The country club was quiet at six am; only a number of golfers milling around waiting for their caddies. It was Dean’s favorite time of day as he milled around waiting for Smith and his father to arrive. They used to be a foursome…before his own father’s stroke had rendered him immobile. But they still kept up the tradition – Smith and Jonathan Winchester’s way of saying that they were there for him he supposed – and Dean wasn’t about to be the one to break it. He needed this; needed the connection to people with whom he could reminisce about a side of his father very few people saw. A hand clapped him on the shoulder and he turned around to see Smith smiling at him.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey man, ready to go?” Smith asked. His father was strolling toward them in conversation with his caddy. He’d had the same one for nigh on twenty years now. He no longer worked at the club but turned up for the game. He was part of the tradition too. Dean sighed, his heart heavy yet soothed by the presence of his friend; his family really, if one wasn’t such a stickler for blood. Smith frowned at him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Dean looked up at him smiling at how well his friend knew him, “Nothing. The usual.” He said and Smith nodded like Dean had made perfect sense.
“How’s Poppy?” he asked next, eyes already ready to commiserate.
Dean shrugged, “It’s been quiet. Too quiet. She hasn’t hounded me once this week about ruining the family name or destroying our lives or giving her a stroke too…its making me tense.”
“You think she’s up to something?” Smith asked smile widening into a grin.
“Isn’t she always?” he replied.
“Could you ask Bella if she’s maybe heard anything on the bitch circuit about what my mother and Samantha could be planning?” Dean pleaded.
“What? You don’t think the surprise birthday party they threw you was enough?” Smith asked laughing outright. “Oh my God your face – I’ll never forget.”
“You can laugh…I’m the one who had to deal with the fallout,” Dean glared at him, “Although Meaghan was surprisingly cool about it. Didn’t so much as freeze me out of her bed or anything.”
“Oh, now that there should worry you,” Smith retorted still snorting with laughter.
Dean shrugged, “Mmm, I don’t know, Meaghan knows how I feel about her. And she knows that my mom and Samantha are trying to sabotage us. I don’t think she’d willingly fall into one of their traps – she’s not stupid.”
Smith smiled. “And you guys still in love? The shine hasn’t faded from the relationship? It’s been six months after all. That’s like…four years in dog years,” he said tongue in cheek.
Dean looked seriously at him and sighed, “Man, I’m in trouble.”
“Why?” Smith asked although he suspected he knew.
“Because this is the real thing,” Dean said looking downcast and forlorn.
Smith nodded his head in agreement, “Yeah, it’s kinda obvious you got it bad.”
“I don’t know what to do man,” Dean confided.
“Don’t know what to do about what?” Jonathan Winchester asked coming up alongside them.
Dean and Smith exchanged sidelong glances and then Smith said, “He’s worried about Jeffrey Dad.”
“Oh,” Jonathan said with a clap on Dean’s back. “Jeffrey is one of the toughest men I know Dean, he’ll pull through this. You just wait and see.”
The object of Dean and Smith’s conversation was just arriving for her shift at work. They’d call her in early because of a multi-car accident that had occurred on I-295, whose victims were being brought to the hospital. Meaghan was a bit nervous even though this wasn’t her first rodeo; it was her first time dealing with an emergency of this magnitude. She knew she would have to think on her feet and react as fast as possible which was just the opposite of her style which consisted of thinking everything through carefully, weighing pros and cons and coming to a decision about how to proceed that way.
As she stepped in the hospital door, the first ambulance was screeching to a halt in front of accidents and emergencies and she hurried to her office to find her coat and wash her hands so she could get to work. The very first person brought in was a child with a broken leg and she was paged to deal with it. After that the day was just one long blur of blood and gore and death. Meaghan didn’t think she’d ever worked so hard in her life but for every life that was saved there was one they could do nothing for and Meaghan felt every loss like a personal failure. When all the emergency patients were treated there were still regular patients waiting…it was a long day.
Her phone rang at the end of it and she looked down to see that it was Dean calling her. She stared at the name for a while wondering if she should answer but she was physically and mentally exhausted. There was no way she could summon enough energy to be the girlfriend right now. She barely had enough to declare herself a human being. So she clicked ignore then texted him to say she’d speak to him later, long day, blah blah. She put her phone in her pocket and sighed deeply then started when a cup of coffee appeared before her face held by the most delicate looking pair of hands she’d ever seen. She followed the hands to the face and her eyebrows went up in surprise. It was the new supervisor; Dr…Shelley or something. All the nurses were buzzing in excitement about him and calling him Dr. Sexy. He was a tall distinguished looking man with jet black hair going gray at the temples. His eyes were piercing blue and he tended to pin people down with them. She’d seen doctors lose their ability to speak when Dr Sexy, er, Shelley fixed his eyes on them. And now the same thing seemed to be happening to her.
“I thought you could use this,” he said, his deep voice soothing her wounded spirit.
“Thanks,” she squeaked not exactly sure why this guy was even speaking to her. They had been introduced at the meeting at which he was presented to them but had hardly exchanged two words since.
“I’ve been watching you Ms. Leonard,” he drawled smiling at her.
Meaghan brows lifted at the ‘Ms.’; she wondered if it would be incredibly rude or extremely flirty to say ‘that’s Dr Leonard to you’. She didn’t really know how these games were played.
“Why have you been watching me?” she asked instead.
“Because…you’re going to make a great surgeon one day,” he said fixing her with that stare and making her hand shake. Nerves; it was just nerves.
“Really?” she asked voice higher than usual. Dr. Shelley was a neurosurgeon of really good repute. The hospital was lucky to have him. He’d said he’d wanted to work here because he grew up in Queens. Meaghan had been really surprised to hear that – he certainly did not have the look of any of her neighbors…but it also gave her hope. If a fellow Queens resident could reach the heights that Dr. Shelley had then surely she had a chance too.
“Yes. Really. Plus I hear you grew up around here too,” he said.
Meaghan stared at him suspiciously, she could be crazy but he really did sound like he was flirting with her. She couldn’t remember what the nurses had said about his marital status though…either way; she had a boyfriend so it wouldn’t fly. Should she just come right out and say so though or how the fuck did this work?
“I did grow up here. My mother worked as a nurse in this community and she inspired me to go into medicine,” she said.
“That’s cool. My dad was a mechanic and my mother is a house wife,” he informed her.
“Oh,” Meaghan said at a loss for how to reply.
“Well anyway, I wanted to compliment you on the exemplary work you did today. First rate. Was this your first crisis situation?” he asked.
“Yes,” Meaghan said warmed by his words, “It was…”
Dr. Shelley nodded, “Yes, I know. The first one can be overwhelming. Would you like to sit down to some coffee and talk about it?”
“Yes I would,” Meaghan said with relief. She definitely needed to talk to someone about her day and Dr. Shelley would understand her like neither Bain nor Dean would. He had been there; maybe he could give her some useful tips about how to get over the feeling of failure when one of her patients died; or how to cope with being immured in people’s shit all day every day and then have to go home and smile at your loved one like everything was alright with the world. When you knew how fucked up it really was right this minute, where some kid was dying and you can’t save them and you have to put on a brave face and tell their parents that there was nothing more you could do. It sucked ass.
Dean drew up to the hospital anticipating surprising Meaghan by taking her home and cooking her dinner. He’d heard about the accident on I-295 and that patients had been taken to Mt. Sinai. So he’d called earlier to commiserate but she hadn’t picked up and he knew it had been hard for her. He realized they rarely talked about the hard things; too many barriers to that, what with his family drama and their limited time together which he realized was mostly spent in bed. After his talk this morning with Smith he’d realized he didn’t really know how Meaghan felt about the continuous attempts to sabotage them perpetrated by his mother and his ex-girlfriend. She always said she was fine with it; that she understood but maybe…
He pulled into the parking lot just in time to see her sliding into a blue SUV with a tall white older looking guy. The guy drove off and before Dean could think about it, he was following them. They didn’t go very far; just to La Trattoria, Meaghan’s favorite restaurant…the guy handed her out of the car – she was smiling at him – and they walked into the restaurant. Dean vacillated between wanting to drive off right away and wanting to find out who this guy was who his girlfriend seemed to have blown him off for. It seemed she wasn’t too tired to talk to him. He snatched his phone off the console and sent Meaghan a text.
Where are you?
He tapped his foot, waiting anxiously for her reply. Willing her to tell him the truth. She didn’t reply for a while and Dean was just contemplating stepping out of the car and going to confront her when his notifications pinged.
I’m at work. See you later?
Dean stared at the text, his eyes burning and his heart beat fibrillating dangerously.
She had lied to him.
Dean leaned back on the head rest of his seat, traitorous thoughts swirling in his head. How many times? How many men? Was any of this real? Was she playing him? So many questions with no answers. Dean tried to calm down, to wait and see but he could feel his heart breaking. He’d risked everything for her and she did…this? Before he knew he had decided to do it, Dean was alighting from the vehicle and heading into the restaurant. Luigi was at the maitre d’s station speaking with him in low tones. He looked up and saw Dean, and his face lit up with a smile.
“Dean! How nice to see you. Have you come to join Meaghan and her doctor friend?” he asked.
Dean shook his head. “No, I just thought I’d…have a cup of Joe. Don’t tell them I’m here,” he tried out a smile for size but didn’t think Luigi was fooled.
“Oh,” he said in a tone implying he was drawing his own conclusions. He extended his arm, indicating that Dean should follow him and led him to a table from which he had a good view of Meaghan and her guest; but she couldn’t see him. Luigi left him to his own devices and someone brought him a coffee before long. He was too busy watching Meaghan interact with the man to notice. Their conversation seemed extremely intense and Meaghan was talking a lot. Dean would have given his left arm for a listening device right now. The white guy leaned forward, not breaking eye contact with her, and put his hand on top of hers on the table. Dean almost lost it right there and then. Who the fuck was this guy and what did he think he was doing putting his hand on Dean’s girlfriend?? Luigi came by and slid into the seat opposite Dean, temporarily blocking his view of Meaghan. Dean transferred the glare he’d been directing at Meaghan’s companion to Luigi.
“You know distrust is the death bringer of relationships,” Luigi intoned. “I know that for sure because it’s coming between my wife and me.”
Dean was not in the mood to be diplomatic. “What’s coming between your wife and you is the fact that you’re still in love with Bain,” he said cuttingly. Luigi had the grace to look shamefaced but then rallied.
“Regardless of that. This is not the way to go about these things,” he said. Dean had become a friend so he was allowed to be snippy now and then; especially if he was upset over Meaghan possibly cheating on him. Luigi knew how bad Dean had it. He and Meaghan had eaten at the restaurant many times so Luigi had plenty of opportunity to observe them. Plus he still spoke to Bain, so he knew about all the family drama on Dean’s side.
“How would you suggest we ‘go about’ these things?” Dean’s tone was just a little bit snarky.
“Would you like me to find out who he is?” Luigi offered, making Dean feel bad about his rudeness. He thought about it seriously but then found that he wasn’t ready to know if Meaghan was cheating and then thinking that Meaghan was aware that Luigi knew about them and surely she wouldn’t be flaunting another guy in front of him if she wanted to keep it a secret. So either there was another explanation or…
Dean shook his head, “No don’t. I’ll wait for her to tell me herself,” he said standing up and drawing a bill down on his plate. “I’d be grateful if you didn’t mention I was here,” he said. Luigi nodded and Dean turned to leave with a muttered thanks.
“So where in Queens did you grow up,” Meaghan asked, curious to find out as much of his journey as she could.
“Well I grew up in Queensborough; like I said my dad was a mechanic,” he said.
“So why medicine?”
Dr. Shelley shrugged, “Well you know the way boys grow up playing with cars and video games and running outside climbing trees…if they’re lucky enough to live in neighborhoods that still have those that is.”
Meaghan smiled and nodded.
“Well, I grew up dissecting first Barbie dolls and then insects…the occasional frogs. I wanted to find out how things worked. My mother thought I was gay at first, and then she was afraid I was a serial killer,” Dr. Shelley said smiling wryly.
Meaghan laughed. “So what happened? Did she take you to a psychiatrist?”
“No, lucky for me I had a science teacher who recognized my interest for what it was and guided me toward less disturbing ways to satisfy my curiosity about the human body. He was my first and most important mentor. Without him I might not be where I am today.”
“Teachers can be great,” Meaghan agreed.
“What about you? What’s your story?” he asked.
Meaghan shrugged. “I came from the wrong side of the tracks but I wanted to get into the right schools so I applied for a scholarship, played up my disadvantages and gave them perfect grades. I had a great teacher to help me do that too. From there it wasn’t too difficult to get into Dalton and from Dalton to Yale. The rest as they say is history.”
“Wow, you attended Dalton School? That’s…impressive.” Dr. Shelley was nodding his head at her and smiling his approval and Meaghan couldn’t help but feel glowy inside.
“Yeah I did. Anyway, it was a great ride and my mother was very supportive. Lonely though; it wasn’t like I could come home and discuss my day with the neighbor’s kid,” she twisted her lips as she said.
“I’m familiar with that problem. My neighbor’s kid was selling pot by the time he was twelve. A real entrepreneurial type – really made my life difficult because one, I was white, and two, I actually took school seriously.”
Meaghan laughed and nodded, “My neighbor’s kid was pregnant for the second time by her fifteenth birthday. She dropped out of school I think, not sure though. She thought I had airs so she didn’t talk to me much.”
Dr. Shelley laughed and nodded his head. “Yeah. Good times”, he said. He lifted his coffee cup to her in salute and she returned the gesture. They drank, feeling more at ease and smiling at each other.
“I have this youth development project that I run back home. We do mentorship, inner city rescue and we have a clinic where we exchange dirty needles for clean ones every other Saturday. I’d really love it if you would think about joining us,” he said.
Meaghan perked up. “What? You’re joking. I’d love to do that. Hell the reason I’m working at the Queens clinic is to give back to my community. Don’t know when I’ll find the time though.”
“Well if it helps, we have some paid positions for clinicians. It comes with a good medical plan too; though I imagine you’re on Obamacare already? Anyway, I know you work locum at some other hospital so instead of that you could come to us hmm? It could work?” Dr. Shelley suggested.
Meaghan opened her mouth to say something but her heart was too full. After such a shitty day to be offered such a thing was…well it had come just in time.
“I accept,” she breathed smiling.
“Don’t you want to come check us out first? See what we do? Maybe ask how much the pay is?” Dr. Shelley teased.
“Okay then I accept subject to finding out all of the above Dr. Shelley,” she said grinning.
“Brilliant. I just know we will work well together Meaghan Leonard, M.D. I really look forward to having you on our team. We work with a whole lot of young upcoming doctors but we also have seasoned professionals. Dr. Ben Carson came by just last month to give a talk,” he told her.
“Really? Wow. Tell me more,” Meaghan said eagerly.
“Okay but first I have one request,” Dr. Shelley said.26
“What?” Meaghan asked.
“Call me Conrad.”
Meaghan smiled, “Got it. Conrad. Now tell me more.”
Conrad lifted his hand to the waiter to indicate they were ready for more coffee. And then he told her everything there was to know about his project. Meaghan listened with rapt attention getting more and more excited to be part of something so practical yet with the potential to make such a difference. She couldn’t wait to tell Bain all about it.
Bain walked into La Trattoria that night to have dinner before heading to the strip club to catch his boyfriend’s show. He was feeling particularly out of sorts and dinner with Luigi always made him feel better. It wasn’t like he was cheating on Daniel after all; Luigi was married…to a girl. Meaghan had been really busy recently and they hardly seemed to see each other anymore. Oh they still texted incessantly, but it wasn’t the same. Bain missed his best friend and he wanted to talk with someone who would understand.
“Hey Jude, is Luigi around?” he asked the maitre d. There was always a table for him so he didn’t even have to ask about that even though the restaurant was packed.
“He’s in the kitchen. I’ll tell him you’re here,” Jude said as he led Bain to his table. “It seems we’re really popular tonight,” he continued in a voice which said he had some juicy gossip to impart.
“Do tell,” Bain obliged. He wasn’t above a bit of gossip now and then.
“Meaghan was here earlier today with some doctor guy. And then Dean came in after them and sat at another table, spying on them.” Jude told him a look of utter glee on his face. “What do you think is going on?”
Bain was taken aback at this story, it did not sound like either Dean or Meg. He kept his expression non-committal though. He didn’t want to fuel any gossip fires.
“Well I’m sure I don’t know,” he said.
“Oh,” Jude said sounding disappointed. “Well I’ll fetch Luigi.”
Luigi didn’t keep him waiting long, and when he did come, he was a veritable mine of information.
“Hey babe, we need to talk,” Bain said as soon as Meaghan picked up. “In person,” he emphasized.
“Yeah we do, I have some news!” Meaghan said sounding ever so pleased with herself.
“Good, well so do I. My place, one hour?” Bain asked.
“Okay. I’m heading out the door,” Meaghan said.
Bain hung up and turned to Daniel who was curled up on the sofa next to him. “Darling, I’m gonna need some privacy for this conversation,” he said to him.
Daniel made a face. “Wow, and here I thought we were past keeping secrets from each other.”
“This isn’t a secret. It’s a private conversation. We can still have private conversations right?” Bain said.
Daniel had lasted longer than his average boyfriend. It was over six months now and they were still together, still going from strength to strength. Still, Bain wasn’t ready to include him in his inner circle of trust. That would take a lot more than just having sex with him almost every night. I mean Daniel was fire; in bed and out of it. He also cooked like a dream – but Bain wasn’t ready to say he knew him well enough to trust him with his friend’s secrets. So he’d just have to take himself home right now.
Daniel sighed and stood up, “Okay then Bain. Have your private conversation. I’ll just go home to my tiny lonely one bedroom apartment and pine away there for you.”
That was another thing about Daniel; he had been dropping way too many hints about wanting to move in with Bain. They just weren’t there yet.
Meaghan beat the buzzer by twenty minutes, “How did you get here so fast?” Bain asked.
“I took a taxi,” Meaghan said breezing in and taking off her coat. “It sounded urgent.”
Bain smiled, Meaghan always could read his tone and mood without need for words. He sighed internally. Luigi had been able to do that too…
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Have you seen your boyfriend today?” he asked as a preamble.
Meaghan frowned in puzzlement. “Nope, the hospital had an emergency and I’ve been working all day.”
“Is that all you’ve been doing?” Bain asked.
“Ye-es,” Meaghan said puzzled by his tone. “I was at work all day and then one of my supervisors took me for coffee and then I went home.”
Bain’s forehead cleared and Meaghan’s wrinkled even more to see it. “What’s up Bain?”
“Well, did your…supervisor take you to coffee at La Trattoria?” he asked.
“Yeah! How did you know? Oh, Luigi told you?” Meaghan said, asking and answering her own question.
“Luigi told me that you were having coffee at his place and Dean was spying on you,” Bain said sitting down on the sofa and crossing his legs.
“What!?!” Meaghan said.
“He thinks you’re cheating on him?” Bain said picking up a magazine and pretending to leaf through it.
“Luigi?” Meaghan asked in puzzlement.
“Dean,” Bain said rolling his eyes.
“Dean what?” Meaghan said totally turned around by the conversation.
“Dean thinks you’re cheating on him with your…supervisor guy,” Bain said.
Meaghan stared at him as if she had lost the ability to understand English. “What?” she said at last.
“That’s what I said,” Bain said.
Meaghan ambled over and dropped on the couch next to Bain staring in front of her in shock. She took the whiskey Bain held out to her without a word and drained it.
“Why the fuck would he think that?” she said after several moments absorbing the news.
Bain shrugged, “You’d know that better than me wouldn’t you?”
“Apparently I wouldn’t,” Meaghan replied dryly.
“So maybe you should ask him,” Bain said with another shrug.
“Ask him why he thinks I’m cheating on him? He’s never so much as brought up such a thing. Where would I even begin without ratting you and Luigi out?”
“Aww Meaghan, you’re always so sweet and loyal. But I give you permission, throw Luigi under the bus.”
“What? Why?” she asked.
“Because…the bastard broke my heart and I’ve never said a word about it. This is my pay back,” Bain said.
Meaghan looked at him, really looked.
“Hey Bain?” she said softly. “How are you?”
“I’m good, how’re you?” he replied automatically.
“No Bain. I mean, how are you?” she asked bending her head so she could meet his eyes as he looked down at the magazine.
He looked up and met her eyes and then he inclined his head in a gesture of helplessness.
“I don’t know,” he said leaning forward to rest his head against hers. “I should be happy. I am happy. But I feel so restless.”
“You don’t know what’s wrong?” she asked stroking his thick brown hair slowly.
Bain sighed. “I think I’m just…I keep wanting things I can’t have and not wanting the things I can have. It’s stupid.”
“What are you trying to self-sabotage this time Bain? Is it Daniel?” she asked.
“He could be a gold digger,” Bain protested.
“Why coz he’s a stripper? You’ve known that for six months. What’s changed?”
Bain sighed, burying his face in her bosom. “Why can’t I be straight? Then you and I could be together.” He moaned. Meaghan smiled.
“Aww thank you Bain but to get back to the topic of why-“ Meaghan persisted.
“You’re such a good friend,” Bain interrupted. “I mean you must be freaking out about Dean and the whole cheating thing yet here you are trying to sort me out.”
Meaghan smiled, “Very good try Bain but you’re not distracting me. What’s up?”
Bain sighed again, “I think Daniel wants to move in with me.”
Meaghan found that her mouth was open and closed it before the flies started moving in.
“And…?” Bain repeated in disbelief, “What do you mean, ‘and’?”
“I mean, what’s the problem? You two spend every night together anyway.”
“That’s different,” Bain protested.
“How?” Meaghan wanted to know.
“I can always throw him out any time I like and we don’t have to worry about who is paying which bill or how untidy he is.”
“Okay so you don’t want to permanently share your space with someone. Makes sense. Have you tried to tell him so?”
“I have…tried. But he has these puppy dog eyes…” Bain looked at her helplessly like he was at his wits’ end.
“So what then? Break up with him, begin the search anew?” Meaghan waxed poetic.
“No. I don’t want us to end. I just want us to go on the way we are now. Is that too much to ask?”
“You’re asking the wrong person. You should be having this conversation with Daniel.”
Bain smiled, “God I’ve missed you.”
Meaghan lurched forward and enveloped him in her arms. “I’ve missed you too. Let’s not disappear on each other again like this. Ever.”
As if it had heard them, her notifications pinged. Meaghan looked at the screen expecting the hospital but it was a message from Dean.
I need to see you. Where are you?
It reminded Meaghan of the other message she’d gotten from Dean today, asking her where she was. She’d said she was at work, while she was really at La Trattoria. She glanced over at Bain who was still looking miserable wondering what to do. If she told Dean where she was he’d ask her to come over to his place. Bain and Dean didn’t live too far from each other. But she felt like she couldn’t cut short her night with Bain. They still had so much to talk about, catch up with. He was her best friend long before Dean was her boyfriend and she’d been putting him last for way too long. But…Dean thought she was cheating on him. If it wasn’t so sad it would be really funny.
I’m at Bain’s.
She typed and sent the message and then leaned back with a second drink that Bain placed in her hands. She was just opening her mouth to speak when her notifications pinged again.
He said, as predicted. Meaghan’s head thunked on the seat rest as she tried to think of a way to say no that wouldn’t seem like blowing him off…again.
Its girls’ night Dean. Bain has some stuff he needs to sort out. He needs me. I’m off tomorrow though. See you then?
There. That sounded about right. She heaved a sigh and sent it with Bain looking over her shoulder.
“You can go if you want,” he offered.
“I really can’t. it’s been a really long day; I don’t think I can deal with tantrums tonight anyway.”
Bain smiled. “Does Dean do tantrums?” he asked in amusement.
“Bain, if you’d asked me half an hour ago, I would have said Dean didn’t do stalking. Shows how much I know.”
Bain laughed, “Yeah. Wow, your problems are making my problems seem like made up or something.”
“Nah Bain, I know you. I’ve seen you in pain. And you are in pain over something. Now we’re going to get properly drunk and we’re going to sort this out,” she said in determination.
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