Series: Light, Water, Muses.
Category: Sequel to Reflections. Begins mid-2001, nearly two years later.
Pairings: Oh, you'll see. The couple you will be introduced to is my take on the old idea that opposites attract. And the two of them could hardly be more opposite...
Personal disclaimer: Zo Goldston, so briefly introduced in Reflections, is mine! Bwahahahahaha! 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 Xena-esque doctor named Mel Tairnghael has replaced him as head Attending.
Summary: Young Zo arrives in Chicago and an extremely far-reaching series of events is set in motion.
++ Zo ++
Tired was such an inadequate word.
Two thousand two hundred sixty nine miles, seventy-four hours, four cities and one family reunion later, I pulled my sorry, exhausted body from my truck and popped the vertebrae from ass to skull. "Never again," I murmured softly and willed my rubbery legs to head into my destination. "Never again…"
Consciousness returned slowly. I had vague memories of X's hospital and a harried staff of doctors and nurses and support personnel. X hugging me tight and grinning before setting me up on a lumpy couch in some ratty old lounge. Then an even more vague series of impressions of getting up, the achy sensation of being in the damn truck yet again, stairs and the exquisite bed I was currently sprawled boneless in. A jolt of adrenaline had me bolt upright in the bed. "Behbis!" For a heart-stopping moment I thought someone had left my poor baby in the truck to suffer before my hoarse cry was answered with a reassuring shriek. Still shaking with exhaustion and the blast of false energy, I stumbled over to pop the latch and gather up my best friend in the universe. "Yasoo Behbis, Mooleepsess. Fahghitoh?" (Hi baby boy, I missed you. Food?) That set my big boy squawking happily and flapping his wings with gusto. The blue and red macaw had never been an easy pet, but he had been well worth it. With Behbis happily perched on my shoulder and grooming my curls, I went in search of food.
Xavier had told me about this loft, but the reality of it had me blinking in surprise. It was huge! A massive textile factory in another life, there were still the footprints of massive machinery in the glossy cement floor that led out to great brick walls that soared a good three stories overhead. The roof was heavy beamed and flat with pipes and wiring artfully draping down to the living areas where I was. But the crown jewel was the entire wall of windows that made up one of the four walls of the loft. You could see the whole damn city from here! The individual panes, dozens and dozens of them, had to be bigger and probably heavier than I was. The room I had been sleeping in was a smaller edifice inside this massive space.
"Wow," I breathed and Behbis chuckled in my ear. Only… it wasn't Behbis. Whirling, I saw a smiling man exiting another of the smaller buildings. He was good-looking in a 'Backstreet-Boys-in-their-late-thirties' kinda way and smiled kindly.
"Amazing, isn't is? Well worth the investment. We didn't get a chance for introductions last night, I'm Bruce Campbell."
Nearly faint with relief, I strode over to shake hands with him. "Dohksta toh Theh-oh, stenohonmenee…" (Thanks be to God, I was worried…) Flushed with embarrassment, I grasped Bruce's outstretched hand and smiled weakly. "Sorry, I lapse into Greek sometimes when I'm tired or stressed."
His smile turned impossibly soft and gentle. "Since you're both, I can understand that. Let me feed you and the baby here."
Over French toast and fresh fruit Bruce told me how he had made friends with Xavier over drinks and really good sex. They had decided that they made better pals than fuck buddies and were quite happy with the arrangement. As though conjured up by the conversation mostly revolving around him, I heard the front door open and moments later X framed himself expertly in the kitchen archway. "Well good morning," he beamed and strode over to drop into the seat beside me. "You look much better."
"Another day of sleep and I might even feel human again. Has Mangas behaved?"
"Mostly. She misses you."
"I'll go get her right after I eat. I've had nothing but fast food except in Colorado Springs."
"That's okay, I'll get her and you can tell me how everybody's doing."
"Efharistoh (thank you)," I responded without thinking and flushed at their chuckles. "Thank you, X."
When news of my graduation had made the rounds, the barely hidden desperation to get the hell out of Los Angeles had gone with it. As much as I missed my sister desperately and would love to be near her, Colorado Springs was too small for me. At my heart I was a city girl and required a large stage. Then Xavier had offered to help get me settled into Chicago. The only place that would have been better was New York, but I wasn't up to that kind of competition yet. There was no contest as to which direction my life was taking at that moment.
"Feel better now that you're here?" Bruce questioned and the slow grin on my face probably spoke volumes.
++ Xavier ++
I'd met young Zo at Darya's wedding three months before and had found one of the best friends in my adult life. And that was a long-distance relationship! Having her here in Chicago was going to be a ton of fun. In my own loft just down the hall from Bruce's pad, I went to Mangas' cage and rummaged around for her furry body hiding inside it. "C'mon princess," I sighed. "Your mom's here." As though understanding me, Mangas didn't nip for once and let me collect her. Zo's delight was positively Christmasy when she saw her other pet.
"Mangas! Ellah dhoh!" (Come here!) Zo cried in delight and the wiggling ferret in my grip sprang to her owner. "Yasoo, sweetie."
I knew 'yasoo' from Darya using the informal Greek hello/goodbye for years and years. The rest of it was between woman and ferret.
"Was she too much trouble?"
Kindly not mentioning the teeth marks under the band-aid on my right hand, I grinned, "not at all. Picked her up from the airport yesterday morning and let the nurses coo over her all day. She was stressed and loving the attention all at the same time."
"I'll bet," Zo cackled. "Aggressive attention slut that you are, huh Mangas?"
The ferret just chattered imperiously at all of us.
A long nap with a bellyful of good food and my furred and feathered companions close enough to touch set me back to rights and out into the big room. Much more awake now, I could see the scattered pieces of art on the walls and an enormous fountain the size of a compact car. Oh, Mangas was gonna love that. The sun was just beginning to slant at odd angles across the space and I tracked the play of light and shadow without thinking. Right there, near the center of the room was where I needed to set up my place of sanity and salvation. A few halogens and warm yellow bulbs above that sweet spot and I'd be rarin' to go.
"So, do you like it?"
There had been nothing but warmth and humor flowing out from the same place as the voice, so I didn't even bother to turn as X stepped up beside me. "So, Bruce is cool with me putting a couple of easels up?"
"Are you kidding? He's dying to watch you work, hon. Don't you recognize that piece to the left of the fountain?"
Sure enough, it was one of the sunset pieces that I'd done after watching the evenings fade over the Ventura Mountains for weeks on end. "Sweet, I didn't know he had that."
"He doesn't like to fuss, you'll learn that about him. Shall we get your stuff unloaded?"
"Hell yes! I haven't so much as sketched in nearly a week!"
We horsed around and hauled my stuff up to Bruce's apartment until it was good and dark. I'd had years of practice in keeping my belongings manageable and my entire life fit inside of a truck shell and a small trailer. There was no real furniture, and almost everything was collapsible or served multiple functions, as I had a penchant for generally remaining unattached to material things. It added up to the ability to go where I wished with all that I owned like a turtle. If I could bear to part with the fancy ass futon mattress with matching wrought iron frame and the antique African-European chest, I could even ditch the trailer. But I loved the exquisite old hardwood carved into fanciful animals of that great continent, even if it was half the size of a twin bed. Especially the grand lions in bold relief, sleek lionesses streaking after impala and antelope and the great male in all his glory, nearly life-sized on the lid. There was a shadowy animal slinking along the bottom edge that I could only assume was a jackal or maybe a small hyena and I often stared at it when I needed inspiration. X too, was madly in love with the heavy box, confirming my visceral need to own it. Just last Thanksgiving I'd seen the massive trunk, tucked into the back of this funky little shop in Little Tokyo and felt as though I'd found a missing link to my soul. I loved it as much as the strange marble carving that I'd inherited after mom and dad had passed away. It was a winged horse, roughly coaxed from the pale block of stone, as though straining for its freedom. Stained with age, dad had insisted that it came form the old country and was very old. It made me feel connected to them somehow.
Relaxing with a cooler full of beer, X and I were sprawled out in lounge chairs on the roof. The suffocating heat was finally tapering off and I no longer felt like I was hiking through a jungle in a wet blanket. "Theh-mou! (My God!) This heat is horrid!"
Xavier chuckled as he relaxed beside me and pointed bare toes at the glittering skyline. There was an easy quiet between us, full of the promise of new beginnings. "So," X mused softly and I rolled my head over to eye his dim profile. "How's Darya? I spoke to her, but sometimes she's really hard to read, y'know?"
Memories of a couple of days ago flooded my mind's eye. It had been a bittersweet visit to Colorado Springs to see Art and her family there. So much had happened to them and they could tell me so little about it. The past two Christmases with them had given me a mad love affair with the whole damn gang of them. My niece and nephew in particular were amazing, sixteen months old and well on their way to being little geniuses. It was a bit intimidating if I was to be honest and I told X all about them. Since Janet was his oldest friend, he probably had heard it all, but I gushed anyway. Young Emily still took her job as the eldest of the youngsters very seriously.
"Sorry, I got caught up in the good stuff," I sighed as Xavier's original question resurfaced in my head. "She seemed more stable than I'd have thought in all honesty. Karen is really good for her, if the commitment ceremony hadn't been enough to prove that. Love and time has done the job of healing."
"But that one day a year."
"Yeah, that one day a year…" It was hard for me to verbalize my impression of Darya Farazell. "There aren't many people who can sense impressions the way I can," I mused and a glance assured me that Xavier was listening. "The way you know Darya can. Emotions and vibes like sight or sounds or smells across a part of the brain or soul neither of us can really understand. You and Janet and whoever this 'Legs' is and Em were the only ones that really understood that outside of her sister. Art tried with me, but I think only Fin ever really felt what it did to me. Art's a little banal for something as esoteric as being able to sense sometimes what people are thinking and feeling. Lot of the time I hardly believe it and I've been listening to it all my life."
How did I put it into words… even to this sensitive man who had known that woman I had so much in common with their entire adult lives?
"To find love with a soul like that and then have it torn away… I can't even imagine. To feel her pain in a way no one else can understand is a unique torture. What makes it all worth it is that precious rosebud of pure happiness that Emily and Karen give her. That blissful warmth gave her back her soul."
Xavier smiled softly, his heart in his eyes. "That's pretty much exactly what I hoped to hear. I'm really glad you were able to be there for her."
++ Xavier ++
As grateful as I was to Zo for her unparalleled understanding of my old pal, I knew she needed to have some fun. "You up to some partying tonight? Or should we put it off until tomorrow so that you can draw?" The look of indecision was quite humorous. "Just chill for now, the places I'm thinking of aren't going anywhere."
"Okay, you win. I just felt a mosquito, so why don't you tell me about whatever you care to while I sketch downstairs."
"So," I asked with a grin. "Did he love you?"
Zo chortled evilly and rubbed her hands together like a cartoon villainess. "Bwahahahaha, the job is mine! Mine, I tell you! Mine!" I laughed appreciatively at her humor and she flopped down onto the couch beside me. Five days of fun, sun and sleep had set her bouncy personality back to rights. "I start Monday on one of the south end routes. Looks like all that bike riding is paying off."
Drake was a buddy of mine that ran a messenger business in Cook County. Time sensitive documents were shuttled all over the area from everything to courtrooms to hospitals like mine. With Chicago's traffic, the nimble bicycles were actually faster most of the time.
"So now that you're gainfully employed," I teased lightly and she laughed.
"Yes, you mercenary, I can start buying the booze."
We'd spent our time together screwing around at clubs and local restaurants I'd come to love. While I worked, she sketched and made herself at home in Bruce's second room. Speak of the devil… here came the old lawyer now.
"Well this is a pleasant surprise," I crowed as he came in with briefcase and suit coat in hand. "You're early." Then the melancholy, worried expression registered and Zo and I both went to him. "Bruce, babe, what's wrong?"
"Grandam had a stroke," he sighed heavily and I winced. His irascible old granny had managed to alienate nearly the whole clan. Only Bruce seemed to be able to get close to her anymore, and he adored her.
"When do you need to go?"
"My flight's tonight. Do you think you can take care of this place, Zo?"
"Sure," she agreed immediately and hugged him tightly.
++ Kerry ++
It was impossible to miss her. The doors to the ambulance bay thumped open and a healthy young goddess with a bicycle perched lightly over her shoulder strode in like she owned the place. A quick glance around sent her to the desk where she chatted very friendly-like with Randi for a moment. A gesture in my direction should have warned me, but I was far too enraptured by this dark vision. I was helpless to turn away. She was tall and lanky with the build and fashion sense of a trackstar. There was a geometrical armband tattoo nestled between the fine muscles of her upper left arm, another on her right ankle. Like a panther in bicycling shoes, she stalked over to me with a smile that could light up New York. Behind me, I could practically hear Malucci drooling over this Mediterranean enchantress. Not that I was in much better shape. Up close, her eyes were the most amazing shade of tropical aquamarine, surrounded by a fine-featured face and an explosion of silky black curls that, even in a ponytail, hung halfway down her back. Something skittered up my spine like a bolt of static electricity or a sudden, sharp breeze on overheated skin.
Wow. I could feel the blaze of connection like I had never even imagined.
Those striking eyes flickered over my face, before dropping to the lab coat and her smile widened even further, if that were possible. "So you're Doctor Weaver."
Shaking off the paralysis this striking young thing had caused, I pulled my dignity around me like tattered armor. She had a low, smoky voice that was sexy as hell…
"And you are?" My voice was challenging and sharp, even to my own ears, but she never flickered.
"From Drake's Messenger service. You have a package for me?"
Of course she was here on business. No luck that I could just run into her somewhere and just maybe…
Shaking off that train of thought, I led the way back to my office and tried to ignore what just might have been a flirtatious sparkle in her eyes. It took a few moments of flustered paper shuffling before I found the documents that needed to be at the local courthouse by five. By then my hormones had calmed enough to face her.
Only to have my mouth dry and my pulse race. With an easy nonchalance, she was studying the various signs of my accomplishments framed on the wall and her strong profile was thrown into relief. But that's not what made me stare. It was the lazy hand stroking her flat belly where the snug t-shirt had ridden up. When those eyes shifted to the side and she grinned knowingly, I flushed and jerked my gaze away.
"Here," I ground hoarsely and thrust the sheaf of papers at her. Hopefully all the documentation was there or I was wasting perfectly good money on this woman's services. That thought made me flush even harder and trace her hands with my eyes as she took the papers and stashed them in her bag. This had to stop…
But I couldn't help myself from watching her cotton and spandex-clad body stride through the ER and back into the sultry July afternoon.
When things had gone so horribly wrong with Kim, I had given up on the base, visceral needs that were suddenly plaguing me now. I hadn't been able to completely get over what had happened, despite Xavier pushing at me in his almost playful way. I adored that man, but a legacy of denial and selfishness had left me too numb, too damaged. But something about that young woman had burned me. A hot, carnal burn. So I chalked it down to hormones and a mid-life crisis.
Hours and hours later, I was tired, cranky and desperate to get away from the sweltering ER. Beside me, Randi lit up and called out to someone walking in. "Hey! You're back from the trenches."
I froze when I recognized the low voice that returned the greeting. "Yep. Back and safe. Your friend at the courthouse had a message for you, Doctor Weaver."
Sure enough, it was the ocean-eyed bike messenger, looking tired and sweaty. She was holding out a slip of paper and I took it with a hand that I fully expected to shake. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome," she soothed softly and, as though sensing I wasn't up to conversation, she turned her attention back to Randi. "And Drake wanted me to tell you that he'll have a very personal thank you the next evening you've got off."
The suggestive comment made Randi laugh and smack the woman on the arm. "We'll just have to make sure we keep you employed then!"
"Good deal. Goodnight Randi, Doctor Weaver," she said and her voice gentled again when she said my name. Too startled by her empathy to resist, I looked up into those extraordinary eyes. There was a feral kindness to her that tugged at my fragile trust, and I smiled.
"Goodnight. Thanks for stopping by to see us."
It wasn't until after she was gone that I realized I didn't even know her name.
Over the next week and a half, I saw more of my Mediterranean goddess as messages were run around the city by her gangly 10-speed. To my amusement, she seemed to be good pals with Randi and, with a bit of charm and persistence, befriended Abby as well. It seemed that every time I would look over, her gaze would be resting on me. A quick flash of that dazzling smile and her attention would shift away again. God, she was a tease. As curious as I was, I couldn't bring myself to ask Randi what her name was and felt the separation of my position keenly.
It took a hot day like the bowels of hell, a fresh roast beef sandwich and an ice-cold cup of lemonade to finally coax my nervous fanny over. My Mediterranean goddess strode in wearing faded jeans and another of those thin, skin tight tank tops, arms full of paper bags and a tray of drinks. The look of relief on Abby's face was comical. "Thank God, lunch is finally here. May I?"
Nodding my permission, I watched the three of them converge in the lobby and rifle through the sacks. In a moment Randi held two wrapped subs in her hands and gave her pal a skeptical look. Laughter floated across the ER and I smiled. Then the aquamarine eyes flickered to me and I swallowed hard. "Doctor Weaver," she called in such a friendly tone that I found myself drawn over. "Seems like Randi here couldn't make up her mind and got me all confused. Would you like a roast beef sandwich with Swiss and bean sprouts?"
All three younger women let loose with peals of laughter as my face screwed up into a strange expression trying to decide if that sounded like a palatable combination. For an endless moment I basked in the inclusion to their little group before taking the sandwich and steeling myself to turn away. "Thanks," I murmured and was brought up short by the beautiful stranger's lazy comment.
"Ah, ah, Doc. You don't get the lemonade unless you join us. Who knows when you'll get a break again?"
Neither Abby nor Randi seemed fazed by her behavior and I felt myself drawn in by the thick condensation on the huge plastic cup and her teasing eyes…
At that memorable and casual first lunch in the ambulance bay, I finally learned her name. While they chatted away, I sat between Abby and my mystery woman and just listened. "Oh, please," Abby scoffed. "Malucci trips over himself every time something good looking and curvy walks in here. Boys."
"Yeah," Randi added with a bark of laughter. "So don't consider yourself special, Zo."
Zo, I repeated internally and tried not to grin like an idiot. An exotic name for an exotic girl. Oh, this was hopeless…