement in his voice. "Is it a boy or girl?"
 
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"It's alright. Sometimes I call the little kids staying in pediatric Mr Smith or Ms Alesworth or whatever. Like they're all fancy and grown up. Gives us both a little kick, I think", he laughed a bit. Contrary to his more or less flat manner of speech, Lucas had a melodious laugh. Clear as bells. He didn't let Nathan know that doing that stemmed from the hope that those kids Lucas talked to might have the chance to actually grow up into Mr Smith's and Ms Aleworth's. The almost permanent residents of the pediatric ward did not have very bright futures ahead of them.

"Oh, I'm sorry to heat about that. About Salome. Hiver, that sounds so fitting though!", he clapped his hands together, amused just by hearing about the kitten. 

"Ah, I do, but I can't exactly say I'm a cat person just yet. I haven't had one before", he ran his fingers through his hair, smiling slightly. He would love to be able to take care of a little furr ball of his own though. Cats would probably be the only pet independent enough for his busy schedule. He felt calm thinking about what it would be like to have something to curl up against him when he went to bed. 

"Say, if you ever need anyone to babysit Hiver...", he said stumbling over his words. An awkward laugh escaped through his lips. It was meant to be a joke, but he found himself getting too serious about babysitting stranger's cats. It seemed like tonight was coaxing a lot of unusual behaviour out of him. Shit, Nathan probably thought he was some creep. The guy probably sent all his cats to some five-star cat hotel anyway. It was worth a shot though.

"So uh, what exactly do you do anyway?", he asked, trying to change the subject. Lucas was still wasn't in the know about this supposed Fischer empire. As knowledgeable as he was to certain things, he was absolutely clueless about things like current affairs or new movies or anything. 


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Lucas smiled back brightly. In the back of his mind, he was glad Nathan trusted him enough to let him at it with his phone. He certainly knew he wouldn't let anyone look through his. Some contacts in his phone could be more than a little incriminating. He wandered over to the coat rack, retrieving the phone from the jacket. It was a sleek looking smart phone. Lucas would have expected no less. Swiping through pictures of the adorable felines, he smiled to himself. As he stared at the pictures of the cats, he occasionally acknowledged Nathan with a nod nod or mumble, too distracted with the pictures.

He perked up when he sensed the insecurity in Nathan's voice though. He was talking about his work, and Lucas would be stupid not to notice it was a bit of a taboo issue for the other man. Truthfully, he had never heard of Fischer Ignis, but he listened like he knew.

"Wow. That must be.. a lot of pressure", he said finally, unsure of how to respond. Being in such a high position likely wasn't easy, and to top if all of Nathan was riddled with some unknown lung disease. Lucas thought he was taking it well. Not as much of a pansy as he initially thought he was. 

"Don't worry. You're not that bad. Always room for improvement though", he joked but his eyes were tender. He had a vague feeling he would be seeing a lot of the other male from now on. 

---

Voluntarily taking the night shift used to be a once in a while gig for Lucas, he did have another job after all. The bar functioned solely at night, and he only took early shifts at the hospital to step back and take a breather from the metallic shorts and neon lights. After hearing about Nathan's extended stay in the hospital though, he found himself on night shift every day. 

The routine would be the same. He would rush over from Lower Manhattan, up to the hospital, change, do a few tasks for the doctors, wander around, and then visit Nathan. By now, the man had had most of his tests done and processed. 

Like clockwork, the hospital would die down around five in the morning, and Lucas found himself in Nathan's room. 

The second night of Nathan's stay, he came in with a small tote bag of things, a thermos in his other hand.

"I come bearing gifts", he had said, trying to keep a straight face. 

In the bag was a pack of playing cards, envelopes full of blood analyses and x-rays, and a beat up chess board he had brought from home. He didn't know what Nathan preferred, but figured nobody could say no to hot chocolate. He didn't know what had come over him, but Lucas decided not to question it. His brother had always said not to question something that made you feel good. Then again, that was his rambunctious dirt bag of a brother. He had always called his brother a dirt bag in the most loving of ways though.

And that's how he found himself huddled under a flickering hospital lamp, trying his best to eat Nathan's queen off the board.  

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Much to Lucas' glee, he would indeed be seeing more of Nathan.

He was recovering nicely, obediently accepting treatment and medication. It often amused him to see the proud Fischer heir sit and nibble quietly at his hospital meals. Everyone knew they were disgusting. Microwaved pieces of cardboard masquerading as actual food. Nathan seemed to mellow down significantly since Lucas had met him. Often he would see the other man being accompanied by a nurse to his I.S. sessions, just as Lucas was heading home. 

In the afternoons, Lucas headed back to his own neighbourhood by metro. His roommate would never be home when he was, as he was someone who actually had a more regular day to day schedule. Lucas' apartment building was adjacent to a dingy little business building. It had a Subway, a barber, a few dentist offices and a small convenience store. Lucas frequented the Subway and convenience store the most, picking up daily necessities and the occasional bite to eat. He would buy his things, trudge up seven flights of stairs (his building was so old it didn't have an elevator) and take a shower. In a few hours he would have to return to the hospital for his regular hours of residency; follow Dr Schneider around with the rest of the healthcare team. He liked being on his feet all the time, and he definitely enjoyed working more than being in school. Things were always transient, and exciting. 

After hours of  afternoon rounds at Hackensack, he would bus back to the bar for his shift. 

If the hospital was white, the bar was muddled shades of electric blue, pink, and black. 

He had had this job since his med school days, and at first was even the talk on campus. It wasn't often you heard a solemn med school student sharing juicy gossip. After the first year, the novelty had thankfully died down though. He was tired of having to give soulless waves at the male classmates who would drop by just to see if the legend was true. They never tipped either. 

---

Lucas is backstage powdering ridiculous amounts of shimmer onto his shoulders when his hospital-issue pager goes off. Not that irritating thing again. He glanced at the mirror, checking at his eyeliner, before the incessant beeping annoyed him into checking it. 

Complex cardiovasc going on in 1 hr. Thought u would like 2 c. -RS

At that, he quickly shoved himself into a pair of sweats and shrugged his sweater and trenchcoat on. Roll call would have to make do without him tonight. Dr Schneider rarely ever informed them of a procedure he deemed  interesting or unique enough. He was kind of jaded that way. A tight-lipped, weathered surgeon of fifty-eight years. He let one of the other boys know he was leaving, rushing out into the cold again. The bar had not even opened yet, a few bartenders and table boys trickling in, but he guessed he would have to give tonight a skip. His boss would force him into doing solely weekday nights for months because of this, just to spite him, but so be it. 

---

It's about six in the evening when Lucas comes crashing through the doors of the hospital once again. Nurses shake their head at the sight of him, wide grin tugging at the corners of his face. He's about to stop by Nathan's room and maybe toss him a friendly insult or two when he sees an unfamiliar back facing him. The figure is well-built, and imposing. Nathan and the older man, who Lucas presumes must be the Mr. Fischer, are talking heatedly. Lucas takes quick steps forward, with all intention to coolly and professionally stop the dispute.

Except, the older man is raising his fist, and before he knows it Lucas finds himself with a split lip and an aching head. This wasn't good, he thought, wiping the blood off his face with the back of his hand.

"Mr Fischer. I do believe Nathan is more than old enough to decide his own length of admission", he said, lips stinging with every syllable. He tried his very best to look the picture of confidence and expertise, but he was trembling under the burning glare of the older man. His busted face didn't help. 

---

It's a strange, slightly embarrassing, thing to find yourself being a patient when you are usually on the other end of the stethoscope.

Lucas cringes at the betadine ointment the nurse is dabbing at his face, trying not to whine. Once all cleaned up, he decides he might as well spend his downtime in the hospital as well. He seeks Nathan out for another game of cards. He's quiet ashamed of himself, being unable to handle the incident like he wanted to, but he figures he should face the other man anyway. Say sorry in case he has inadvertently caused more friction between the father and son. Besides, nobody else will play Russian poker with him. 


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Lucas was hesitant at first, gently knocking on the side of the door as he entered the room. He gripped at the pack of cards like a lifesaver. However, all such feelings flew out the room when he heard the tone of Nathan's voice. A simple "you came", had never felt more welcoming to him. He offered a bashful shrug, smiling without teeth.

Cautiously, he positioned himself on the end of Nathan's bed, fiddling with the thin sheets.

Lucas was finally starting to ease up, shoulders sinking, until he heard Nathan speak. His eyebrows drew together at the sound of the apology. He shook his head. It was ridiculous for Nathan to be apologizing to him. To him, and for him. For his father who threatened to hit him. Lucas wouldn't consider himself the luckiest guy in the world, but he was eternally thankful that his relationship with his father was nothing like that of Nathan's and his. A barrage of words welled up inside him. He had so much to say. Lucas could tell that Nathan was going through difficulty over the issue though, and held his tongue for a moment. He would have fashioned his teeth into knives with the sharp, concise words he could say, but settled for a simple "don't be silly". There was no need for his opinion, he reminded himself. 

Really, he felt Nathan had absolutely nothing to apologize for. If anyone had to apologize in the room, it would be him.

"That... didn't go as planned. I'm sorry too. So there's no need to thank me", he spoke slowly, savoring each word.

"I mean, I'm not sorry I stepped in. I'd rather you than me. I mean—", he blushed. Objectively, there should be nothing wrong with him saying that. Something inside him felt vulnerable though, he couldn't pinpoint what, but he felt exposed by that one simple admission. Scratching at his already disheveled hair, Lucas sighed. He took a few deep breaths, composing himself once again. 

"I was expecting to look cooler, you know? More professional. But seriously, I'm sorry if my stepping in made things worse between your you and your father. That really wasn't what I wanted. Forgive me?", he bit out, glancing up towards the man across from him. He truly hoped he didn't just tear a wide one through the already gaping rift. He wouldn't be able to face the other man again if he had. 

Lucas searched Nathan's face, but the latter had turned his gaze down. Lucas felt queasy. He couldn't get a good look at his face, but Nathan's eyes looked glassy, reflecting the bright white light. 

"Hey...", he shifted over towards the head of the bed, closer to Nathan. Gingerly, he raised his hand to place it on the other's shoulder. If he didn't know better he would say he was trembling. He hoped Nathan wasn't mad, but maybe that would have been better. Lucas was awful at comforting people. He always found himself at a loss for words, he was more of a physical person in regards to comfort. 

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Lucas Odierno