by Dubenko Junkie

"Because you don't know how to say `no', Papa. Not when it comes to your career. You never have been able to do that, you know." Sophie Dubenko's words echoed in her father's head as he threw his lab coat over a clean set of blue scrubs. Dr. Dubenko was on his way to a tenure review panel. A meeting he didn't want to attend. As part of his hiring package at County he retained his tenured status amongst other perquisites. Having to sit on the review panel was not something he counted as a perk.

"Susan, I really hope you have all of your ducks in a row this morning." Dubenko said out loud as he sifted through a file folder containing Dr. Lewis' tenure application and curriculum vitae. He liked the ER chief, she was capable and levelheaded; she knew her job and her staff. The fact that she could work with some of the ER residents spoke volumes in Dubenko's opinion. He'd rather suture his left hand to his forehead than be responsible for the likes of Morris. He never could bring himself to think of the third year resident as a doctor, it seemed to cheapen the hard work everyone else went through to earn the title.

"Morning, Kerry. Donald," he greeted the other members of the panel as he took a seat in the conference room. Dr. Lewis wasn't due to arrive for another few minutes but the grim faces around him didn't look promising for the ER doctor. Well this'll be fun. Dubenko poured himself a glass of water. Sure, if by fun you mean excruciatingly unpleasant. Tearing apart a respected colleague is always great fun Lee. Afterwards you can go look for an intern to kick.


Sophia Dubenko was listening with rapt attention to the former medical examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The doctor had been part of the National Relief Team; a group of professionals that aide when disasters strikes such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and was now giving a lecture on forensic pathology at the University of Virginia. This is what I want to do. Hands on, in depth, hard-core side of forensic pathology. Sophie mused as the lecture continued, I want to do something that will make a difference, I want to help nail the scumbags of the world, the monsters; murderers and rapists who destroy the lives of innocent people.

She couldn't help but think of the way her own life had been drastically altered by the actions of one such monster years ago. As the blonde woman continued to discuss various aspects of her chosen career, cases she had worked on and the advancements in recent years due to technology Sophie's thoughts drifted back to that fateful winter day from five years ago.


She had been told to go home directly after school, a fact she chose to ignore once the school day had ended and a couple of friends wanted to hang out and goof off. By the time she finally made her way back to her house it was early evening. Sophie had decided that whatever lecture she'd receive from her father for disobeying him was well worth it. After all it was, in her opinion, better to get yelled at for a while than to have missed out on being kissed by one of the cutest guys in school. Yeah, that was definitely worth one of her father's long-winded discourses on the virtues of following the rules. That is, if he even remembered telling her to be home in the first place. Sometimes it worked to her advantage to have a scatterbrainedgenius for a father.

As she rounded the corner of her street Sophie noticed that her dog, Munch, was running around in the front yard and that there were no lights on in the two story house. It struck her as odd that her mother hadn't turned on the front porch light and that she'd leave without making sure Munch was in the house. Sophie called to the chocolate colored Labrador and led him around the rear of the house,intending to go in through the back door that led right into the kitchen.

The back door was wide open, a potted plant turned on its side; soil spilled across the wooden deck. As she approached the door Munch whimpered and refused to go into the house. "Come on, Munchie, let's go inside. Want some grub? Treat? You like treats. Come on you stupid dog, I wanna go inside!" She was pulling on the animal's collar to no avail, he wouldn't move.

"Fine, stay out here for all I care. You can wait for Papa to get home to eat. Stupid dog." Sophie side stepped the plant and spilled dirt as she went into the darkened kitchen. "Mom? Where are you? How come the lights are all off? Mom?" She knew her mother would never leave the house with a door open, her father? Sure if he was lost in thought, but Marti Dubenko was almost neurotic about locking doors and windows before going anywhere.

Sophie dropped her backpack by the door and decided to go looking for her mother since yelling from the doorway was bound to get her in trouble. She had only taken a few steps when she slipped on the tiled floor, her sneaker covered feet going out from under her. There was something slick covering the ceramic flooring. Slick and somewhat sticky. The only light was fading sun coming through the windows above the sink so Sophie couldn't tell what had been spilled.

She put her hands down to push herself up off the floor when she happened to look to her left. There on the floor, against the cabinets was Marti Dubenko. She wasn't moving.

"Mom?" Sophie's voice quaked with uncertainty. "Mom? Are you okay?" Sophie reached out to touch her mother's arm and realized that her skin was cold, her body stiff. "Mommy?" She questioned softly. "Mom! Oh god, Mom!" She started screaming as she shook her mother's body.


Looking down at the notes she had been taking earlier, Sophie blinked back tears. She didn't know how long she sat on the kitchen floor in her mother's blood screaming for help. Eventually a neighbor came over and the authorities were called, but all she remembers is being pulled away from her mother's body and a female police officer helping her get cleaned up.


Papa, that's all the police officer kept asking her. Where was her father? Did she know? What time did she come home? Did she touch anything? See anyone suspicious? So many questions and she couldn't answer any of them. "I want to call my Papa," she all but whispered. "He needs to come home now."

The officer had let her make the phone call, let her speak to her father until she broke down sobbing. She didn't hear the conversation that the officer had with Lee Dubenko, but knew that whatever had been said was enough to get him to leave the hospital and come home. She sat on the sofa in the living room as police and paramedics swarmed through the house. Sat there waiting for her father to come home and blame her. She should have been home. Why'd she have to take off with her friends? She should have been home. Her mother had needed her and she wasn't there. Now her mother was dead.

She assumed that Marti had fallen in the kitchen and hit her head. An accident. And that had she come home, she could have called 911, she could have helped her mother. Saved her. It was her fault and Papa would know it. Papa was going to hate her. How could he not? How was she ever going to tell him how sorry she was? Would he ever forgive her? In her shocked state Sophie didn't listen to the police officers, the medical examiner or any one else that was talking around her. Marti didn't have an accident, she had been attacked, murdered, but in her fourteen year-old mind Sophie Dubenko was certain it was her fault.

These thoughts passed through Sophie's head as she sat on the sofa and stared at her hands. She didn't move until her father walked through the front door. She heard his voice, strained with worry and grief, "" She launched herself into his arms and immediately began crying again. Over and over she repeated that she was sorry, but Lee Dubenko wasn't listening to her.

He had squeezed her tightly for a moment and then walked around her towards the kitchen. The kitchen; where her mother's body was lying on the floor. He was going to go into the kitchen. Sophie bit back a sob and followed her father convinced that he was going to yell at her, blame her for what had happened. She stopped short of her father, behind him in the hallway she watched as he grabbed onto the kitchen doorframe and took in the horrific scene. She watched as he whimpered. As his knees buckled and he sank to the floor she continued to stand there. As he whispered her mother's name before covering his face with his hands she looked at her feet. As he began to cry she felt her own warm tears run down her face.


A hand on her shoulder brought Sophie out of her reverie and she found herself looking into the concerned blue eyes of the lecturer, the hall now nearly empty. "I'm sorry, I must have zoned out." Sophie blushed, embarrassed.

As she stood to go the older woman stopped her and asked her if she was all right. Sophie admitted that her thoughts had strayed to the first time she had met the accomplished pathologist. They ended up spending nearly an hour discussing Sophie's motives for wanting to become a forensic specialist, the finer points of the lecture and the fact that Martina Dubenko's murderer had never been caught.

By the time Sophie left UVA to make the long drive back to her father's house in Richmond, a house where she now lived alone, she had come to the decision that she finally wanted to know exactly what had happened the day her mother was killed. The memories of a fourteen year-old traumatized girl weren't enough anymore. She wanted facts. And she knew the only way to get them was to talk to her father. She needed his permission to get the Commonwealth to hand over a copy of the autopsy. She knew that permission wasn't going to easily be had.

She knew that her father had only recently begun to put those events behind him and move on with his life. His personal life anyway, he had used his career as a coping mechanism for years, kept himself so busy that he didn't have time to properly grieve and come to terms with what had happened. Sophie felt like a heel for what she was about to do but she too, wanted to move on and she didn't feel that she could do that without some answers.

I'm sorry Papa, I'm so sorry.  

Dr. Dubenko had just finished a surgical consult in the emergency room and was headed back to his office when he spotted Susan Lewis, the ER Chief. "Dr. Lewis? A moment of your time?"

"Hey, sure. What's up?" She crossed her arms in front of her and waited for what was sure to be a longwinded diatribe of some sort.

"I was wondering how your research projects were coming along. I have something that you might want to pursue. I'm working on a study concerning trends in emergency room visits that result in surgical intervention. I could use the help in gathering data. Interested?" His expression conveyed the fact that he felt the question was rhetorical.

"I, yeah that sounds great. Really. I bet Pratt or maybe Abby would be able to spare some time-"She started.

"Actually, I thought you'd like to do this one yourself. Maybe find your niche, so to speak? It's an excellent project and there are at least three different journals interested in publishing based on my existing proposal. I think it would lend more weight to the paper if it was authored by the ER Chief instead of an intern or resident."

"It's not that I don't want to, I just don't have the time. I'm in the middle of reviews, contracts for next year, budgets...I don't have enough hours in the workday to get half of that done as it is."

"What about after hours? I don't mind rearranging my schedule to get this done."

"Cosmo pretty much takes up all of my free time. What little there is of it. He's getting so big so fast and I already feel like I'm missing out on al the good stuff."

Dubenko gave her a sympathetic smile. "I know the feeling, Dr. Lewis. Why don't we do this over dinner? That way you don't have to forgo spending time with your son?"

Lewis couldn't see a way to refuse his suggestion so she agreed. "Yeah, great. How about tomorrow evening, I guess?"

"Sounds good. I'll get your address later, I have to see what my med students are up to." Dubenko walked down the hall, past Lockhart, who had been avidly listening in on their conversation while she pretended to review a chart.

Abby waited until Dubenko neared the elevators to say somewhat loudly to Susan "He does know you're married, right?"

Susan Lewis laughed. "Abby!"

Dubenko heard Lockhart's none too subtle jab and clenched his jaw. Some of us are capable of having relationships with our coworkers without ending up in bed with them; that might come as complete a surprise to you though seeing as you seem to be working your way down some weird list comprised of attendings, residents and med students. Dubenko's previously pleasant mood soured as he walked towards the elevator bank. You know Lockhart one of these days you are really going to regret pissing off your superiors.


Sophie was sitting in the living room of her parent's home in Richmond. Her father didn't want to sell the two-story colonial when he relocated to Chicago and since Sophie was staying to attend college, she spent most of her weekends there instead of on campus in Charlottesville.

She had spread old, yellowed newspaper clippings across the coffee table. With a notebook balanced on one knee, she was taking notes. The articles where, for the most part dated around the months following her mother's death. The grizzly murder of a prominent community member was prime fodder for the local papers, even more so when it became clear that the case would go unsolved. Sophie wasn't really sure what she hoped to glean from these old editorials and cover stories, but lately she'd been plagued with a desire to know exactly what had happened five years ago.

She looked up and stifled a groan when she heard the familiar chuffing noises of her dog, Munch. Living up to his name, the dog had a pair of what looked like underwear hanging from his mouth. "Great. Come here, Munchie. Come here boy. Give me my," she looked at the soggy scrap of fabric she pulled from the animal's mouth, "brand new silk panties. Ugh. Do you have to maul the expensive stuff? Really, if you must eat my clothing can't it be something that's cotton for a change? Not silk, not my leather shoes, not my cashmere any of this sinking in, Munch? No?"

She sighed as she got up to throw away the ruined article and her eyes settled on the family portrait resting on the mantle above the large fireplace. It had been taken just before Marti Dubenko had been killed. Less than a month before their lives were torn apart. Sophie studied each of their faces. We looked like the perfect, happy little family. I don't think I've seen Papa smile that way since. Mom looks perfect, she always did. God, look at my hair. Cha cha cha chia, anyone? A mutant poodle was sitting on my head and no one bothered to tell me. Oh well, at least they waited until after my braces came off to have the picture taken.

Sophie smiled remembering way she had felt in the pose, her mother's arms were draped around her shoulders and her father was hugging Marti the same way. The lame photographer insisted that they say, "Group hug!" instead of the traditional "cheese." They had spent the rest of the day making fun of the guy. Dinner was especially silly that evening; there were plenty of requests to "group hug the salt, please" and the like.

On her way to the kitchen trashcan Sophie stopped by the phone resting in the hallway alcove and she looked back at the mess in the living room. A thought occurred to her then. It would a lot simpler to find the answers she wanted by just reading the actual autopsy report and copies of the police records. Picking up the receiver she dialed her father's work number. When he failed to pick up, she simply left him a message.

"Hi, Papa. It's Sophie. I was wondering how you'd feel about a visit from your wayward child." She continued on saying that she'd call again later after she'd made flight arrangements and fill him in on the details. She also planned to ask him about getting a copy of those files.


Dubenko had picked his daughter up at the airport late the previous night, after spending the evening working with Susan Lewis on their joint research project. He wasn't surprised that it was well into mid morning before the petite teenager made her way groggily into the kitchen where he was reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee.

"Morning sleepyhead." He smirked as he watched Sophie shuffle over to the coffee pot and search fruitlessly for a coffee cup. "Cabinet over the sink, baby."

"Mmm," was the only response he received from Sophie until she managed to finish the first cup of coffee and bring the second with her to the kitchen table. "Morning Papa. What ya readin'?"

Lee Dubenko sat his newspaper on the table and looked at his daughter, "What are you reading? That would be the way we phrase the question in English; and to answer your question, the metro section. How much sugar are you planning to put in that coffee Soph? It has to be the consistency of syrup by now." She had been spooning copious amounts of the white substance into her cup as Dubenko was speaking.

"I like it sweet. Besides, you make it too strong for us mere mortals to drink any other way." Just because she knew it would irk him, Sophie poured another heaping spoon of sugar into her cup.

"There is nothing wrong with the way that I brew coffee you heathen." Standing up to get another cup himself; Dubenko brushed Sophie's wild tangled hair off her forehead and placed a kiss on her brow before he made his way to the much debated coffee.

"Nice shirt Papa." Sophie grinned as she finally noticed just what her father had been wearing. Along with the usual plaid pajama pants she had always seen her father wear around the house he was sporting a tee shirt that simply said "Surgeons do it with Skill."

"Hmm, you think so? Some impertinent little whelp sent it to me for my birthday this year." Grinning, Dubenko took a sip of his coffee; black.

"They obviously have superb fashion sense and possess superior wit and intellect."

He snorted into his mug. "Might be more apt to say that my daughter has delusions of grandeur and requires a lesson in appropriate gift giving."

"But you're wearing the shirt, Papa. You must like it."

"I thought it would hurt your feelings if I used it to wax my car." He gave her a sympathetic look.

"You wouldn't!" Sophie screeched indignantly and rolled the newspaper into a tube to swat her father with.

"See? As a parent it's my job to sacrifice my desires for the welfare of my offspring's mental well-being. Even if it means I'm debasing myself by wearing this crude tee shirt. Really, Sophie, where did you find something this lowbrow?" Dubenko tugged on the hem of his shirt for emphasis.

"The internet is a beautiful thing Papa. And get down off that high horse before you hurt yourself. You know it's funny. Admit it." Sophie gently hit him with the newspaper.

"I might have chuckled when I first saw it" He laughingly conceded.

"Might?" Sophie made a motion to indicate she'd hit him again.

"If I admit that I considered wearing it to work, I'd be encouraging your behavior. I can't do that and be a responsible parental figure. And stop hitting me."

"You are such a-"

"I'm your father and as such I still have certain monetary advantages, control to phrase it succinctly, over you. I'd be careful about how I'd finish that sentence if I were you."

"Wonderful, fantastic, amazing, kind, generous, outstanding-"

"Can it Soph, I'm getting nauseous."

Sophie blew him a kiss in response. "You know you've missed me, Papa."

"Until this morning I thought I did. Now I'm not so sure. Perhaps it was the idea of you I missed. The quiet, well behaved little girl I used to know..." Dubenko trailed off as Sophie rolled her eyes at him.

"Yeah, I purposely waited until you moved to Chicago to grow up and turn into a smart-assed teenager. And you said I'm the one who's delusional." She moved across the kitchen to the refrigerator. "Food. Need food. Starving. Ah, no food. Wait, what's this? Fuzzy food. Gross. God, Papa, don't they have grocery stores in Chicago?" Sophie mumbled as she searched the nearly empty appliance. "Oh! Yogurt...and it is three months past its expiration date. Dare me to eat it anyway? " She shook the container at her father as she closed the refrigerator door. "Yes? No?"

"No." Dubenko took the food in question and tossed it in the garbage can.

"Well then, I give up. I'll simply wither away into nothingness. Starvation can't be a pleasant way to go. Thanks, Papa."

Dubenko merely stared at his daughter and her melodramatic performance. "Are you finished?"

"Yes, quite. Still hungry though."

"There's cereal in the pantry and don't tell me there isn't any milk in the fridge. I know better."

"Guess I know what I'll be doing this afternoon."

"What's that?"

"Hmm let's review what we've been discussing, shall we?" Sophie made herself a bowl of cereal as she teased her father. "Grocery shopping. Buying of the food. You know, stuff to eat? Chow? Grub? Yum yum?"

"Yum yum?"

"Sorry, my vocabulary is suffering due to a lack of proper nutrition."

Lee Dubenko simply shook his head at his daughter as he finished his coffee. "I figured you'd prefer to go shopping yourself once you got here. It's more or less pointless for me to keep the fridge full, Soph. I'm not home often enough to bother cooking. So are you going to enlighten me as to why you had this sudden desire to visit? I all but begged you to come for Christmas and you refused, why now?"

"I missed you and I love you?"

"Mmmhmm. And?"

"I really missed you? A lot?"

"What do you want Sophia?"

Sophie spoke with a mouthful of cereal, "I want you to have the Commonwealth release Mom's case files to me."

"First off, that is truly disgusting Sophia and secondly, no. I am not even going to ask why you'd want me to do such a thing." Dubenko sat his coffee mug in the sink and walked out of the kitchen without another word.


She wanted to come to the hospital with her father, to see where he worked, she had said. What Sophie really wanted was another chance to ask her father to reconsider her request. Sophie hopped in the drivers seat and held her hand out for the keys.

"Out." Dubenko jerked his thumb towards the house indicating that he wanted Sophie to vacate the car.

"Why can't I drive?" She gave him a forced pout and batted her eyelashes.

"My car. Stop that. Besides, you don't know where you're going."

"I would if you'd give me directions."

"Out now." He stared at her intensely until Sophie sighed loudly and climbed over the gearshift to the passenger side of the car.

"Are you mad at me, Papa?" Her voice was soft, defeated.

"Mildly annoyed."

"I'm sorry."

"It's alright," he relented. He didn't want to argue while he was driving, nor did he want to dwell on the subject of his late wife any longer.

"So, is Dr. Abby working today?"

"Lockhart, and I really don't know." He glanced sideways at his daughter. "Why?"

"Just curious." She reached over and fiddled with the radio knobs, settling on something loud and largely unintelligible.

"Once again, Sophia, I remind you: this is my car." He pressed a preset button and returned the radio to the classical station. "That means this is also my radio. Don't touch it."



They half-heartedly bickered for the remainder of the drive, and Sophie continued to change the radio station until Dubenko was annoyed enough to simply turn it off. As they pulled into the staff parking lot at County General Sophie grinned.

"Oh la de dah, look who has his own reserved parking space. Who'd you have to bribe for that privilege?"


She simply smiled at him as they made their way inside. Dubenko nodded at greetings thrown his way from various staff members and ushered Sophie towards the ER.

"I have rounds and then I've got a scheduled surgery with Anspaugh so you're on your own for a couple of hours, baby."

"Will you at least make time to have dinner with me?"

"Lest you perish from lack of proper nutrition yet again today, I suppose I will." He winked at her.

He stopped Sophie as they reached the admittance counter and introduced her to Jerry, the daytime ER clerk.

The gregarious man grinned, "Yeah I can see the family resemblance. Cool. You can hang out up here and help me harangue the med students. Hey, Abby." Jerry nodded as Lockhart began writing on the transparent board.

Dubenko winced as he saw Sophie's face light up with what could only be described as malicious glee. Wonderful. The gods are smiling on me today. Oh Sophie, don't do it. Please, I beg of you, be quiet for once. He silently pleaded with his daughter, his hazel eyes connecting with her identical ones.

Sophie bounced on her heels for a moment as if thinking and then strode over to the intern who was purposely ignoring Dubenko. "Hi!" Her tone was almost too cheerful as she greeted the older woman.

"Um, hi-" Abby started uncertainly looking at Sophie then Dubenko, not quite sure to make of the pair.

"I'm Sophia Dubenko. Nice to actually meet you, Papa's mentioned you often enough and now I have a face to go with the name." She grinned at Abby and ignored the daggers her father was glaring in her direction.

"Oh, um...really?" Lockhart shot a look over Sophie's should that made Dubenko want to slink away and die.

"Yeah, you know he isn't capable of talking about much other than work so I get an earful about med student snafus and the like. He's mentioned how cool it is that you've changed careers midstream and left nursing to be a doctor. Impressive."

Abby's look of derision changed to one of bewildered confusion. "Ah yes. It's what I always intended to do. If you'll excuse me, I have patients to see."

Sophie laughed and turned to blow a kiss at Dubenko. "Had you scared, didn't I?"

"You are walking home." Dubenko left his daughter standing there laughing as he went upstairs to begin his shift.


Sophie Dubenko was amusing herself at the admissions desk in the ER while her father was otherwise engaged in his surgical duties. People watching was at a premium in the emergency room. Besides a full house in the waiting area there were admits of every description from the boring and mundane to the very colorful. Never a dull moment around here I guess, she thought to herself. God this place is a hole. Why in the world did Papa ever agree to this? VCU is SO much nicer. Sophie had noted the discoloration spots on the ceiling that indicated water damage as well as the general state of the ER as a whole.

Looking across the floor Sophie noticed a rather animated doctor with ginger colored hair that seemed to be lecturing a group of interns or med students. She couldn't really tell, but none of them seemed particularly interested in what he was saying. Well what have we here? Not a master of oration apparently. "Hey, who's that?" Sophie asked the admit clerk, Jerry whom she thought of as an oversized teddy bear just from the brief time she'd been standing there chatting with him.

"Heh, that's Dr. Morris. He's the chief resident. Rumor has it that no one else wanted the job so Weaver and Lewis had to give it to him. He's on probation, but acts like he owns the place."

Sophie laughed at this information and went back to observing the nearly organized chaos around her. A particular patient had caught her attention because he apparently had issues with wearing clothing. Any clothing. A frazzled nurse and two orderlies kept trying to get him into a hospital gown only to have the guy start screeching. "It burns! It burns!" He would then pull the gown off and the process would start all over.

"Hello there, can I help you with something?"

Sophie turned around at the sound of the voice behind her. She ended up looking into the chest of one A. Morris, M.D. according to the lab coat he wore. Looking upwards confirmed that she was indeed being addressed by the chief resident, "Uh, no. I'm good thanks." I'd be even better if you went away now.

"You work here? I wasn't notified that we hired a new clerk. You'd think someone would tell the chief resident something like that. I get no respect around here. Zero." Morris leaned against the admit desk so that he was eye level to Sophie. "At least you're easier on the eyes than the other two." He jerked his head at Jerry "And the night guy? Frank? Woof."

Sophie arched an eyebrow at Morris as she responded, "I don't work here but thanks anyway for the compliment. I think." I bet this guy gets off on saying "chief resident" when referring to himself.

"Oh, you don't work here? Then ah do you need a doctor? I'm the chief resident you know. You'd be safe in my hands."

"I just bet I would. But, no, I'm perfectly fine. I just decided to tag along with the parental unit today." And now I wish I hadn't. I could have stayed home and organized Papa's sock drawer or something. Anything has to be more stimulating than talking to this guy.

Morris looked the hazel-eyed girl over appraisingly. And rather obviously as he had to lean further over the admit desk to do so. "So are you seeing anybody?"

Trying not to laugh Sophie stared at a point over Morris's shoulder for a moment before answering, "No, I'm not. I'm just here for a visit. I don't live in Chicago." And if I did, I'd consider moving far, far away. Did he just look at my ass? He looked at my ass. Sleaze.

"That's a shame. That you don't live here I mean. I think you are the prettiest thing I've seen in my ER in a long time. Since you aren't seeing anyone, why don't you let me take you to dinner? It's almost eight o'clock."

Oh dear god, he is not hitting on me. Maybe I should tell him I'm gay. No, asexual. "Oh, it's not that I don't want to but I already have dinner plans with someone. Sorry, Dr. Morris."

"You can call me Archie. And who do you have plans with? Can't top the chief resident, can they?"

Archie? More like Jughead, I think. "Dr. Dubenko. Actually I think the Chief of Surgery and senior attending trumps a what? Fourth year resident?" Ah, the sound of ego deflating.

Morris looked a bit agitated at the implied insult but continued to try and convince Sophie to join him for lunch. "Dubenko? He's kind of out there isn't he? How'd he rope you into a date? I mean the guy's a fuzzy-headed wall scribbling little weirdo. Ask Lockhart. She thinks he's a creep."

By this time Jerry and several other ER staff members had noticed Morris and Sophie's conversation. Dr. Lockhart was amongst them and she just smirked as she watched Sophia Dubenko bristle at Morris's opinion of her father.

Anger flashed in her hazel eyes as Sophie leaned in towards Morris. Her voice a steely hiss as she snapped, "That 'little weirdo' happens to be my father egotistical, imbecilic excuse for a medical professional."

Morris just blinked as those nearby stifled their laughter.

Sophie bit back further insults as she saw her father making his way across the ER. Please don't let him have heard any of that. "Papa! I'm starving, thought you'd never get back down here." She threaded her arm through his and all but dragged her father out of the ER through the ambulance bay doors.


"So what were you and Morris talking about? You looked pretty intense." Dubenko held the door to Ike Ryan's open for his daughter.

"Oh, nothing really important, Papa. Dr. Morris was just telling me that I'm the cutest little thing to walk into his ER in a long time." She grinned at her father, who was standing beside her, mouth agape.


"Said I was the cutest little-"

"I heard you the first time Sophia." Dubenko ushered her towards an empty table and pulled out her chair. I just had to let her come to work with me didn't I? Why didn't I leave her in my office instead of the ER? Because leaving her in that pit without company is cruel and unusual punishment. And being hit on by Morris isn't?

Sophie was looking around the bar with an amused expression on her face. "So this is the infamous Ike's, huh? Seen any good foreign films lately, Lee?" She gave her father a cheeky grin.

"That's Papa to you, and no I haven't."

A waitress came over to take their order, and Sophie looked at her father expectantly. "What, you mean I have to order for myself?" Laughing, she asked for a salad with house dressing on the side. "And an iced tea with lemon, please."

Dubenko ordered a burger, medium and a basket of fries knowing that Sophie would eat most of them herself. When the waitress left to put their order in to the kitchen he glared at her over the top of his glasses, "I am never going to tell you anything ever again regarding my personal life. Ever."

"Oh, come on Papa, I was just teasing you. Look at it this way, I could have asked Dr. Abby about your little date, but I didn't."

Thank God for small favors. Very small favors. "Lockhart. It's Dr. Lockhart. You are just determined to needle me today aren't you?"

"What are you talking about, Papa? I'll give you one thing, though. She's very pretty. Older than I expected for an intern, though, which is good because frankly, you wanting to date someone that close to my age would be just too weird."

Must not hurt the child. You love her. Remember, Lee; she's your little angel. With horns and I'm willing to bet cloven hooves. "Sophie, there is nothing going on between Lockhart and I. I told you that, now drop it please."

Sophie smiled again as their food arrived. "So, tell me what you know about Dr. Morris. I gathered that he's awfully proud of himself for making Chief Resident, but other than that I didn't get much of a chance to talk to him. He's pretty cute in that self-assured goofy way."

Dubenko coughed, nearly choking on a mouthful of burger. "No."

"No? No you won't tell me anything about him? Why, Papa? He can't be that bad, after all he's the chief resident, so he has to be somewhat capable and bright. Or did you mean 'No I won't let you go out with him while you are in Chicago'? Really Papa, that's pretty lame. I'm nineteen and have been making the decisions about who I date for quite some time now."

Dubenko just stared at his daughter in disbelief. She isn't serious. She can't be serious. She does not want to date Moron-err, Morris. I will not allow her to go cavorting around with that imbecile. Don't tell her you forbid her to see him; she'll do it just to spite you. "Don't you think he's a little old for you?"

"Too old to take me to a movie? Out to dinner? Geez, it's not like I want to marry the guy!"

I'm in hell. I died and someone forgot to tell me. My daughter wants to date Morris. What did I ever do to deserve this? Is this payback for the relentless bastard routine I treat med students to?

"Oh come on Papa, you look like I just told you that I had acrobatic sex with the guy on a gurney in the middle of the emergency room while your coworkers supervised."

At this, Dubenko spit a mouthful of water back into his upraised glass. "Sophia!"

She burst out laughing and reached across the table to pat her father's hand. "I'm kidding. Like I'd want to go out with that tool. Please, during a five-minute conversation he mentioned his title no less than four times, looked at my ass at least twice and insulted my Papa. Besides, he is so not my type."

A barrage of thoughts crossed Dubenko's mind, all of them including Morris meeting an unpleasant fate. Then he realized his daughter was still talking to him. "You have a type? Since when? You've never said one word to me about dating anyone."

"Ugh. Guys are the farthest thing from my mind, Papa. I swear. I don't have a boyfriend. I'm not seeing any guys. You are the only man in my life, okay? Sorry for yanking your chain."

"Then what is on your mind, Soph? You haven't said a word to me about your studies either, or friends for that matter. Just what have you been up to lately?"

Sophie responded to his questions by stuffing several French fries into her mouth and shrugging.

"Charming. Ever so eloquent. My daughter, with a perfect score on the verbal portion her of SATs, can't even respond to a simple question. And here I thought I'd raised you better than that."

She rolled her eyes at her father's criticism before swallowing loudly. Sophie then made a big production out of taking a noisy gulp from her glass of iced tea. She considered belching but noted her father's look of impatience and slight disgust. "School's school, Papa. I go to class. I study. Well, sometimes I study and I mostly go to class. What? My grades are fine, so stop glaring at me like that. I'm not a bookworm like you. I'm even working on an extracurricular study okay? Happy now? I'm just as much of a geek as you are, all right? Friends? Do you really want to hear about the latest trip to the mall with the girls? Because if you do I can tell you that we tried on approximately three hundred shades of lipstick and I find thong underwear to be totally and completely uncomfortable."

I was wrong about hell. Hell isn't Morris wanting to date my daughter. Hell is having a discussion with my daughter about her choice of underwear. "Make-up and um, undergarments aside, what have you been doing in your spare time, Soph?"

"Stuff. Reading mostly. You know, the former chief medical examiner for Virginia spoke at the university recently about forensic pathology and technological advances in the field. Fascinating stuff really. They've been able to open old cases, reexamine evidence. Actually solve crimes that are years old...I spoke with her after the lecture. Did you know she actually remembers Mom?"

Lee Dubenko closed his eyes and shook his head. Not this again, Sophie. Please not again. I'm not doing this. Don't ask me to.

"Papa, you know if you'd just-"

"Sophia Marie, don't even bother finishing that thought. The answer is no. It was no the last time you asked and it will continue to be no. We've been over this. There is nothing to discuss. Just stop. Leave it alone."

"Papa, why won't you just-"

"No! No, Sophie."

She glared at her father as she balled up the napkin that had been in her lap. "I don't understand you. I just want to-"

"I know what you want and the answer is still no."

Sophie threw the napkin on the table and stood up.

"Sophie, sit down and finish eating." Dubenko tried to keep his temper even, his voice calm.

"I'm done. I'm leaving." Sophie glared down at him before turning on her heel and storming out of the bar.

That went over exceedingly well. He sighed and reached for his wallet to pay the bill. I am never eating here again; it's always a disaster.


I can't believe how totally stubborn he is, unreasonable. Unfair! Sophia Dubenko was fuming as she stormed her way back to the hospital. She was my mother, and he acts like he corners the market on losing her. Like I don't have a right to know what went on back then. She continued her inner rant as she stomped through the ambulance bay doors and into the emergency room.

"Hey, Sophie, what's the rush?" Jerry called out as she passed the clerk's station and headed for the elevators. She didn't bother to answer.

All I want to do is read the damned reports. Am I really asking too much? Okay, so maybe I want to see if there's any chance of ever finding the murdering bastard responsible. Why is that wrong? You'd think he'd want some sort of justice too. Sophie was so focused on railing against her father that she didn't notice Morris until she ran right into him.

"Damn it! Watch what you're doing!" She swore at the chief resident as charts and papers flew from his hands and scattered across the linoleum floor.

"You ran into me, babe." Morris pointed out, "Couldn't stay away?"

"Right. I want you so bad. Do me now. Right here. I wanted you to drop everything and take me with wild abandon." The vitriolic sarcasm dripping in her tone wasn't lost on the resident as he held up his hands in defeat.

"Okay, whatever. I was only kidding. Calm down."

Abby Lockhart chose that moment to ask Morris to sign off on a patient. She unwittingly smiled at Sophie, having missed the heated exchange. "Hi, Sophie, right?"

"Oh what are you smiling at? You know if you'd just go out with him, maybe he'd loosen up and stop being such a stubborn jackass."

"Um, who are we talking about here?" Abby looked warily at Morris who just shook his head, not wanting any more wrath sent his way.

"My father. You know, the surgeon who creeps you out?"

"I never-"

"Right. You never said he was a creep. And he doesn't need to get laid." With that Sophie stomped to the elevator and jabbed angrily at the call button.

Abby merely stood next to Morris and blinked. "Well, that was interesting."

"She's really pissed off."

"No kidding, Morris." Abby rolled her eyes. "Wasn't she having dinner with him? Dubenko sure knows how to rub people the wrong way. I thought it was just me."

Sophie glared at them before stepping into the elevator.


Dr. Dubenko closed the door to his outer office, where his daughter was waiting. She was sitting in one of the chairs next to the book-lined wall, a stack of papers at her feet and one of his many knickknacks in her hands. Sophie was studying the blown glass rooster intently, turning it over in her hands and tracing the smooth green surface with her fingertips.

"Soph, I know you're angry with me-" he started and when his daughter refused to look at him, he continued, "I just don't see the point of this, Sophie. There's nothing new to add, no new evidence to suggest anything. Why would you want to reopen old wounds, baby? It doesn't change anything. Let it go."

She snorted. "Let it go? Like you did, Papa? How long did it take you to stop living with a ghost? To stop wearing your wedding ring? To stop thinking about her every single day?" Sophie raised her head and gave her father an icy stare. "You finally decide to get on with your life and no one else is allowed to care anymore?"

Dubenko stood there, his hand still clutching the doorknob, and stared at her with a mixture of disbelief and hurt on his face. Is this what I get for confiding in you Sophie? Is this what I deserve for trying to shield you from more pain? Isn't it enough that you've had to live with being the one to find your mother? Do you really need to read the autopsy report? Why can't you trust me when I tell you it's not necessary? There are just some things that you don't need to know.

"Sophie, it's not that I don't care. You don't really think that, do you?" He searched his daughter's face, trying to understand what she was thinking. "I'd give anything to have your mother back. I wish I could change things, Sophie, but I can't and neither can you. Let it rest, Sophie. Please."

Sophie's only response was to throw the glass object she'd been holding, barely missing her father. It hit the filing cabinet in the middle of the room and shattered.

"Sophia Marie Dubenko! What the hell is wrong with you?" Dubenko gasped, furious.

"Wrong with me? Wrong with me? Papa, don't you know what's wrong with me?" Angry tears ran down Sophie's face as she screamed at her father, "I'll tell you what's wrong with me! I have a selfish asshole for a father!"

Dubenko blinked. The normally calm doctor clenched his hands into tight fists. For all that she looks like me, she sure as hell has her mother's Irish temper. He thought of the shattered glass that lay behind him. And fortunately, her mother's bad aim. "Selfish? Sophie..."

"Shut up, just shut up! God, you just don't get it do you?" She angrily wiped at the tears streaking her face.

"Why don't you explain it to me then, Sophia?" Dubenko was barely able to control the mordant venom in his voice. He was through being patient and understanding with the raging teenager. He was never one to tolerate disrespectful behavior. Not from subordinates and definitely not form his child. His eyes were filled with the same violent heat that his daughter's gaze directed at him.

"What's there to explain? Huh? Mom died and you practically curled up and joined her, at least at home. Where the hell were you when I needed you, Papa? I needed you. Where were you when I woke up at night screaming for her, for help? Where were you when the mere thought of being in the house alone terrified me? Where were you when I'd turn on the television and see her face? Hear the reporters talk about how tragic it was for the community to lose such an upstanding wonderful woman? Or when there were no leads on the bastard who hurt her? When the kids at school would taunt me about having a doctor for a mother who let herself bleed to death? Badgering me for all the 'gory details'?"

Her voice turned bitter and mocking as she mimicked those tormentors from the past. "Gee Dubenko, did you really slip and fall in the blood? Is it true that rigor mortis doesn't set in right away? Do people really lose control of their bodily functions when they die, Dubenko?" She laughed and it wasn't a pleasant sound. "Where Papa? Where were you when I was sinking into that private little hell?"

Oh baby, I didn't know. I was so absorbed in my own devastating nightmare that it never occurred to me. The pain of dawning realization shot through Lee Dubenko and his anger quickly ebbed into guilt. Sophie was shaking and nearing hysteria as Lee stood up and walked across the room towards her. "Baby...I, oh Sophie, I'm so-"

"Don't you dare tell me you're sorry, don't you dare. You left me to my own devices, Papa, to fend for myself. You had your grief and your work. You didn't need me. I don't think you even noticed me half the time, and if you did notice you sure as hell didn't say anything to me."

Sobbing, Sophia Dubenko wrapped her arms around her father's waist and leaned forward in her chair to rest her head against her father's stomach. "You weren't the only one who lost her, Papa. I loved her too. I miss her too. And if it weren't for me, maybe she'd still be alive."

Dubenko closed his eyes and swore to himself, Lee, you really are such an idiot, and how could you have possibly thought that she was handling things so well all these years? Because she said so? She was just a kid. Still is...

Kneeling down in front of her, Dubenko wiped at Sophie's tears with his fingertips. "Baby, listen to me and listen to me now. What happened was not your fault. I know you didn't go home after school that day, not when you were supposed to at any rate. Those few hours wouldn't have changed anything, Sophie. I swear. Your mother was gone long before you could have gotten home to help her."

He pulled her toward himself and hugged her tightly. "I wish you had told me this before, Sophie, I wish I had known you'd been keeping this inside for so long. I know I wasn't there for you the way I should have been-I didn't know how, Sophie. And I'm sorry for that."

Dubenko stayed that way, kneeling on his office floor holding Sophie as she cried, wishing that he could just this once, think of the right thing to say. "I love you Sophia." He murmured into the riot of curly hair belonging to the young woman in his arms.


Later that evening, at home Dubenko came down stairs to see Sophie curled up on the sofa with a picture of them in her hands. It was a shot of Dubenko and Sophie together laughing at whoever was taking the picture. She was sixteen and they were sitting on the hood of a car.

Dubenko addressed her, his voice soft, "What are you looking at Sophie Monster?" He had in his hand a manila file folder filled with papers and photographs.

"Don't call me that, Papa," she groused at him with a smile. "Just us. Remember when this was taken?" She turned the frame towards her father.

"Your sixteenth birthday." He sat down next to her. "Soph, I know I'm never going to be up for any father of the year awards, sweet sixteen presents aside," He jerked his head at the picture indicating the sports car that he had bought for her, "But I did try even if I fell short of the mark in your eyes, I did try--"

"Papa, I'm sorry I called you an ass-"

"Shhh baby, I know. But to a certain extent you're right. I was selfish; just not the way you might think. There's a lot that went on back then that I didn't tell you. I didn't ever intend to tell you. What you went through was bad enough and I wanted to spare you the rest." Dubenko sat the file folder on the coffee table in front of them and looked at his hands. You can't protect her forever Lee. Maybe this is the closure she needs. Is it really worth driving a wedge between the two of you, what's in that file? Not really. I just don't want to see my baby hurting again.

"I told you I wasn't going to contact the Commonwealth's medical examiner for a copy of your mother's files. What I didn't tell you is that I've always had them. Sophie, I honestly don't think you need to read this. There are things you don't need to know. However, you have a stubborn streak a mile wide. I know you. You won't let it drop until you get your way." She comes by it honestly; her mother was tenacious when warranted.

Sophie looked at her father, confusion clouding her normally bright hazel eyes. "You've had this all along? Then why didn't you just let me...Papa, how can it be any worse than what I remember?" She looked at the folder with apprehension, "What don't you want me to know?"

Dubenko kissed his daughter's cheek and ruffled her hair, "I'd just rather you remember your mother for the way she lived Sophia, not the way that she died."

He sat beside his daughter as she read through the file; Lee Dubenko had already committed the contents to memory years ago.


Marti had been in the bathroom taking a bath he'd assumed since he had heard the water running. However, she came out of the tiled room wrapped in a terrycloth robe looking rather flummoxed. "Lee? Can you put that down for a minute? We need to talk."

He had been lying on the bed reading one medical journal or another that he'd recently been published in; he always got a childish thrill at seeing his name in print on those glossy pages. "Marti? Are you all right?"

She smiled and joined him on the bed, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head on his shoulder. "You aren't going to believe really aren't." She laughed as she stared up at him, mischief flashing in her eyes. "I'm pregnant."

Had she announced that evolution had been completely disproved he'd have been less surprised. "Wha...what? Are are you sure? How?" He babbled at her, stuttering.

"Well you see, Lee when an ovum, an egg if you will, and a sperm meet to create a zygote..."

"Marti! I don't need a biology lesson!"

"Lee, are you unhappy about this?" She searched his face, her own a picture of worry and hurt.

After Sophie had been born they'd made the decision to not have any more children. Marti had a tubal ligation and they never really thought anything more about it. It figured that 14 years later, they'd be one of those few couples that proved that a sure thing wasn't.

"I'm just...surprised, Marti. The odds-"

"Don't, Lee, don't quote statistics at me now." Marti's eyes shone with unshed tears. "Not now. I've been thinking about them for days now. The risks, the disadvantages, the increased chance of defects. I don't need to hear any more numbers right now."

"I love you, Beautiful. And the only statistic I want to share with you right now is that I am one hundred percent happy about this."


He had meant it; the idea of having another child actually appealed to him more than he ever thought it would. The fact that any hopes for a new child had been cut short two months later nearly devastated him as much as the loss of his wife. They never had told Sophie.

"Oh my god, Papa...oh god." Tears were running down Sophie's face as she sat with papers strewn across her lap. "Mom was pregnant. Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you guys tell me? Did you know?"

"Yes, I knew. Of course I knew. We didn't want to tell you until your mother had had some initial tests done. She had decided that she wouldn't continue the pregnancy if there were any serious birth defects and we weren't going to tell you until we knew for sure." He pulled Sophie into a tight embrace. "Baby don't do this to yourself. Put it away."

"You must think I'm the worst daughter on the planet. I'm sorry, Papa."

"Yes, you awful, willful terrible child. I'm planning to sell you off for medical research in the morning." Dubenko teased, trying his best to lighten the mood.

"You'll do anything for grant money, won't you?" Sophie smiled through her tears. "Papa, is there anything else in here that I don't know about?"

A pained expression crossed Dubenko's face briefly, but he knew his daughter had caught it. "Sophie, why are you so insistent on reliving all of this?"

"I want to know what happened. I need to know. I need to reconcile what's in my head and what's in this file. I need to know that they did everything they could to catch the evil monster that hurt her."

"My word isn't good enough?"

"I just need to, okay?" She insisted as she picked up the file again to continue reading.

Knowing what she would find amongst the details she was already familiar with Dubenko steeled himself for her reaction. When none came, he looked at Sophie curiously. "Soph?"

She closed the file and placed it back on the coffee table before turning to her father, "I love you Papa, and you are definitely up for the father of the year award in my long as you aren't really going to sell me off for research."

Deciding to leave well enough alone for time being, Dubenko humored her. "I'm thinking about it."

"It's because I broke that rooster in your office, isn't it?"

Lee Dubenko laughed as he hugged his daughter. "Absolutely not! You did me a favor getting rid of that hideous avian...thing."

"Papa, where did you get Chicken Little anyway?"

"Sophie, some of the staff members at County General have very odd ideas about what constitutes a Secret Santa gift."


Lee Dubenko hugged his daughter one last time at the airport security checkpoint. "Call me when you get home, Soph."

"I will, Papa." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you soon, I promise I'll be here for winter break this year. No excuses, okay?"

He gave her a lopsided smile and nodded. Dubenko watched Sophie make her way through security before turning to leave. The rest of her visit had been uneventful and quiet. They had spent some time at the lakefront and Sophie, intentionally mimicking her mother's behavior or not, had spent several afternoons happily cooking and filling his freezer with homemade meals. Dubenko couldn't help but smile to himself as he recalled part of the conversation from the prior evening.

"Remind me again why I am cleaning up your mess?" He teased his daughter while washing a sink full of dishes.

"In appreciation for my demonstration of amazing culinary skills, of course." Sophie grinned from her perch on top of the kitchen counter.

"Would you please get down from there? And just what kind of skill does it take to burn French toast to the bottom of a Teflon coated pan, anyway?" He flicked a wet hand in her direction, spraying her with droplets of soapy water.

"I like it up here, makes me feel tall. As for the French was uh, unintentional. Cut me some slack, it's the only thing I ruined all week."

"Mmm. Well at least when you do something, you don't do it in half measures. This is not coming off. What do you say we call it? Time of death 18:45." Dubenko looked at the kitchen clock as he dropped the ruined pan into the garbage as his daughter laughed.

"Mom would have kicked your butt for doing that." Sophie's expression was somber as she looked across the room at her father.

"She'd also kick my but for doing this," he went to the freezer, pulled out a carton of ice cream and hopped up on the counter next to Sophie. Dubenko plucked two spoons out of the dish drainer and handed one to her. "You're right, I do feel tall sitting up here."

It was nice to finally be able to talk about Marti and laugh, Dubenko mused as he pulled into the staff parking lot. It was even better to be able to do so with his daughter.


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