Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda stares up at the building in front of her, sighing heavily. It’s her first day back since she went on bereavement leave, and she really isn’t looking forward to the questions or sympathy. She does have to admit, though, that she is thankful for the prospect of not being sat at home with nothing to do but think.

“You know you can’t do your job out here, right?”

Veda bites back her smile, turns her head to catch Pauline’s eye. “I know, I know.”

“How ya doin’, kiddo?”

“I’m okay. I swear I am,” she laughs softly at her coworker’s disbelieving expression, hitching her bag further onto her shoulder, as she follows Pauline into the hospital. “Not gonna lie, it’s a bit too quiet around the house now, but... what can ya do.”

“You’re always welcome to come to mine if you need to.”

“Oh. Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

The women fall silent on their trek to the employee locker room, then Pauline pats Veda’s shoulders and makes her way to the back of the room. Veda deftly spins the combination lock around until it snaps open, shoves her bag into the recess, and pins her name-badge to the front of her top. Dropping her phone into her pocket, Veda locks up the cabinet and heads out into the corridor.

Clarissa gestures toward a small stack of clipboards with a smile. “Welcome back, Veda.”

“Thanks.” Veda reaches for the top board, skimming over the patient information. “And thanks for filing the bereavement paperwork for me.”

“You had enough to deal with. Now get to work. And Veda? We’ve missed you.”

“Surprisingly enough, I missed you lot, too.”

It is shocking how easily she slips into the rhythm of her job. The aching and fears melt into the background of her mind, and Veda focuses on each patient she visits, promises that they’re in the best of hands, eases their worries as much as she can. Her own heart may still be broken, but there is no reason to not lessen the troubles if she has the ability. These people are already scared. Their futures are uncertain. Why should she make it any harder?

“You remind me of my daughter.”

Veda’s words falter, disappear, and she finally glances up from the clipboard in her hand. The older woman frowns, fusses at the hemline of her blanket. Veda glances behind her then sits down on the edge of the bed. She sets the papers aside and reaches for the woman’s hand.

“Are you alone, ma’am?”

“Yes. I haven’t - haven’t spoken to my daughter Belinda in almost two years. But I suppose that’s the way it goes.”

“Would you like me to call her for you?”

“Oh, she wouldn’t want to be bothered. It’s quite all right, dear.”

“Ms Cortes, no one deserves to be by themselves, even when they’re healthy. So to be in hospital, trying to find out what’s wrong, and not have someone by your side? That’s not okay. So if I can get her here, would you be okay with that?”

“As long as it doesn’t get you in trouble,” the woman murmurs after a moment.

“I’ll be sneaky, I promise.”

Ms Cortes gives Veda a watery smile, and Veda finishes filling out the forms with the information the patient gives. She leaves the room with a promise to be right back with an update; Lyle falls into step beside her as she makes her way back through the halls.

“Clarissa is gonna be upset.”

“Clarissa isn’t going to find out. Is she?”

“Not from me.”

Veda stops abruptly, tugging Lyle’s arm so he quits walking. “Lyle, she’s alone. She’s scared. She needs her family with her.”

“I know.” He puts his hands on her shoulders, squeezes gently. His hazel eyes soften behind his glasses. “I know. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying be careful. Clarissa put the rules in place for a reason.”

“Because getting attached to patients and interfering with their lives can only end with one of three outcomes: You get hurt, the patient gets hurt, or the hospital ends up with a lawsuit. I’m aware.”

“This has to do with your grandfather, doesn’t it?” he asks quietly as Veda exchanges clipboards.

“It might,” she admits after a pregnant pause. “Tell anyone...”

“I’m not desperate for my own demise. All right, I’m off to lunch. Green jello is in the caf today. Woo!”

“C’mon, we all know red is superior.”

“Superior to toilet water, maybe.”

Veda watches him go, laughing softly at the odd looks thrown his way from the nurses, then looks down at the file in her hand. Patient’s name, room number, age...


The seven-year-old doesn’t bother looking up when Veda knocks on the door. She ducks inside and gives him as charming a smile as possible, though he doesn’t see it. Glancing around the room, Veda takes stock of the purse in the chair, the stuffed animals on the bed, the pile of tissues bunches up on the table.

“Hey, bud, is your mom around?”

“She went to the bathroom,” he mutters, gaze intently on his fingers as he flexes and relaxes them; the IV in the back of his hand jumps with the movement.

“Oh, okay. Mind if I stick around until she comes back?”

“I don’t care.”

“I’m Veda.”


“Oh, goodness me, is that - that’s an Optimus Prime plushie, isn’t it?”

This question gets his attention. His head snaps up, and a smile splits his face. “You like Transformers?”

“Are you kidding me? I absolutely love the Transformers! My favourite is Bumblebee.”

“Mine’s Optimus. He’s in charge of everybody. It’s awesome!”

“Did you know there’s a cartoon on Netflix called Rescue Bots, where Optimus sends four bots to an island to take care of the citizens there?”

His eyes widen, and he leans forward. “Really?”

“Oh, yes. I watch it all the time.”

“But you’re old! Old people don’t watch cartoons!”

“Well, this old person does,” laughs Veda. “Oh, hello.”

David’s mother smiles wanly as she passes Veda. “Hi. Can I help you?”

“Yes. My name is Veda, I’m just here to get some information from you so we can make sure David here gets in the system properly.”

It takes longer than it should to get the paperwork filled out, due to David interrogating Veda on her Autobot knowledge. She seems to pass muster, his bright grin lighting up the room each time she answers a question correctly. She knows she runs the risk of getting into trouble, but she doesn’t care, though. Her bones grow light, hollow like a bird’s, as the haunted glaze to his mother’s eyes disappears further with his enthusiasm.

“Well, that’s all I need from you two,” Veda announces, clipping her pen to the board. “Thanks. And David, remember to check out that show, okay? It’s amazing.”

“I will! Thanks!”

Veda ducks into the nearest bathroom, pulling her phone and the piece of paper from her pocket. Her heart races in her chest as she dials the number, and she leans against the wall while the line trills in her ear.


“Hi, is - is this Belinda Cortes?”

“Yes. Who is this?”

“Hi, my name is, uh, Veda. I work at, at Saint Francis Hospital in Brooklyn. Your, um, your mother is here right now, and she would really love if you could come see her.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

Veda sighs and checks the time. “I don’t know, ma’am. All I know is she misses you and wants to see you.”

“Did she tell you we haven’t talked in over two years?”

“Yes, ma’am, she did. She didn’t tell me why, she actually tried to get me to drop the idea of calling you. But…” Veda blows out a breath, scrubs at her face with her hand. “It’s ultimately up to you, but I just really don’t want either of you to regret missing time with each other.”

“I’ll - okay. Thank you.”

Belinda hangs up without a goodbye, and Veda slumps against the wall. The conversation went better than she anticipated, but why does she feel like it wasn’t successful? She taps the casing of her phone against her chin, mind going a mile a minute.

To: Niall
Can I have a picture of David Barkie please??

From: Niall
Everything okay?

To: Niall
I’ll text when I go on lunch.

Thank you.

From: Niall
I have plenty . An unhealthy amount, really. . . Whenever you want one, just ask :)

Veda can’t help but giggle at the dopey smile on David Barkie’s face as the photo comes through. She thanks Niall again before shoving her phone into her pocket and going back to work.
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meet david barkie (yes, it's an image i took off google, don't even care