Category: Sequel to Reflections.
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.
Summary: The season grows cold, but the relationships don't!
++ Zo ++
Tarzan had come through for me and I'd been dancing at Creature Comforts for nearly three weeks. I loved the attention and the glorious sensation of bass and body in tandem. While the regular stable of dancers had been wary of my addition to their elite cadre, I had won them all over. Except Silver. I still had no clue how to warm her up. Ah well, good things come to those who are patient!
Other than that, I couldn't be happier! My buddies were close by, my lover had made me ecstatic to be twenty-seven just yesterday, and the party in my loft was hoppin'! So, why couldn't I shake the faint wisp of dread that had been plaguing me for two months? While I was positive it had nothing directly to do with me, it still wouldn't leave me alone. Once more shrugging off the creepy sensation, I dove into my night with abandon. “Abs!” Chuckling, Abby let me scoop her into a bear hug that left her feet dangling and planted a wet kiss on her. “Happy anniversary!” Those that could get away from County this night, toasted the two of us as Abby rolled her eyes mockingly and returned my hug.
“Happy birthday, Zoey. I'll tell you one thing, it feels like longer than a year I've been in that ER.” Her dry tone earned laughter and I set her back on the floor.
Bruce's grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and he had decided to stay with her. Nostalgia for his childhood territory had certainly played a role! Just about a week ago, I had become the official leasee of the magnificent loft I now considered home. With Elizabeth taking on a hefty chunk of the money needed to keep the place paid for and updated on its utilities, I could concentrate on painting.
So, now I had the best damn place in the world to live, a decent day job, and a lover that was ideally suited to my strengths and weaknesses. Life was good.
++ Susan ++
God, I felt like such an idiot. Nothing like being totally clueless to make a woman wish the ground would just open up and swallow her up. Argh! I really had been gone a long time. The sound of the key in the lock barely broke the haze of self-recriminations and whisky. “You looked wiped,” Maggie noted as she dropped her coat and bag over a chair and headed for the kitchen. Listening to Carter tell me about what had gone wrong in his life chilled me. All day I had been like a walking zombie. It drove home how much County had changed and yet how much it had remained the same. Something shoved under my nose startled me out of my foggy day-dreaming. “Eat something,” Maggie said simply and flopped into her beat up old lounge chair. It was sweet-smelling kettle corn, the faint aroma of warm goodness still clinging to the fluffy mass. Instantly, my taste buds were flooding and I went for a handful. Clicking on the TV, Maggie went channel surfing while I calmed my hungry belly.
“This was perfect,” I hummed happily as I plowed through the popcorn. “How did you find this?”
“I got my ways,” Maggie smirked, but the expression didn't travel far.
For long moments my new roomie ignored me. She had been surprisingly easy to live with these couple of weeks and I was pretty certain that we were a good match. A good room mate was harder to find than an ideal lover, so I was hoping like hell. Something was troubling her and I wanted to be a friend, so I waited until she was ready to talk, my own problems forgotten for the moment.
“You ever been attracted to the wrong person?” Maggie's voice was soft and uncomfortable and she gripped the remote as though it was a life-raft.
“Mags, I am the queen of bad attractions,” I snorted. “Well, Abby ties me in that department, but the point remains the same. Someone caught your eye?”
Oh yeah, even if she denied it at this point, she was squirming like a guilty four-year-old. Long moments ticked by with only Jeff Corwin keeping us company on the TV. “I keep... I keep getting sparks,” Maggie ground out like the words physically hurt her to say them. “And chemistry and shit... but I hate her. This is some kind of karmic retribution for somethin' horrible I musta done when I was a kid. I don't even like her! Pompous, hard-headed, chicken shit…” She was ranting like a madwoman, voice hard and tense, eyes glued sightlessly on the TV. “It's stupid.” She finally pouted like an angry child and I had to repress a smile at the picture. Tough Maggie Doyle, bottom lip stuck out and eyebrows furrowed with emotion. If she stomped her foot, I was going to die laughing...
“So, you've got sparks with someone you can't stand? Hmmm. Makes for some wild chemistry, but it's easy to get burned.” It sounded so wise, and I had no clue where it came from. When Maggie flashed me a 'duh' look, I shrugged sheepishly. “Well, it's true.”
“Aw, Suze,” she groused and scrubbed both hands over her face before disarraying her hair and sighing heavily. “It was a good thing to say. It's just... complicated.”
Maggie and I had been spending a lot of time together since my return from Arizona. If this mysterious 'somebody' was under her skin this bad, I should know who. Hesitantly, I had to ask, “it's not me, is it?”
That earned me a dirty look that filled me with relief. I playfully defended myself from the pillow she chucked at me and grinned at her amused growl. “No! Dork...”
“Then who? We've done little more than work since I got back. What? One of the cute little nurses catch your eye?” My sing-song mocking earned another pillow before Maggie resumed brooding.
“No. Not that there aren't some attractive nurses this round, but... no.”
“Because that might be why you refuse to take me back to that great bar.”
“Frick,” Maggie tried to growl threateningly, but her smile was irrepressible. “I won't take you back to that bar, straight girl, because you cramp my style. How am I gonna find any love with women thinking we're together?”
We finally laughed together over that one and the mood was considerably lightened. I still wondered who she was talking about even as the subject appeared dropped for the moment. Maggie had a case of hero worship for Kerry that could be puppy love, but I knew that Maggie was smarter than that. You'd have to be blind, stupid and possibly dead to miss the bond between Kerry and Zo. No one would be muscling in on that anytime soon. I would have noticed Maggie throwing sparks with anyone on the ER staff... So someone else in the hospital. Joan in Obs? Naw, the personalities wouldn't click. Maggie would be attracted to someone strong and fiery, someone who would push her buttons and spar with her. Someone... someone like Elizabeth.
“What exactly happened between you and Elizabeth?”
A sharp look laced with fear confirmed quite a few suspicions, but I wanted to hear exactly what Maggie would confess. She was so uncomfortable, hunched into herself as though scared, or cold. “I put a sexual harassment suit against Romano. Kerry was gonna back me up, so was Elizabeth, but she bailed out at the last second and I looked like an idiot and left in a huff. No explanation, no remorse, nothin'. She looked uncomfortable and guilty. I was, am, so pissed that I can't think clearly.”
“And now you're attracted to her,” I stated bluntly. After a long moment, Maggie nodded stiffly. Damn...
++ Kerry ++
“Of all the boneheaded, asinine, dangerous stunts!” I was half out of my mind with worry and railing at my young med student. Michael Gallant looked both ashamed and proud of himself. I wanted to strangle him. “Going into the field, first of all! With an OB doctor! And then performing a c-section in the back of a crashed van with live power lines draped over it in the pouring rain!?! Are you out of your mind?”
“I take full responsibility, Kerry,” Joan's calm voice broke into my rant and Gallant looked relieved. “I drafted him. There was no one else and he did a great job.”
Rounding on the toweringly tall woman, I laid into her even harder than Gallant. “Oh, there was no doubt in my mind that this was all your fault. Jesus Joan! What were you thinking?”
“They were both going to die Kerry. I'll be damned if I was going to let that happen.”
Her quiet conviction finally broke through my stress and I sighed heavily. “Romano is going to let you hang out to dry.”
“Well that all depends on how this little soap opera pans out,” Robert's voice rang down the hallway as he made a dramatic entrance to collect the mother for surgery. “Now Kerry, never assume, it makes an ass of you and me. Well, Golfino, if she survives, you're a hero.” Shoving the gurney towards the elevators, Robert fired off his parting shot. “If she dies, I don't know you.”
Joan rolled her eyes expressively at the little man's antics, but her worry was still apparent. “Happy Holidays to you too, Mr. Grinch. I'm going to check up on the infant. You coming Michael?”
There was little more I could say or do and waved Michael off to enjoy being the hero for that baby.
++ Joan ++
I hated to admit it, but Kerry's shrill, angry worry had rattled me. Even after a week, I still felt rattled and off-balance. Romano dogging my every move attributed to the feeling. Both mother and child had survived my risky decision and I was happy to have both earned and spent the karma.
But I still couldn't shake the feeling that I had cut it too close.
Worse, I may have inadvertently encouraged young Michael into a superman complex. That would be disastrous! Thankfully, while he was still jazzed about the close save, he was wisely staying calm and discrete. Kerry was lucky to have him. The harder I worked, the more it would encourage him to do the same. So I threw myself into my work like a woman possessed.
Working like a dog didn't take the edge off the adrenaline, but it tried. A demanding hand on my arm broke through the haze and I blinked wearily into Kerry's sharp green gaze. “You,” she said in a voice both gentle and demanding. “Are coming with me. And no arguments either. Get your stuff and be down here in five minutes.”
For some reason, I didn't argue, but found myself placidly following orders. Once back in the ER, I was imperiously led outside and crammed into a luxurious four-door by and grim and determined Kerry Weaver. For long minutes we drove in silence, and I let my gaze wander over snow, pedestrian and traffic. Always a deadly combination. And in summer, there were tourists and heat stroke. Amazing that humanity hadn't wiped itself out yet...
“Joan,” Kerry said calmly in a voice so low I could only just hear her. “I appreciate how hard you've been working, but running yourself ragged isn't going to benefit anyone in the long run.”
She was right, of course, but I sighed heavily anyway. “I just want to make sure that Michael doesn't get the wrong idea.”
“Work ethics, for one. And that save was a lucky break and I don't want him trying something insanely risky like that.”
“Do as I say, not as I do?” It took me a long moment to recognize the wry humor in Kerry's voice. When I finally looked at the woman, she was smirking. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Well, the good news is that you've terrified the boy and he'll play if by the book from now on. I've been hovering over him like a thunderstorm for almost a week now. He won't forget this whole thing very quickly. At least you didn't do this before Malucci left.”
There was an odd tone to Kerry's voice and I wondered at the accuracy of the rumor mill. Dave Malucci had supposedly said some very mean, hurtful things to her and her tone seemed to confirm that. “That little prick was a waste of skin,” I scoffed and was relieved and upset at her startled and grateful glance. There was a long pause then, a bit of discomfort mixed in with a growing rapport. I had half-befriended Kerry and wouldn't mind deepening the bond. Hell, if not for young Zo, I'd have made a play for the spunky red-head myself. “So, I take it I'm being absconded to the poker game? Since it's Thursday and all.”
“Yep. It's about time you got drafted in. The regulars will love having you there.”
“Don't be coy with me, Golfino,” Kerry's voice might be dry, but her smile was downright wicked. “The poker crew will slobber all over your presence. And don't give me that faintly taken aback eyebrow. You'll love being the center of attention. And, if you don't...” The pause made me start to worry, as I was well awake that Kerry Weaver was quite capable of being devious. “It will be a perfect revenge for scaring the hell out of me a week ago.”
I was doomed.
++ Sandy Lopez ++
She was a goddess. A long-legged, flashing-eyed goddess and I was riveted to the spot.
Then our eyes met and I suddenly knew why wars were started for women like this. She even had a deep, throaty voice that carried warmly as she greeted Maggie, who seemed delighted to see the Amazon. “Doc Golfino, nice to see you. Finally got drafted, huh?”
“Call me Joan, Maggie. And prepare to have your ass whipped.”
“Ooo, scary,” Maggie sing-songed and headed for the table with her munchies stash. “I'll believe it when I see it.” flopping down beside me, Maggie whispered in an amused tone, “quit drooling, Lopez.”
That made me snap my mouth shut and return my attention to my beer. But I was far too aware of Doctor Joan and my game sucked. Not to mention that my bantering skills were non-existent tonight. Those dark eyes were like a physical presence on me, even if every time I looked, her attention seemed elsewhere. The silent dance between us was exhilarating if not exhausting. I couldn't care less about the cards, but stayed for her quiet presence.
What did I say to her? I was never this nervous around women I was attracted to, never! But there was something about her towering presence that drew me like gravity. And intimidated me like a firestorm.
++ Joan ++
I was aware of her eyes on me all night. Sultry, dark like jungle moonlight and hotter than the sun, her gaze was a predator and I was breathless. Normally such intensity was intimidating or irritating, but something about the petite firefighter drew me to her. It was as though we knew one another and were drawn to the strange familiarity. I was dimly aware of the other's amusement at our silent dance, the shy meeting and ducking away of eyes. Frankly, I didn't give a damn. Not even when Maggie smugly beat me out of my twenty dollar pot.
Sandy Lopez simmered like chili on a hot summer afternoon down south. Sweltering promise of sex and fire danced in her earthy gaze, and that mouth could do things to a girl. There was too much energy in her tiny frame. It was almost a shock that I towered over her, because she took up so much more space than just her physical presence. No wonder Zo had befriended her, they were birds of a feather, dark and sensually energetic. That made me think of the dazedly pleased expression that had lingered in Kerry's eyes for months from the attentions of her young lover. Seeing that look in Sandy's eyes made me wet and breathless.
I had been wounded and alone for far to long, aging well past my years inside. In a handful of hours beneath the subtle attentions of this welcome stranger, I was coming back to life.
After that realization, it was easy to ask her out, grinning with pleasure at her delight. The future looked bright.