The roof door slammed shut with a metallic bang after you rushed through it, lungs squeezed shut, head spinning with lack of oxygen. You knew this was the last place you should be in this state, but you needed to be away from everyone else and the roof had always been your favorite place.
It was the only place in the entire hospital you could get actual peace and quiet. No screaming and shouting, no shrill sounds of machines or voice announcements… just the sound of the traffic below and blowing wind.
And that was exactly what you needed. Peace and quiet to process what just happened; to make your brain stop speeding, jumping from one thought to the next. And maybe, when it finally stopped, maybe you could finally push away the horrible image of your patient dying in front of you as it had been seared in the back of your eyelids.
You leaned against the wall, gasping for breath, hot tears running down your cheeks. Why did you think being a doctor was a good idea again?
You jumped back startled at the first touch on your arm, until you managed to focus your sight long enough to see it was Julian, one of the attending doctors in the hospital.
He looked at you with a worried expression on his face and you turned your back on him, not wanting Julian to see the mess you were.
You’ve been shadowing him for the last month and you really enjoyed working with him. He was kind and gentle with all of his patients, even the stubborn ones. But he also had a great sense of humor and knew exactly the right moment to crack a joke to lighten the mood. You had such a huge crush on him and the last thing you wanted was for him to see you breaking down.
“Hey, it’s ok,” he said in that same quiet, gentle voice he used for his patients and you hated it.
You weren’t a family member or a sick person needing to be comforted. You were a doctor, damn it! Or at least you were supposed to be.
“I know it’s hard,” he continued, and you shook your head, facing him with a glare.
“Stop! Just stop.” You knew your cheeks were still streaked with tears, but for the moment you didn’t care. “I don’t need to be managed, Julian. I just… I need a sec.”
You slid down against the wall with a sigh, staring off the distance. After a second, Julian mimicked your position, sitting next to you, so close his shoulders were pressed against yours.
“Shit, I would kill for a cigarette right now,” you said with a chuckle, catching his small smile from the corner of your eyes. “Does it ever get easier?”
“No,” Julian replied in a low voice as he glanced at you. “It gets… manageable. You learn your way to process it.”
“I used to go to the city, watch stupid rom-com plays,” he admitted, staring down at his shoes. “Then Erica happened, and I lost that.”
He assumed correctly that you knew who he meant. Of course, you did. The nurse staff told you all about the sordid affair on your first day.
“And now what do you do?”
“Talk it through with you, I guess,” Julian said shrugging and glanced your way with an almost shy smile, and you couldn’t help but smile back.
“Thank you,” you said, pushing yourself up, finally noticing that the turmoil in your head had subsided. You offered a hand to Julian.
“Anytime,” Julian replied, letting you pull him to his feet.
You were expecting him to let go as soon as he was up but instead, he used the momentum to pull you into his arms, hugging you tight.
Your breath caught in your throat, from surprise, but also from the overwhelming affection in your chest and you didn’t know what to do for a second.
Your body seemed more prepared than you, though because your arms came around his back and you buried your nose in the croak of his neck, smelling sanitizer and strawberry, of all things.
“Ok?” Julian whispered and you could actually feel his lips brushing against the top of your forehead.
You reluctantly let go of him as he stepped back, already missing the warmth of his body. As you met his gaze, you noticed the soft smile playing on his lips.