Series: Light, Water, Muses.
Category: Sequel to Reflections. Begins mid-2001, nearly two years later.
Personal disclaimer: Zo Goldston, so briefly introduced in Reflections, is mine! I hope you enjoy her and any other newcomers, as well as my version of Cook County General.
Disclaimer: “ER”, the characters and situations depicted are the property of Warner Bros. Television, Amblin Entertainment, Constant C Productions, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females.
Notes: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, mostly Greek.
Spoilers: There are references to events in ER season 7, but most of this tale is an, 'alternate universe' version of season 8.
Important note: Mark Green died with his first collapse in the ER back in December of 2000. A woman doctor named Mel Tairnghael has replaced him as head Attending.
Summary: Can Weaver handle being personal with her staff? Will Zo give her a choice?
++ Kerry ++>
Traditions could be a beautiful thing. They could also be a pain in the ass. Turns out the rumors of a weekly poker night at Zo's were true. No wonder Thursday nights had become such a valuable commodity at County. And I was losing one night a week with my wildcat. Oh, it wasn't Zo's fault, her gregarious nature was as integral to her as breathing, and it was my own insecurities that were scaring me so badly. My being here was a concession to the relationship that was still building slowly, but surely. The sex was explosive, no doubt there, but I found myself irresistibly drawn to this woman of high emotions and wild creativity. We couldn't have been more opposite in personality if I had actively been looking for just that. Those differences were mutually fascinating.
“Did you want this white wine out now?”
I'd offered to cook to try and distract me from the butterflies dancing madly in my stomach. I wasn't out at work, I never showed anything personal there. Even when John was living in my basement, I kept a careful distance. Now a handful of my nurses, maybe even Residents, were coming to my girlfriend's apartment and I was here. Talk about making a leap! Zo had spent nearly a week convincing me that it was going to be okay. She was in with the nurses, who adored her, and everyone knew that the nurses in a hospital were the ones that knew everything that was going on. Xavier was going to find this utterly hysterical…
Could I survive this with my sanity or my dignity intact?
Zo was adamant that the nurses had already figured us out. More than one not-so-subtle hint had left her with hands up, protesting that she couldn't say one way or the other. Despite her reassurances that it was more funny than annoying, I knew that Zo was becoming close friends with some of them and didn't like not being honest. The same damn situation I had been in with Kim those few short months ago. Was I strong enough to do it right this time?
A searing flash of pain yanked me out of my musings and I stared at the crimson blood suddenly trickling slowly from my left index finger. “Oh damn. Of all the stupid…” Blaring music drowned out my cursing and I was perversely glad for the reprieve of Zo witnessing my idiocy. Some doctor I was. It stung, but feeling in the sensitive pad was normal, so I surmised that I hadn't done any lasting damage. Hopefully there were butterfly sutures in the medicine cabinet and some gauze. No such luck. Just various riff-raff and some safe sex products that looked like they needed replacing. Maybe I could bring some by as a thank you to Bruce.
A grab from behind nearly made me throw an MI, but the growling bite on the neck made me giggle. “Hey sexy… you hurt yourself.” It came out playful, only to turn quietly serious. “You okay?”
It amazed me how practical she was sometimes. Twisting until I could catch her eye, I smiled weakly. “The nerves seem fine. Do you have something I can clean this up with?”
“Sure. Not in here, though. I haven't messed with anything of Bruce's.”
“So I see.”
A few minutes later, my cut was cleaned and dressed. Zo had quietly and competently played nurse, obeying me word for word. When I teased her about it, she just smiled faintly. Once I had dressed the messy but harmless cut, we headed back to the kitchen. A sudden thought occurred to me as I glanced over the covered easels. She glanced back at me curiously when I grabbed her arm. Automatically turning her body to mine, Zo's attention was focused. I was insufferably pleased with my effect on my normally scattered lover. Brushing my thumb over her lower lip, I just studied her for long moments until her gaze turned curious. “Why are none of your paintings up?”
That one caught her off guard. “Umm… I haven't been feeling very creative until a few weeks ago.”
“Oh?” A quick and aggressive kiss only distracted me for its duration. “What are you painting?”
“You'll see it when I'm done with it.”
“No buts. You'll be the first to see them, I promise. Now, can I kiss it and make it better?”
In a blatant attempt to distract me from both my pain as well as my curiosity, a quick kiss was only the beginning. It was a chaste peck on my damaged finger before she kissed her way over to the middle finger and drew the digit into the warm cavern of her mouth. Oh god…
It was a good thing I was sitting down or I probably would have collapsed as my body went hot and liquid. Between the gentle suction and her tongue and piercing tracing the shape of my finger, I thought I would combust. By the time she worked her way across my hand, ending with that same tongue and suction on my palm, I was ready to climax from that stimulation alone. At that moment the doorbell chimed out over the music. “Oh no, please…” I moaned pathetically and Zo chuckled. In one swift move, I was flat on my back being kissed like we would be separated forever in a matter of moments. One of those sensitive artist's hands was down my fly and coaxing me to climax before I could do more than squeak in response. It was like being hit by a freight train, swept away by a hurricane, smashed flat by a falling building. Crying out, the shocks rumbling through me like earthquake tremors, I stared into her smug eyes in utter astonishment. “Oh Zo… you're too good to me…”
“You're welcome. I'll get the door.”
And she was pulling away from me to bounce across the room. Only to pause in the doorway to flash me an incendiary look that made my BP pick up again. Especially when she raised her damp fingers to that wicked mouth and suckled them clean. Heat roared through me again and she scampered away with a loving cackle. This was going to be a long night…
++ Zo ++
Oh, that had been the best kind of wicked fun, and the look on her face! I felt guilty now for not allowing Kerry to watch me paint. It felt like a violation of trust, not allowing her that intimacy. Drying my fingers on the edge of my t-shirt, I flew across the apartment and threw open the door. “Hi guys! Sorry to keep you waiting, come on in.”
“So who's coming tonight?” Randi inquired with a mercenary gleam. Jail had taught the woman to be a very dangerous poker player. Being a military brat for a good chunk of my formative years also gave me an edge. Abby's past with addiction, coping and a strong backbone, brought her into the inner circle. The others were various levels of play that we tried not to be too rough on. I wondered what kind of player Kerry would be. The big, stupid grin on my face must have spoken volumes to my pals…
“I picked up a new brand of beer last night and some great cider the grocer recommended, Abby.”
“Thanks,” the short nurse smiled and studied the label of the cider Randi thrust into her hands. They quickly sniffed at whatever Kerry had been cooking and looked like they were thinking about drooling into it. In ten minutes flat we had the table set up to play on and munchies ready to go before sprawling out in the 'company nook' as Bruce called it. A collection of two overstuffed couches and a mountain of great pillows near the fountain, it was perfect for socializing. Randi and Abby were telling me about their respective days and sneaking peeks at the sheet-covered easels in the center of the room.
“All and all it's been pretty quiet lately.”
“Don't say that! You'll break the trend.”
“Superstitious, Randi?” The new voice in the conversation made us all glance over to see Kerry approaching with her awkward stride. There was an odd look on her face and a teasing tone in her voice. Was that frustration and determination I saw glinting her in shadowed gaze? A thrill ran through me. A thrill that turned to utter shock as she paced up to the couch I was sprawled on and plopped her small weight into my lap. Cuddling up under my chin, Kerry said, quite clearly, “thank you for helping with my finger,” and kissed my nose. It astonished and delighted me, this sudden public show of affection, even as she trembled lightly with stress and hid her face in my throat.
“You're welcome, hon. I just played nurse, no offense Abby.”
Startled by the actual reality of the relationship presented to them, both Abby and Randi ceased gawking as I gave them a fierce glare. 'Scare her off, and I kill you,' said my expression.
“None taken,” Abby deadpanned dryly and we chuckled. That broke the tension and Randi jumped in with a mother hen tone.
“Doctor K, what did you do?”
Clinging all the harder to me, Kerry gingerly raised her damaged finger and they fussed without getting physically near her. Good thing too, she was tense enough to explode. Then the doorbell rang again and Randi scrambled to get it, leaving me a moment to reassure my lover. The fine red hair was silky as I burrowed in to nuzzle her ear. “I'm proud of you,” I murmured, feather soft. Kerry's breath caught, almost a sob, and I stroked her back and head lovingly. “Should I send them home? I will you know. You're more important to me than this get together.”
“No. I need this. We need this, Zo. I ruined one relationship with cowardice. I won't do it again.”
++ John Carter ++
It had sounded like fun. Hang out with the nurses and play poker for the evening. I hadn't really played the game since college and wanted some R&R. So Lydia and I chatted amenably as we shared a cab to an old industrial section near Jackson Park that was showing signs of rebirth. Inside this great old building were vast loft apartments that truly impressed me. But all of it was forgotten as I witnessed Kerry Weaver curled up in Zo's lap. Wow. Never thought the old girl would have it in her for such a personal admission to her staff. Oh, we all knew why Zo kept hanging around, and it wasn't Randi and Abby! There was some great chemistry between the spunky young bike messenger and our irascible chief. The reality of it was still a bit of a shock though. When I had stared a little longer than Randi deemed appropriate, I was elbowed in the ribs. The movement was caught by Zo, who grinned and her expression was so infectious that we wandered over to join them.
“You ready to get the pants beat off you again, Lydia?” Zo chuckled and the older woman gave her a dangerously sweet smile.
“Bring it on kiddo.”
“Pleased to see you joining us, Doctor Carter.”
“Oh, call me John, please. I couldn't pass up the chance.”
“Something to drink?”
“Beer, wine, cider?”
“I got it,” Randi chimed in. “Hey Lydia, you wanna help me with this food?”
Abby scrambled after the older nurse and I stepped away to give the fretting Kerry some space. She was clinging to Zo like a drowning woman, sideways on the young woman's lap. Her face was lost in the inky curls, and the crutch leaning against the couch between Zo's knees. It was strange to see Kerry like this, vulnerable and shaken, but living in her basement had allowed me to see facets most had not. I watched one dusky hand stroke soothingly over the familiar red hair and gradually Kerry began to calm.
A cold bottle against my arm made me jump. Randi just grinned evilly and handed me the beer. “I'll take that,” she gestured at the couple. “As a yes.”
I just rolled my eyes. Good for Kerry, I hoped Zo could make her happy. While I drank, I kept half an eye on them without disturbing their interaction. Eventually, Kerry leaned back and gave Zo a quick kiss before climbing to her feet and putting the crutch in place. That routine I knew, had watched the movements many times after surgeries. Only then did my boss and once-landlord look at me. The nervous smile earned a warm one from me in return.
After that, the evening was warm and relaxed. Banter zinged around the table as chips changed hands.
“Being a doctor is overrated,” Abby tossed out casually and grinned at Kerry and I. “No offense.”
“Raise ya twenty,” Zo dared and tossed out her pennies as Abby's expression morphed into a scowl. They'd been dueling for ten minutes while carrying on the unrelated conversation that had spanned the entire evening. It had covered everything from President Bartlett's recent admission of illness to the media to the odd mating habits of eagles. And those were just the high points. The rest of us merely watched and/or participated with varying levels of amusement.
“There's nothing wrong with doctors,” Zo mused.
“Oh, what would you know about it,” Abby almost sniped and Zo gave a smile that riveted every eye in the place. There was something playful and mysterious about her. It was easy to see why she fascinated Kerry so much. And whatever she had to say, it was going to be zinger.
“Because I am one.”
The shocked silence was a palatable force, and no one looked more floored than Kerry. “You never mentioned that,” Randi said quietly and Zo shrugged.
“No one ever asked. And,” Zo's pause came with a sudden, desperate glance at Kerry. “I wasn't sure how to bring it up.”
“Guess there's a lot about you I don't know,” Kerry whispered softly and I felt like I was intruding on a very private moment. Clearing my throat to break up the tension, the focus of the room gratefully resettled onto me.
“What did you study?”
“Psychology with enough anthropology and fine art to nearly qualify for master's degrees. I just got it two months ago. I guess I've been working at it for so long that the reality of reaching that goal hasn't quite sunk in yet.”
“I remember that feeling,” I reminisced fondly. “I never even made it to graduation. The patients needed me more than I needed a ceremony.”
“I know how you feel. I bailed out of California the weekend after the committee approved my dissertation. I was desperate to get out and X asked me to come out here and hang for awhile.” A soft glance in Kerry's direction earned a pleased blush. “I'm glad I did.” We all kind of chuckled at that while Zo flushed lightly and studied her cards and Kerry got redder. After a moment's contemplation, Zo sighed melodramatically and tossed her cards down. “You win, I fold. All of the sudden this game doesn't seem quite so interesting anymore.”
Abby's grin was vaguely triumphant as she scooped up all the loose change piled on the table.
++ Kerry ++
Good lord but it had been a long night. There were dishes in the sink and a mess on the poker table. Usually I was compulsive about cleaning up, but tonight I was just too wiped out. John and Randi's hugs of farewell had totally caught me off guard. The rush of affection and warmth in my heart surprised me even more. So many years I had spent keeping everyone at arm's length, and yet… they were still willing to care about me. There was no sense behind it.
I liked it anyway.
Strong arms suddenly startled me from my thoughts, squeezing tight. “You survived,” Zo hummed lovingly and kissed my ear. “Feeling okay?”
“Mostly. I just never expected them to, well… like me. Much less be matter of fact about us.”
“Funny thing about acting like it's no big deal,” Zo soothed and turned me in her embrace to be hugged properly. “People start believing it. As for the other stuff, I think John and Randi have been looking for an excuse to like you all this time. Come to bed, lover. This mess can wait until morning.”
“Hmm,” was my careless reply. From day one, Zo's ability to read me was dead accurate. It was terrifying and grounding to have someone that intimate. With that enigmatic smile I knew so well, Zo swept me into her arms and took us to bed.
Consciousness came to me slowly and I rolled over with a soft moan. Only to find the bed empty. “Zo?” I questioned softly. There was no answer, but light glowed in the door, left open a crack. A glance at the clock made me wince. It was almost three am. The floor fan hummed quietly as I crept from the bed and grabbed the crutch. There was no explanation to the sudden need to find her, except that I had a feeling… and a sudden need to see.
To see her paint.
In our time together, the easels had always been covered. Silent. When I had questioned Zo about her art, she had shrugged and explained calmly, “the muses come and go. Just be patient when they do visit. I get a little obsessed.”
I think I knew what she meant. There were times that I would get so caught up in my work that everything else ceased to matter. Was that what it was like for her too? As I slunk down the hallway, I found myself holding my breath in anticipation.
Zo did not disappoint.
In the time I had known my young lover, I sensed that I was only seeing part of her. There was an almost dangerous intensity just beneath the surface, like the protruding tip of a vast iceberg. There was so much she held inside, shrugged off or explained matter-of-factly when I asked questions. Being a normally private person myself, I had never pried very hard.
But I had never expected this.
Like a barely restrained hurricane, like she was going to split right out of her skin, eyes blazing like a firestorm, she was captivating. Stark naked and damp with sweat, she glowered at the flat surface as though willing something from it. A long brush was clenched in one hand, a colorful palette in the other. They were brandished like sword and shield to make the painting submit. Her profile was set into stark lines of stress and concentration. Part of me wanted to go to her, soothe her, as she had done for me so often. But I stayed where I was, knowing that there was nothing I could do until she called for me.
Feinting in like a fencer, Zo lay down a streak of color before retreating to study her opponent again. It was a beautiful dance, fluid and intense. Then suddenly, she relaxed and calmness settled. She stepped up to the canvas and began to paint in earnest. It was poetry to watch her hands sweep about and I couldn't even see the painting yet.
But one of the three was facing me and I finally found myself studying it. Beneath the glaring spotlights were wild slashes of color across the great, white surface. Dark and light, they began to tell me a tale.
Vague at first. Fractured. Like someone stammering out an explanation. Violent reds, streams of calming blue and green, purples of grief, yellows of hope, oranges of pain. I knew what this was and could not contain a gasp of astonishment.
It was the ER.
There in stylized pattern and hue, was the daily war my troops fought against pain and death. Zo's eyes were suddenly on me like a physical touch, burning in their intensity. I felt like an intruder into something intensely private. The moment stretched out into an eternity before she reached up to tug loose the wireless headphones I hadn't noticed among her curls.
“Come here, Kerry,” she whispered in a tone both exhausted and commanding. I couldn't have resisted if the thought had even occurred to me. The piece she had been working on froze me in my tracks.
It was me.
But it was more than a little scary to see the intimate portrayal.
There was a figure sleeping softly on a surface of golden light. Serene and angelic, she was alluring and vulnerable beneath the gauzy sheet that teased to the unseen. Then my eye was drawn to the figure standing behind the sleeping angel. Half lost to clinging shadows, she was angular and dark. There was a cold ferociousness to her, like a skulking predator. The dim white of her clothing was misleading, for it was merely armor to resist the pull of the sleeping angel.
Shocked and shaken by the tableau, I looked up into Zo's burning gaze.
“Is that… me?”
“A study in contrasts,” she replied sagely, her voice rough with emotions. Accurate and disturbing in its portrayal, the painting drew my eye back to study the two faces of me. Now I could see that the two figures bled mistily together like dual dream images. “It's not done,” Zo explained distantly and shifted the paintbrush to her other hand in order to rake fingers through her curls. “But you can see what I'm getting at. The first time I looked into your eyes, I knew that you would inspire something magnificent. And so you did.”
And it was indeed magnificent. It was also disturbing and inspirational, which was its power. Forcing myself to turning away from the intoxicating tableau, I again met her eyes. Now broken from her creative trance, Zo looked tired and drawn. So I reached out to her in the only way I knew how in that moment.
Those coveted curls were thick and soft in my hands as I drew her to me. Breathing out my adoration and awe, I kissed her softly. A healing kiss, a call home. There was a long, breathless pause before she melted into my small strength with a rough breath out, like she had been holding something in for a very long time.
“Come to bed, love,” I coaxed ever so gently and with a limp nod, Zo mechanically put away the tools of her trade. Both of us gave the paintings a long, last look before walking away without a backwards glance. In the bedroom, she collapsed onto the sheets to stare blankly at the low ceiling. That was a damn good signal that I needed to do something. The little bottle of gold oil on the bed stand was my answer.
When my small weight settled across Zo's hipbones, her attention focused enough to acknowledge me. There was even a sparkle of interest when the oil fell in a stream from the bottle to my cupped hand. Tight belly muscles jumped at my touch and I soothed them tenderly. In moments, I was lost in the diamond of flesh between ribs and hips. Only when Zo moaned in growing relaxation did I move on to the corrugated pattern of ribs, relishing the strong, slow breaths. It was so rare that I could touch a healthy body, one that didn't flinch away from my probing touch. It was healing for us both.
I worked higher, lost in my task. Pressing into the sides of her breasts, I kneaded the hidden pectorals and Zo moaned. Relief, pain or pleasure, I couldn't tell. My hands swept over collarbones, shoulders and throat. Watching my hands, I was reminded of Zo at the canvas, her hands creating those magnificent paintings. There was moisture clinging to her inky lashes and it earned a soft smile. Gently trailing the tip of my tongue over the stiff little hairs, drawing the salty moisture into myself, I knew that I had earned these symbols of emotion and it moved me deeply. Without speaking, I levered myself up onto my good leg and tugged at her to roll over. Boneless, Zo complied. Now I lingered even more over her long back and pressed ever-so-gently at the deep hollow of her spine. Past her narrow waist was the best part, for Zo's lower body was strong and fit from bicycling constantly. I shifted down to knead the powerful glutes, thighs and calves. The moaning was constant now, in accompaniment to my ministrations and I relished every note. Eventually, I was happily perched at her feet and caressed heel, arch and toes.
My own tiredness broke through the sensual haze of our night and I yawned expansively. There was time enough before my shift to sleep again. Capping off the oil and clicking off the bedside lamp, I snuggled into Zo and kissed her shoulder. “They're magnificent,” I whispered thickly into her hair and she twitched lightly in her sleep. “Like you.”
++ Zo ++
Like a pull at my very soul, the wet pressure drew me from sleep. “Gahmatoh,(fuck)” rumbled up from deep within as my body stretched and flexed. Nerves from knees to neck hummed as Kerry ceased her ministrations to kiss her way up my torso. That wicked mouth pulled at belly, breast, throat and chin, the sensations sparking through me like wildfire. Butterfly kisses at the corner of my mouth and the brush of her baby-fine hair on my face signaled the end of her journey. There was no reason to restrain my wilder impulses and I nipped possessively at her lower lip.
“If you leave me like this,” I said dryly. “I will have to kill you.”
Kerry's delighted laughter at last made me open my eyes to take her in. It was so good to see her happy and the last of my stress bled away. In one quick motion, I had pinned her to the bed, noses touching.
“Thank you Kerry,” I whispered with all the feelings in my heart. Oh, I'd liked Kerry from day one, but I could fall head-over-heels for the gentle woman from the night before.
“For what?” Was the soft reply.
“For understanding what that takes out of me. For your strength and your gentleness and your jarring contradictions. Just… thank you.”
Ah, that admission had brought tears to her eyes, good sign, and the blending of our lips felt more like souls touching. Our lovemaking shifted from intense to playful and Kerry was left scrambling for the shower in order to make it to the hospital by eight. Chuckling, I sprawled out among the tangled bedding and enjoyed the pleasant lethargy left by our romping. I had the day off and was planning on spending it with my projects. Over the years I had learned that painting in darkness always wrung me out emotionally. It was also my best work by far. There was something primal and compelling about the night and that came across on the canvass. The finishing details could be done in daylight, but the heart of my paintings was darkness.
The third canvass was essentially a duplicate of the ER piece. There was a woman doctor in New York who loved my work and this one was going to knock her flat. It was a big piece, five by three, while the original was the biggest thing I'd ever done. The seven by five size had allowed me a freedom of detail that would let Kerry's staff recognize themselves in the stylized figures. I hoped it wouldn't upset anybody, the hazy images of those who had died or left the hospital behind. After listening to the nurses talk so much about Doug Ross, Carol Hathaway, Mark Greene, Lucy Knight, Elizabeth Corday… I felt like I almost knew them. So they too held a place in my tribute to Cook County General Hospital. Turning away from the ghosts, I went to the dual Kerry. It was my comfy old size of three by two, enough to get in plenty of detail without overwhelming the viewer in a smaller space. I liked naming my work, it was one of the perks of being an artist, and this one had come to me with observation and a tidbit of information about my lover.