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: An old friend returns to Chicago to pick up where she left off.
++ Elizabeth Corday ++
It was wonderful to be around familiar faces again, to hear their American accents and immerse myself in the chaos of County, even if I was only an observer. But it was bittersweet; reminding me of Mark's abrupt death and these people I had left behind. The pain was a dull ache now, like a newly healed scar. When that internal change had begun a month or so ago, I had contacted Randi, who had been delighted to hear from me. It was her friendliness and the familiar gossip that had convinced my heart to return to Chicago. The chaos that had ensued when I walked in through the ambulance bay doors had warmed me to my core. Everyone had been wonderful, full of kind words, hugs and familiar humor. Some cosmic intervention had even spared me meeting up with either Robert or Kerry. So the nurses entertained me between patients and I was persuaded to come to this weekly poker game everyone was so pumped up about. It was at that evening get together that I met the infamous Zo. A whirlwind of black curls and white teeth, she was chaos in motion. Before I could speak, she had enthusiastically shaken my hand numb, thrust a beer in my hand and plopped me into a chair. Only once the others were settled in to play did I manage to get a word in edgewise.
“I haven't played poker since college, but don't think you all can take advantage. I can be quite ruthless.”
Amidst the chuckles, Zo grinned at me in surprised delight. “You're the British surgeon that used to work at County, aren't you? Now I realize why your name was so familiar when Randi did intros.”
“Yes. And you're the amazing woman who tamed the irascible Kerry Weaver.”
I hadn't meant to say it, but the looks around the table proved that, indeed, I had said the words out loud. For long, heavy seconds we stared at one another while a million thoughts ricocheted around my brain. They were fighting words and the friendly calm in Zo's eyes flash-fired into something raw and dangerous. Any doubts I had of the nature of the relationship this pretty young thing had with Kerry were dashed to pieces by that hot glower. Gasping with horror at my immature lack of tact, I clamped both hands over my mouth for a moment before trying out my shock-frozen voice.
“Oh Zo, I'm so sorry, that was horrible of me.”
“Is she really that awful?”
The soft question was so unexpected that we all gaped at her. It was Abby that spoke first in that calm no-nonsense tone that only nurses seemed to be able to master. “It's a matter of perspective. The woman can be a scalpel or a sledgehammer. But she always knows what she's doing. It's a little scary sometimes.”
“And reassuring,” Randi chimed in soberly. “If not annoying as hell.” Nods went around the table in agreement. Those aquamarine eyes held mine for an eternal moment, unreadable as the ocean, before her expression cleared.
“Fair enough,” Zo tossed out brightly. “Who's dealing?”
But those stormy eyes never really cleared up again that night…
As the evening deepened, I found myself relaxing, even if I was far too aware of Zo. She was great fun; empathetic, humorous, and enigmatic by turns. But I still couldn't understand what she saw in Weaver. I understood the old cliché of opposites attracting, but this was ridiculous. They could hardly be more different!
Except for the internal intensity just under the surface. Like hotspots under the earth after a forest fire, it lurked beneath the face they showed to the outside world. Just beyond Zo's casual cheerfulness and calm, Kerry's aloof resolve and single-mindedness. It leant a depth to them that was both compelling and seductive. Their combines energies must be quite the storm. That thought brought a flush to my cheeks, visualizing Kerry's familiar hands wandering over Zo's bronze skin, the contrast between light and dark, red and black…
Startled by the nature of my thoughts, I roughly shook them off. Too many lonely hormones, I rationalized and pointedly ignored my deepening breath and the dull, needy ache between my legs…
We broke off soon thereafter, for which I was grateful. Zo's knowing and curious gaze on me was unnerving. “Hey Elizabeth,” Randi's voice wrenched my attention to her.
“You still gonna crash on my couch? There's no reason to pay for a hotel.”
“Or stay here,” Zo interjected calmly. “There's an empty bedroom, quite luxurious. And the bathroom?” A low whistle of appreciation earned grins. “Real Turkish bath kinda setup. After all,” Zo feigned a queeny gay man attitude. “A girl has to have her priorities.”
We all laughed out loud, for she had regaled us with tales of her absent friend Bruce. “You're certain?”
“Yep. I hate living alone,” Zo confirmed airily before grinning evilly. “Besides, Bruce will be ever so impressed by how many women have slept here. What, I'm up to three now? You'd be four.”
Randi was howling now. “Yeah, but me and Abby were alone on the couches!”
Zo shrugged at me, amusement dancing in her aquamarine eyes. “It was a late night after poker last month. I can only imagine the shit they must have taken at the ER when I dropped them off the next morning. Stiff necked, wearing the same clothes, yawning their heads off. Did wonderful things for my rep, I'm sure.”
There were tears of mirth on Randi's cheeks as she gripped her ribs and tried to rein herself in. “You're a regular Don Juan, stud.”
Now Zo finally joined in on the laughter. “Go check it out, Elizabeth. At the end of the hall.” Curious, despite the idea of living with a virtual stranger whom I'd seriously insulted, I went to see the room. It was magnificent. A huge bed like something from a fairy tale loomed over an elegant sitting area, complete with a small library, and great panes of glass let in the light from the wall of windows. A giggle of delight escaped me and I hadn't even made it to the bathroom yet! There were no words for that palace of luxury. There was a half-sunken, tiled bath the size of a Jacuzzi, and a shower big enough for five if they were friendly. Plush carpet as soft as fog led to an enormous vanity area and a closet bigger than some flats I'd rented. It was far more luxurious than Zo had alluded to, and ever so much more impressive than anything I could afford on my own.
The others were in coats and hats when I came out grinning. “If you're certain about having company Zo, I'd love to stay.”
“Great. Your stuff in Randi's car?”
In the parking garage there were hugs all around, even reticent Abby. I truly hoped I could return to working with these people. Even though that meant facing Mark's ghost and… the Rocket. Shuddering at the thought, I followed Zo back upstairs.
“You'll like it here,” Zo chattered happily. “If you need to stay for more than a few days, I'll get you keys and teach you how the alarm system works.”
We dragged my luggage to the big room and Zo pulled out clean linens. “These have been on the bed for months getting musty.” In no time flat, the bed was remade while Zo told me what she knew about this wonderful old building. That done, she headed out to let me get settled in.
“Zo?” Pausing in the door, she glanced back with a half-smile. “Thank you.”
“Hey, these guys know you, like you and trust you. That's good enough for me. And I'll have to teach you that Kerry's great outside that damn hospital. Besides, you're a long way from home.”
“No,” I surprised myself by saying and her head cocked curiously. “This city is home. Being back in England only proved that to me.” It was more honest than I had meant to be with this stranger, but she merely gave me a warm, loving smile that warmed me thoroughly.
“Then, welcome home, Elizabeth.”
++ Kerry ++
“It wasn't my> idea,” Mel growled like a pissed-off wolverine with her paw in a trap and I relented. “That timebomb is a liability with a rich daddy. I've spent two weeks keeping an eye on her. It's amazing that I've gotten anything done in this zoo.” Now, Mel was generally placid and calm by nature, a woman of few words and fewer confidences, so her agitated rumblings had my absolute attention. Her body language was still calm, on the surface anyway, and her voice pitched low so that only I could hear. This thing with Deb Chen being Chief Resident was going to get ugly.
“Romano, I assume?”
Mel growled in response and I couldn't help myself from laughing.
Around us, Cook County bustled to its usual heartbeat of barely restrained chaos. The taste of danger and relief was palatable in the air and I had to shake my head at my whimsy. Really, Zo's maniacal creativity was rubbing off on me. Here, I was supposed to be the pragmatic one! Mel looked puzzled at my faint smile and I reached out to give her arm a squeeze. Since I wasn't the touchy-feely type at all, she was understandably taken aback.
“Leave Chen to me. This isn't over yet and she's my responsibility. I really appreciate what you've done here, particularly these last few weeks while I was gone.” Boy, Mel looked downright speechless and I made a mental note to be more interactive with at least my more mature Attendings. With a last squeeze, I pulled away and moved off down the hallway to refamiliarize myself with my old territory.
Lydia's voice echoed down the corridor as the nurses flocked towards the admit desk. “Well skin me alive and call me luggage! The rumors must be true! Or are the scrubs just a fashion statement in Europe these days?” Laughter warmed the ER as I arrived to see what the stir was. Oh yes, I had forgotten the bombshell dropped on me in this morning's staff meeting.
“Good to see all of you,” Elizabeth smiled and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the enthusiasm. “I believe I've actually missed all of this.”
Again, they all laughed and a quick round of hellos and well-wishes had most of the staff back on duty. I could only hope it was professionalism that sent them off so quickly, and not merely my hovering nearby. Regardless, it worked and I flashed Elizabeth an uncomfortable smile and continued on my way. I could only wonder if she felt Mark's ghost as powerfully as I did...
The only I could guess was that Robert was being his usual perverse self when he assigned Deb Chen as Chief Resident while I was on vacation and unavailable to fight the decision. The girl couldn't handle the pressure of her regular duties, what the hell possessed him to think she could handle more? I almost felt bad for how frazzled she looked. Almost.
It was only a matter of time before something bad happened.
++ X ++
“So, how the hell have you been, anyway?”
Zo's question didn't surprise me. Since it had been me who invited her to Chicago in the first place, we had spent very little time together, renewing our brief friendship. “I'm relieved as hell that the Rocket hired Corday back. The pace and crappy staffing that damn hospital functions at is mind-boggling. This is the first time I've had two days in a row off since moving here!”
“So she's settling in?”
“Yeah, seems like it. Doesn't she talk to you? Shit, she's living with you.”
“Hardly! Man, hours like what you guys are doing is like graduate school for a lifetime. No thank you!”
The club was fairly full this time of night on a Friday, but we'd found a booth in the back to relax and drink while we got our wind back. Dancing was good exercise, and outside of my hectic job, it was all I really got. As we wound down in the easy quiet, I studied my pal. There was something magnetic about her, a barely restrained energy that seemed ready to tear her apart. Even to a dyed-in-the-wool fag boy like me could see the appeal. And the change in Kerry had been startling, to say the least! Their cool and hot energies were obviously very good for one another, calming Zo and revving Kerry up. “You're good for her, y'know.”
Smiling wryly, Zo flashed me a teasing glance. “Elizabeth?”
That earned her a fond slap on the arm and we both laughed. “Very funny. You know exactly who I mean, but I think you're a good influence on Corday too. We should drag that bird out and see if she lives up to her old reputation.”
Ah-ha! That comment perked Zo up and she swung her body to face me fully in the booth. “Oh? Do tell.”
“Seems she was a bit of a maverick and a wild girl.”
“Are we talking about the same Elizabeth Corday?”
“Yep. Used to be Benton's main squeeze, the big surly black guy I work with.”
“I vaguely remember seeing him. Petty intense guy.”
“Yeah. And she flirted manically with a guy that used to be a peeds surgeon and his girl. She was all over the map.”
“Until Mark Green.”
“Yeah, the rumor mill still puzzles over that one.”
We both brooded for a moment for the ghost of a man neither of us had met, but could still feel his presence in Cook County. It was Zo that spoke first. “Wonder what brought her back. I mean, seriously, it's like people can't get away from that place.”
“C'mon Zo, you've felt the energy. Hell, you painted it. Something about it gets into your blood like a drug.”
“You know what I mean.”
A fond glower earned a chuckle and she nodded in understanding. Another easy quiet passed while we both people watched. And this time it was Zo who broke the quiet with a matter of fact statement that took me aback. “I'm going to get a job here.”
“Yep. Of the places we've hit, this is above and beyond the best. I miss dancing like I did back home.”
“You mentioned that briefly when we met at Darya's ceremony.”
“Paid for everything but tuition with that night job. There's always those with money to throw at a sexy young thing who can move.”
“Amen to that. So how are you going to pull this off?”
White teeth flashed in her sculpted face. “I network.”
++ Zo ++
The paint had been flowing from like a river, and I loved it, but what was really plaguing me lately was the urge to dance. Hell, I had practically put myself through college and graduate school by dancing for a crowd. Nothing too pornographic, but just the thundering dance clubs where the lights flashed like alien ships invading. The canvases had been keeping me in chains since coming to this disorientingly flat place, there were no mountains here, but other creative juices were welling up. I adored this club, it was sprawling and interesting, the clientele was endlessly diverse, the staff discrete but very much present. And the dancers? Man, they were a rare breed, talented crowd pleasers that were given pretty free rein. It was like a realistic version of Coyote Ugly and I was determined to be a part of them. I didn't need the money, so long as I was painting regularly, just enough to be fair. So, now I just needed to find the right persons to get 'in' with.
I had noted something in the Chicago clubs very quickly after starting to attend them. There were a cadre of women that worked in every damn club I'd been to. Or it sure as hell seemed like I saw them everywhere. They were distinctive in their very ability to remain endlessly discreet. Because of my weird ability to sense people's emotions, I had grown extremely adept at subtle nuances. Ironically, the more overpowering the emotion, the easier it was to filter out for my own comfort. It was the subtle stuff that always got past my defenses. Sort of like filtering dirty water. The chunky stuff was easy, but the fine silt much more difficult. The mysterious women also moved like predators, their bodies and reflexes dangerous like a hunting cat or a pack of wolves. Most of humanity wasn't in touch with their wild instincts. These women were. Now, I freely admit that I have a wild streak, so I was completely intrigued by these strangers.
It had been nearly four months since I had stepped foot into Chicago and I had made careful effort to hit the clubs at least once a week. People certainly were starting to know me, and that was just the way I liked it. Now I just needed to figure out how to approach one of my targets.
I had another weird ability that my friends and family could never quite get over. Somehow, through sheer coincidence, I had a knack of being in the right place at the right time. More specifically, circumstances bent themselves to my needs. So I had been merely waiting for the right moment to arrive. Imagine my surprise when Doctor Mel walked up to the nearby bar!
“What the hell?” X muttered and I merely grinned. The towering woman looked fabulous in her tasteful club drag, skintight kidskin skirt and an inky jacket cut for her curves. Strappy high-heels completely the ensemble, making it damn obvious that she was a shark in a pond of little fishes. People took notice. Before either myself or X could catch her attention, Mel spotted whatever she was looking for and smiled predatorily. The cute little blonde tending bar was happy to see her. Oh yeah, very happy! They kissed like they went way back and my grin grew wider. The bartender was one of the predatory women I recognized and I had an in with her doctor girlfriend. Sweet!
Even as I crowed inwardly, the blonde gestured nonchalantly in my direction and I knew that X and I had been caught staring. The look on Mel's face when she glanced over was priceless, shock melting into wariness. I put on my most charming smile and her expression became the tolerant humor that I was used to.
“How do you do that?” X grumbled.
“It's that genetic Goldston charm,” I chortled in self-satisfied delight at my charming the wary woman. “You're just jealous.”
X was still sulking as Mel approached and smiled softly at us. “I run into you in the strangest places.”
“Hey, I get around,” I kidded and threw my hands up in innocent protest.
“Don't tell Kerry that,” Mel deadpanned and I laughed and gave her the thumbs up for taking the bait.
“Here,” X suddenly remembered his manners and gestured to the spot beside him. “Have a seat.”
Before anyone could feel awkward about this unexpected meeting, I began to wax enthusiastic about the club and life in general.
++ Jane Pappas ++
I had noticed the bouncy dark woman recognize Mel the moment she came in and took note. Little escaped my notice, I made damn sure of that. The dark woman, slender, gorgeous and borderline hyperactive with flashing aquamarine eyes and a waterfall of inky curls was an eye-catcher, no doubt about that. And unless I was wrong, and I was never wrong, she had been on the prowl for something from me and my sisters. It wasn't an overt attention exactly, but I could tell that she wanted something. So having her recognize Mel had been a perfect stroke of luck. Mel would feel the woman out and let me know what was up. It was therefore a bit of a shock when Mel actually waved me over with a smile. She was one of the most discrete and calm people I knew, so the public summons was very telling. I nodded to Pony to take my spot and ducked out from behind the bar.
“What can I do for you?”
The somewhat formal phrasing didn't phase any of them and I took note of that too. Mel gestured to the man first and I gave him a nod of recognition. “Tar, this is Xavier, I work with him at the hospital. And this is Zo, who's my boss' other half.”
“No shit?” I couldn't help but chuckle, because Mel had been regaling me with stories about the hospital ever since she had started there almost a year ago. “Then I've heard stories about you and your girl. Pleased to meet you, I'm Tarzan.”
Per usual, the name earned a start of surprise. Tarzan wasn't exactly the kind of name people expected in a five foot six blonde girly girl. I liked startling people, it kept them off balance and me in command of a situation. Only, Zo barely blinked at the name, but only grinned saucily. “Then I'm guessing there's more to you than meets the eye.”
It was a pointed comment, one designed to test my reactions and I paused. There was no threat from Zo, just a sense of easy victory that was surprisingly non-egotistical. I was intrigued now. “I've been underestimated for longer than you can possibly imagine,” I finally supplied in a voice both teasing and deadly serious. Mel only smirked, all to aware of exactly what I was referring to, and it only partially had to do with my smaller stature and innocent looks. Zo's handshake was warm and solid, her body temperature elevated slightly and her grip just strong enough to be firm. I liked her already!
“Zo Goldston, pleased to meet you, Tarzan. I was curious who I needed to impress to get a job here.”
Ah, there was the kicker. Figured she wanted something, it seemed like they all did. “A job?” I inquired innocently, determined to feel out where she was coming from.
“Yep. I was a club dancer in LA at a place called Club 69 in West Hollywood.”
Now she had my attention. 69 in West Hollywood was famous in the club circuit for their cutting edge DJs and whip-smart staff. If what Zo was saying was true, then the other dancers would definitely want to talk with her. “Okay, let me talk to the staff. Leave me a phone number to contact you.”
“Sweet,” Zo chortled happily and I heartily approved of her good spirits. “In the meantime, I'm going to go dance! Comin' X?”
“In a few,” the dark-haired man grinned and Zo bounced into the crowd, awhirl with an energy that was intoxicating.
“Is she always like that?”
“Pretty much. Zo doesn't bottom out much, and it's ugly when it happens from what I've heard. Her energy levels are surprisingly regular, though I have no clue how she stays at mach four all the damn time.”
“Poor Kerry,” Mel snorted sarcastically and we all laughed.