Series: Light, Water, Muses.
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: Kerry pays for past mistakes and several old friends get a second chance at Cook County.
++ Kerry ++
I'd let Malucci get away with it again. The immature little creep had survived another mistake. And Chen had let another patient die that should have walked out of this godforsaken place.
I was starting to hate Thursdays. It seemed like everything came down the pipe on Thursdays. Chen was getting jumpy from my hovering, but I was too paranoid at her incompetence to back off. Why did it keep happening to her? Why couldn't anyone see that she was a ticking time bomb of death? But, even as I internally lambasted her, I could still see my pager sitting on the shelf of the women's stall at Magoo's.
I hadn't let Zo comfort me the night that young man had died and, much to my shock, she hadn't pushed me. It wasn't like her to cave so easily to that wounded animal inside me that was so afraid to trust and the implied rejection hurt like a deep bruise.
Then I remembered all the hateful things that Malucci had said to me. Catching him fooling around with that paramedic in the back of an ambulance for God's sake had been the absolute last straw. Listening to him arrogantly justify himself with, “what? I'm on break,” had made me want to beat him senseless rather than fire him. Angry and whining, he'd begged me not to do it, pleaded with an angry and stone-faced Mel, created a scene right there at the admit desk that had humiliated all of us. Then he'd said…
The door to Zo's apartment clicked open and I was overwhelmed at the wash of smooth music and good food smells that washed over me. It felt like home and yet inspired such fear in me. Then those burning eyes met mine and I cringed away from the intensity. There was a long, breathless eternity that passed while she stared into my wounded soul. Then, with deliberate care, Zo dropped her paintbrush into its can, set aside the palate and strode towards me. I was trapped by her, by my need for her, by the beast that dreamed me, that needed her as I need air and sustenance. Peeling off her paint-spattered shirt, Zo unceremoniously knocked aside my crutch, crushed me to her strong body, and kissed me until there was nothing else in the universe but her.
++ Liz ++
Once the medical textbook had grown weary, I reached over to shut off the little radio playing softly on the nightstand. And froze. Low sounds of pure abandonment teased through the air in Kerry's unmistakable timbre. It was a delightful croon that wavered in bursts along a two-octave scale like a well-tuned engine. There was no mistaking her climax, the sobbing groan making every hair on my body stand up to attention. Covered in goosebumps, I could only stare fixedly at the wall and try and process. The fact that I had heard them fooling around was hardy earth shattering. It wasn't the first time I'd overheard an amorous couple, and probably not the last. What shocked me so utterly was that I was panting, nipples hard, groin-achingly turned on. All brought about by the sounds of the sensual surrender of Kerry Weaver.
Too shocked to process, I could only stare at the wall in astonishment until at last weary darkness closed in around me.
In the weeks I had been living with Zo, there had been little concrete proof of her relationship with Kerry. Except on the sleepy-eyed mornings when Zo would send us MD's off with thermoses of coffee, a light breakfast and a warm kiss for the redhead. Occasionally, I'd caught them cuddling or giggling like young lovers, but only seen them really kissing once. Kerry would blush every time at me catching them cuddling and Zo would roll her eyes tolerantly. It wasn't like everyone didn't know, but Kerry was obviously jumpy about public displays of affection. I always treated stumbling across them like it was no big deal. Because, in truth, it wasn't a big deal at all. Slowly, but surely, Kerry had begun to relax and I didn't want to lose that.
I didn't tell them that next morning, that they had proven that they were lovers in every sense of the word. Guilt grappled with fascination and a blossoming voyeuristic streak that I had never known before.
It had taken a little desperate self-counseling that morning in the shower, but I had finally convinced my mind and hormones to knock it off. So this morning had been pleasant and normal… except that I knew I would never look at Kerry the same way again. In all the years I had known the woman, I had never acknowledged that she was attractive. Possibly even desirable. Zo had always seen that, despite the prickly exterior. A sharp glance at the painter earned me a curious look and, quickly averting my guilty gaze, I was ensnared by Kerry's smoky green eyes. Now I knew what a deer in headlights must feel like. Panicking, I grasped for something to say, dignity and manners in tatters around me.
“You're beautiful, did you realize that?” I blurted out and the shock was comical on her features. “I suppose it sounds odd coming from me, but everyone ought to be complimented on occasion, right?”
My voice had come out squeaky and nervous, even to my own ears. Thank whatever deities watched over fools that Zo came to my rescue by striding over and tilting the small woman's head back with a gentle hand. “See, Mahtia mou? It's not just me.”
Wide-eyed and vulnerable from the praise, Kerry stared intently into the soft blue eyes. After an intense moment, she made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a strangled sob and Zo dropped to her knees to gather her into strong arms. I received a sharp, thankful blue-eyed glare that warned me that my budding feelings had not gone unnoticed. Humiliated and self-conscious, I studied my breakfast intently to give them some small measure of privacy.
“You are beautiful,” Zo whispered softly, fiercely. Tears gathered in my eyes when Kerry whimpered like a frightened animal. What must it be like, to be so unsure in some ways and so frighteningly strong in others? “Whine about it all you want,” Zo chuckled lovingly. “But you are.”
There was a wordless sound of objection, the rustle of clothes and the soft sounds of kissing. Finally, I couldn't stand it and raised my gaze to catch the tail end of the embrace. Kerry was clinging tightly to Zo's neck, bodies pressed closely together, their coloring a feast for the eyes while they kissed. “Now, remember that two people told you that you're beautiful today and that ought to make your day go fast.” A last quick kiss to punctuate her speech and Zo flashed me a smile. “Thanks Lizzie.”
“My pleasure,” I grinned back nervously.
There was a final, long kiss at the door that I watched shamelessly. It wasn't until Kerry's soft sounds began to take on the pitches I knew from eavesdropping, that Zo let her go. “You two have a good day.”
The car ride had been excruciating. Only minutes from the hospital, Kerry had shyly asked if I had meant what I said. Firmly, I had assured her that I had, indeed, meant it. Her bashful grin earned an idiotic grin in response.
++ Maggie Doyle ++
“Alcoholism is starting to look appealing,” I groused irritably at my fat old tabby cat, but he only purred back lovingly. “Yeah, I know old man,” chuckled up from deep in my chest as I tugged his comforting weight into my lap. “As long as you get fed, the world is all good, right?”
“Mmrrrow,” Leo affirmed and snuggled in to nap. Despite his undying affection, I was terrified by the turn my life had taken. I was a product of Mercy, shut down all those years ago, and had grown to love County and the people there. Then that bastard, Romano, had pushed me too hard, his insults and insinuations as grating as shearing metal. Even now my temper rumbled like an angry dog at the memories. Then there'd been Mount Sinai…
The phone shrilled suddenly and I looked at my half-empty beer as though asking it if I should pick up. But I was slowly starving to death with no job and was hoping it was work. “Hello.”
Shock radiated down my spine as I recognized the voice and sent adrenaline rushing through my veins. “Doctor Weaver?”
“Hi,” she said with obvious nervousness and I sat up to pay closer attention.
“Hey,” I replied lamely.
“So…um how's Sinai?”
This was too surreal… Kerry Weaver was on my phone, asking me about my job, with her voice pained with stress. I'd liked working with the woman and would have stayed put if not for that intolerable weasel of a chief of staff.
“I left months ago,” I admitted bluntly and there was a long pause.
“Really?” Was that relief, maybe hope, in her tone? “Can I beg you to come back to County?”
Well, this conversation was getting more startling by the sentence. “Come back?” I repeated idiotically.
“Oh Maggie, I know you loathe Romano, but I'm desperate to get someone onboard that I don't have to wonder about their competence and reliability.” It was a hell of a compliment. Kerry rambled on as though my silence was a prelude to refusal. “If it's only been a few months, I'll take you on as an Attending, unless something awful happened, and I'll do my damnest to keep Romano away from you, I swear.”
Attending? Someone would finally offer me that honor? It was one of the things that had finally just pissed me off at snobby old Sinai, their refusal to promote me when I had the backing of my coworkers and immediate supervisors. “You'd make me an Attending?”
“Is there any reason I shouldn't?”
“No, I left Sinai because I was so damn sick of being overlooked and under appreciated.”
“I'll make it better or die trying.”
Well, Romano or no Romano, there was really only one response to that.
“When can I meet up with you?”
It had been an ugly day. A truly ugly and brutal day. And I had been so damn tempted to let that spoiled little shit take the blame she so richly deserved. But in the end I knew that if I didn't acknowledge my small part, I'd have a difficult time looking myself in the eye. Not to mention Zo. There had been brutal repercussions from that patient dying while I'd been off talking to the private investigator that was looking for my birth mother. Those long minutes were all it took to take that young man's life. Carelessness and stress had screwed up Chen and Malucci's diagnosis and they had again come crying for me. Whose stupid idea had it been to make that girl Chief Resident? By the time Carter had entered the scene it was too late. All he'd been able to do was run to retrieve me and hope for a miracle. All I could do was pronounce the patient dead.
And today had been about repercussions. In the end, Robert hadn't been interested in whose fault it was. He merely needed someone to take the fall. There had been long moments where I'd wanted so badly to leave Chen twisting in the wind, but something stopped me. And here I was on two weeks suspension and three months probation. That humiliation was bad enough without that little prick Malucci adding his two cents. The things he said still stung. Bastard. After what had happened in that meeting, he should have be grateful I'd fired him a week ago for his relentlessly immature behavior. Though listening to Liz dress him down in proper British fashion had almost been worth it. The man's eyes had bugged out of his head at her cool, precise volley of insults and slunk out with his tail between his legs. Served him right.
Exhausted in body and mind, I stepped out of the lounge and immediately noticed that the ER was amazingly slow. Thankful for the reprieve, I crept into my office and began to gather my things. Thank God I'd had the foresight to contact Maggie, who would be in today.
++ Mel ++
With Luka tending to the few patients we had in chairs, I was able to slog through mounds of backed up charts until my eyes were blurry. Kerry was upstairs in what was certain to turn into a farce of a hearing about the death of the Marfan's patient. How I despised the political nature of this damn job. Laughter pulled my thoughts from their nosedive and I recognized Carter's voice. “You should have seen his face!”
“Yeah, I'll bet,” replied a deep, unfamiliar woman's voice and I raised my head to see this latest female of John's. “Been awhile since I've been Weavered.”
Okay, that comment got my attention and I took a closer look. Attractive in a blonde, girl-next-door kind of way, she had a damn sexy voice and walked with confidence and ease. Despite her weird taste in men and a bad haircut, I liked her smile and the glitter of humor and intelligence in her eyes. Then she grinned and I found myself returning the expression. Before I could react, Chuny came over and followed my gaze. Grinning with delight, she called out, “well hi stranger!”
“Hi Chuny, how have you been?”
The cries had alerted the chickens and they flocked around the blonde woman. Only Abby stuck close to me. “Do you know who that is?” She asked and I shrugged.
“No idea, but she's got a great smile,” I chuckled and waited patiently to be introduced. Sure enough, the blonde's rich laughter rippled over the gaggle of noises after a couple of minutes.
“Hey, I promise to come chat with all of you, but right now I'm shooing you off so that I don't make a lousy first impression on your Head Attending over there.”
Abby and I chuckled, before she dispersed with the other nurses.
“I'll go get that from my locker,” John told his companion, who waved indifferently at him.
“Sure, I'll go be nostalgic.” With John out from underfoot, the woman strode over to the desk and offered a hand. “Susan Lewis, pleased to meet you…” Now I recognized her name, as well as the hesitation as she eyeballed the name stitched into my labcoat.
“Ah, the infamous Susan Lewis. Pleasure to meet you. The name's Melanie Tairnghael, just call me Mel.”
“Great! Rumor has it that you're the person to impress around here. Buy you lunch?”
Oh, I liked being startled by her gall and again laughter bubbled up from my throat. “Kerry deals with the political bullshit and I pretty much try and do the slave labor here, so I suppose that I would be a good place to start. Are you looking to work here again?”
“Then, by all means, feed me. But you'll still have to convince Kerry.”
“I know,” Susan grinned. “But then I'll have you in my corner.”
We laughed together and shook hands. If she was like this all the time, I would be delighted to keep her around. “Well, you're in luck, we need an Attending. So now's your chance to suck up.”
“So I heard.”
++ Susan ++
I hadn't been in Chicago in three years.
Except to bury Mark.
The deserts of Arizona had worn at me in that time, their flat monochromatic emptiness like an echo of my own soul. I missed him so bad, wished I'd never left, wanted to have been here for him. I liked this steady, witty Amazon who'd replaced him here at County, though. Mel had all of the qualities that had made Mark a fantastic ER doctor, and fewer of the flaws. Poor Mark had always been too nice and people had walked all over him. Especially strong personalities like Kerry Weaver. In just a few minutes of casual conversation, Mel's underlying layers of steel were revealed by her comments and what kind of things would make her chuckle.
“So,” she commented quietly and leaned back in the booth. I looked up from where I'd been rapturously wallowing in my greasy burger. Never thought I'd miss Doc Magoo's so much. “You've been 'Weavered'?”
The questioning tone made me chuckle sheepishly. “I made the term up when I talked about this place in Phoenix. It became the term for overbearing administrators.”
“Did she make you try harder?”
The somber question caught me completely of guard. “What do you mean?”
“Did she make you try harder, push your boundaries, kick you in the ass when you thought you couldn't go on?”
I flashed back to those days with Kerry so diligently trying to climb the food chain. In those days I hadn't understood her and what she was trying to accomplish. Had it been me at that age and professional level, vying for the same positions, I would have done it completely different. But I wasn't Kerry and never would be. “Yeah,” I mused thoughtfully. “I guess, looking back, maybe she did.”
“Good,” Mel smiled gently and leaned back in her booth and her expression becoming calculating and thoughtful. “You're gregarious, adaptable, experienced and make a great first impression. The nurses like you and you're willing to give Kerry a break.”
“You really like her.”
“Yeah, but that has absolutely nothing to do with work relationships. I've worked with people I adore and cannot stand as coworkers and had complete assholes as bosses that I'd jump through hoops for. We're talking about respect here. There are a couple of idiots on staff right now, one of which Kerry thankfully fired a week ago. The other… well, we'll see.”
Her face had gone through a whole rainbow of emotions that I watched in fascination. Mel was subtle, a soothing mix of intensity and serenity. She must be the perfect compliment to Kerry's aloof and overbearing style of leadership.
++ John ++
Oh, I knew it was insane to volunteer to put in a couple hours in at work while Susan was chatting up Mel, but what else was I supposed to do with the time? Besides, it gave me a chance to work on the never-ending flow of paperwork. There was a ruckus of voices, but a moment's attention informed that is was nothing bad or urgent. Then the mood outside shifted into laughter and I grew intrigued. Was Susan back with Mel? Did things go well? Shoveling my charts back into my locker, I headed out to the admit desk. There was a slender woman with dark hair hugging Randi, who was chattering excitedly. When the stranger leaned back to laugh at the happy clerk, I was delighted to recognize her. “Maggie!”
I got a hug too, liking her strong grip around my neck and waist. “How have you been? I lost track of you.”
“Shit happens,” she shrugged and we both felt Mark's funeral keenly in our memories. “But not this time,” Maggie perked up, slapping me lightly on the shoulder. “Kerry hired me back.”
“That's great!” I enthused as Randi threw in her own happy comment. Then I realized something that made my smile fade.
Susan was off chatting with Mel for the same position…
Kerry hadn't told us that she'd already hired a new Attending.
++ Maggie ++
It wasn't the kind of reaction I was expecting. Oh sure, the initial delight in my old pal was great, but why did his face suddenly fall like that? Something was wrong…
Before John could say anything, laughing women's voices caught his attention. His expression was a twisted combo of relieved and queasy. I turned as a towering Amazonian figure stepped into my personal space to smack John on the arm as I had done only moments ago. “Good call Carter, she's perfect. C'mon Susan, let's go see if Kerry's done with that meeting yet. Might as well give her one bright spot today.”
“Oh, I don't know if I'll be a bright spot,” a familiar voice laughed. “I told you that we didn't get along.”
“People change, Susan. Hey Carter, looks like our personnel problems are solved, good call on bringing your friend here in.”
Then the Amazon shifted and I recognized the blonde woman behind her. She looked as surprised and delighted as I'm sure I did. Then alarm radiated up my spine as John spoke weakly, “actually, I think our problems are just beginning. This is Maggie Doyle, she used to work here too.” Comprehension was dawning in both women's eyes. “Kerry hired her back.”
“Aw shit,” the Amazon muttered and shoved her hands in her coat pockets.
The dynamics of the meeting suddenly shifted.
My old teacher, whom I'd been delighted to see a moment ago, was suddenly a rival.
++ Mel ++
It was like watching a pair of cats bristle up, unsure how they should react. I knew I needed to do damage control, but had no clue what to do. Damn that puppy child for distracting Kerry so badly. The woman wasn't scatterbrained unless she was gettin' some. Though it had been worse with Hurricane Legaspi.
I gave an internal snort of irritation at the blonde psychiatrist and refocused, shocked at Susan's next move.
She started chuckling, and offered the dark young woman a friendly hand. “Well, maybe we can persuade them that they'd be stupid not to keep us both.”
And the new girl started laughing too.
I realized that the other three knew each other even as my brain went off on distracted multitask mode. While they laughed and bonded, I went to the phone and prayed I knew what the hell I was doing. “Doctor Romano, this is Tairnghael down in the ER.”
“What can I do for you?” His voice was perversely jovial on the other end. I had a bad feeling about Kerry…
“We've found a couple of candidates for the Attending position and I was wondering if we had enough budget for both.”
“I don't give a damn who you hire, but I can only give you an additional Resident salary,” he told me calmly and hung up.
Oh great. Now what…
++ Susan ++
Bumping into Maggie had been an unexpected delight. Both Mark and I had been impressed with the then-young Resident, even if Mark had kept underestimating her. When I had left County, I distinctly remember the sensation of her sort of taking my place. Now Maggie looked a little older and far wiser, less hotheaded and eager to please and more confident and settled. It suited her nicely. “You're still too damn skinny,” I chided fondly and Maggie laughed warmly.
“Yeah well, borderline hyperactivity will do that,” she chuckled and sobered suddenly, her gaze wandering to where Mel had gone to a house phone. “What are we gonna do?”
Then I felt that comforting, wolf-like presence I was beginning to associate with Mel at my back. “That son of a bitch Romano will only give me an additional Resident.”
I could feel Maggie's scowl on the back of my head as I held Mel's eyes. There had to be a way out of this, Maggie was too good of a doctor to not keep. Mark had told me what happened with Romano and Maggie, the result of which had been her loss to County. “Mel?” I heard myself asking calmly, an idea forming in my mind. “How much is each salary?” The amounts she rattled off were actually better than I had expected “Well at least this place finally pays better,” I scoffed and earned smiles from both John and Mel. I turned to catch Maggie's broody and defensive gaze. We were both aware that I had years more experience and would probably win this match, but I had no desire to lose her as a coworker or pal. The salary Mel had just rattled off was almost identical to what I'd been making in Arizona, and the Resident salary was competitive. “Here's a thought. Combine them and split it down the middle.”
There was a long, startled silence before Maggie smiled brilliantly.
And I knew then that everything would be all right.