Series: Light, Water and 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: Pain leads to healing sometimes.
++ Elizabeth ++
I'd managed to keep myself in a blissful state of denial all damn day. By convincing myself that the unease in my guts was only my American friends reminiscing Pearl Harbor Day, I had ignored what was really torturing me.
Until I found myself at the house I swore I would never lay eyes on again.
It was bitterly cold on the street as the cab roared away and I was left to stare at what was almost home. One year ago, all my dreams of normalcy and family life died on the ER floor.
Of a brain tumor...
Of all the ridiculous, one-in-a-million disasters to befall the man I was ready to marry.
The wind turned my tears to ice as I let the memories wash over me. A hundred times, friends had silently asked me what in the world was I doing with a man like Mark Green? If someone wanted me to put in words, I would be at a loss. Mark had been stability to me, normalcy, a chance at a peaceful life of few demands from him. It was an irresistible offer to my restless spirit.
Only now... a year later, things were very different.
I loved Mark. I loved him then, and I still loved him. I always would. But he was my past, a part of the person I wanted to become then. In the time since the tragedy, I had become someone different.
Would I have been happy with Mark? Would we have had children? Would we have... would we have... would we have...
There was no point in playing this 'what-if' game with my past. Not that I was liable to stop any time soon...
Some time must have passed while I stared half-blinded by tears at the house I had been only too happy to leave behind. The real estate agent said they were nice people, with two small children and a dog. Christmas lights glittered cheerfully all along the block and there were a legion of snowfolk decorating the neighborhood like silent sentinels.
It was time to move on, but I didn't want to budge. Cold, miserable and alone almost felt right this night.
Torn about what to do, the car pulling up behind me didn't even register until the sound of a door opening cut across the small noises of the night. The sense of self-preservation finally broke through my mood and I whirled defensively.
And froze in shock.
++ Maggie ++
Under different circumstances, her expression would have been comical. However, I was horrified at how long it had taken her to react to a strange presence nearby. That wasn't safe! But the wet tracks of tears and the hurt in her eyes explained it all. “Took me a while to find you,” I explained softly and she sniffled like a child. “C'mere.” Technically, I didn't know Elizabeth well enough to demand anything of her. Hell, I wasn't even supposed to like her. Wasn't I supposed to hate her? And not want to jump her bones. Dammit, gotta change that train of thought... However, I knew when I was needed. It was one of the most useful things my mother had taught me. Slamming the door, I automatically hit the alarm button on my keychain and walked around the hood.
I barely made it around the corner of the bumper before Elizabeth broke down. Before I could react, she blurred off of the sidewalk and nearly knocked me ass over teakettle with a tackling hug. What shocked me more than the suffocating grip, was the broken, choked bawl of a sob that broke my heart.
“I gotcha,” I murmured softly, wrapping up her shaking body in a tight hug. “I gotcha. You're not alone. Not anymore, Elizabeth.”
A long time passed while we stood in the bitter cold together. Elizabeth quieted, but didn't release her death grip. “I don't feel well,” she admitted feather-soft against my collar and I gave her a squeeze.
“Then you better let me play doctor. Get in and we'll find a warm place to wind down.”
Releasing the tall woman was harder than I thought it would be and hazel eyes were mysterious and dark in the nearby streetlight. Then a faint, shy smile flitted over her face and those eyes ducked away. Part of me wanted to pursue that expression, but realized that now was really not a good time. She had begun to tremble with cold and I needed to get her warmed up ASAP.
I mentally smacked my lizard brain for its first suggestion.
Then Elizabeth did something so unexpected that I was left speechless. When she leaned in so close I could see the color of her eyes even in the lousy light, I thought for an insane moment that she was going to kiss me. The shy stroking of her nose against mine, lips barely brushing and cheeks smooth where we touched was just as good. With a faint purring noise, Elizabeth nestled back into my body and sighed shakily. I knew how she felt! Was she always this seductive? Or just when she was so vulnerable? All I knew for a fact was that this was one very strange night.
Eventually, I squeezed her gently and once again tried to coax her into the car. “C'mon, let me get you a coffee and get you warmed up. Please?”
++ Elizabeth ++
It was the coaxing, gentle 'please' that did me in. As much as I dreaded leaving the haven of her arms, the promise of coffee and warmth and her continued presence persuaded me to let go. Maggie took notice of my reluctance, and filed it away behind that alert gaze. Gallantly, she took my elbow and led me to the passenger door, opening it and making certain that I was settled before heading for the other side of the car. I was touched by the gesture. Curling up as best I could, I watched Maggie expertly handle the car, streetlamps and the neon of Chicago flashing over my thawing body...
I awoke with a startled jerk at the gentle squeeze on my left hand, and the sudden lack of movement and engine noise. “Wha...?”
“Hey, it's okay,” Maggie soothed, squeezing my tense fingers again. Sure enough, I was clinging to her right hand, my entire body curled protectively around the warm contact.
“Good thing you don't have a stick-shift,” I murmured, overcome with shyness at needing her like this. Maggie chuckled softly, a gentle sound, and the leather seat creaked as she shifted her weight.
“You're gonna be okay,” she murmured as the weight of her head rested lightly on my crown. In the half-embrace I felt very safe. Calm darkness was closing in again and I jerked awake.
“I should get home.”
I sounded reluctant even to my own ears. Maggie chuckled and yawned. “You are. Look outside.”
Sure enough, we were parked beside the massive brick building that was home now. The smooth smell of coffee filled the car and I eyed the tall paper cups in surprise. “Where did you find a coffee shop this time of night?”
“Bless Seattle's Best for their drive-thrus. There are three in town that are open twenty-four seven. Grab your cup. It's just one of their house blends black, but it'll re-heat well.”
Her voice was light and teasing, drawing me in like a moth to flame. Something about her open body language, her relaxed expression, let me know that I could approach. “Come upstairs with me. You're to tired to drive.” There was temptation and reluctance in her eyes and I pursued it, leaning in close. “Please, Maggie.”
++ Maggie ++
It was the coaxing, gentle 'please' that did me in. Part of me knew that following her upstairs would forever change us both. At the moment, I couldn't bring myself to obsess over consequences. Besides, I was exhausted from work, memories and being up most of the night. Mark's ghost wasn't repressive now, but a comforting shadow looking over us.
Would he approve?
As a scientist, it was a ridiculous question. The man was dead and we could preserve him only in our memories.
Still, I had to wonder...
The walk up to Zo and Elizabeth's place was familiar, but the circumstances were so different. Beneath the long coat, her body moved enticingly and I struggled to subdue my lizard brain. Once the door was opened, the place was quiet aside from Behbis' noisy greeting. “I'll go say hi to the boy if you'll put my coffee somewhere safe,” I volunteered as Elizabeth disarmed the alarm and brought up a few more lights.
I tried to ignore the tingle as our fingers brushed. Behbis croaked and strutted on his perch as I came over to pay him some attention. He was a beautiful bird with his scarlet head and chest and cobalt blue all the way to the tips of his tail feathers. Cooing, I rubbed his chest and skull, while he did the same to my hand. “Yasoo, Behbis. How are you?” Croaking and clicking, Behbis 'told' me about his day.
“He likes you,” Elizabeth spoke softly behind me and Behbis squawked and flapped his wings flirtatiously.
“He likes everybody.”
“That's not true and you know it.”
“Okay, he likes all women,” I chuckled and grinned over my shoulder.
++ Elizabeth ++
With Behbis perched on her upraised forearm, Maggie flirted and flattered the big macaw while he did the same back. I had no clue what to do now, with her standing only a meter away. The feelings in me were contradictory and overpowering. Even now, I could still feel the shame and anger about what had happened between us the first round.
“Romano threatened Peter's career,” I suddenly heard myself say and Maggie's expression changed. It was too late to be discreet and I took the plunge. “Benton. At the time, I was with him. Somehow, Romano found out that you had approached me and... and I panicked. You deserved better than my cowardice. I'm sorry.”
Behbis obediently stepped back to his perch and Maggie leveled a long, hard look at me. “You let him threaten you?”
“Not me. The lover I was with at the time. I had to pick my loyalties. Now... the decision doesn't seem so cut and dried.”
That look was so intense that my stomach knotted up, my breath strangled in my throat, my skin was suddenly too tight. With a feline sway, Maggie was in my space, so close that I could taste her breath. I was hypnotized by the earthy darkness of her gaze. An eternity passed while I grew hyper-aware of her proximity and the magnetism that drew me to her. Maggie drew breath, lips parting to speak. I was terrified of what she might say... but I made myself wait for her.
A near-soundless wisp of sound...
“I forgive you.”
And I fell apart.
++ Maggie ++
Part of me didn't want to say it... But I knew it was true. The pain in Elizabeth's expression was authentic. As was the relief as she collapsed. It was kinda the reaction I wanted, but now what? Here I was, forced to try and ignore the feel of her body and the way she made me feel. “C'mon, Elizabeth, you need sleep.” Her grip tightened and I felt fond exasperation. “I'll stay, just lead me.”
It was an odd way to phrase it. Kinda flirtatious too. Knock it off, Margaret Anne Doyle! But she felt so good... smelled even better...
There were no more tears now, just her labored breathing hot against my neck. The curves of her body nestled with mine, despite the heavy winter layers and I was starting to overheat. Elizabeth had removed her hat and the wild curls trailed over my face like a caress. I couldn't resist nuzzling them, grinning at the tickle.
“What?” Elizabeth whispered into my neck, her tone shy and curious.
“Your hair. It's great. Tickles on the skin.”
Jeez-us Mags... pour it on a little thicker...
Elizabeth pulled away and I realized that I had fucked up...
Only, the apology died in my throat... when... Good god-damn but that was a sexy look. Hot and terrified, Elizabeth's eyes spoke volumes. I stared, open-mouthed as she reached up to tug her hair loose as she turned away. The curly waves seemed to move with a will of their own like wheatfields with gold and red and earthy rippling among the strands
All I could do was helplessly follow her lure to the threshold of her room.
It was madness to stay...
But I promised that I would.
++ Elizabeth ++
The hungry, raw look was unnerving on me, but in a good way. It had been a long time... a very, very long time since I had seen this part of myself. So wild and needy... and scared absolutely shitless. Maggie was really getting to me... I could see it in my own eyes. Growling in frustration at my emotional extremes, I went through my nightly routine of a quick shower and pajamas. Then it was time to face Maggie... so I took a deep breath and opened the door.
Dark hair splayed over the pillows, and her slender frame was only a hint beneath the bedding. “Thank you for staying.”
Maggie smiled thinly and flipped back the covers in invitation. Could she be as nervous as I was? If I was reading her expression correctly... definitely. Hmmmm....
My natural sense of daring was building. I had long been a wild child before the toils of my life had worn me down to something all too normal. That was the woman Mark had loved. And that was the woman I could no longer be. I was growing old before my time. Zo had seen that and tried to coax me out of that fate. And Maggie certainly didn't see me as a dried-out old woman, that much was obvious. Beneath her appreciative gaze, I was finding the strength to reclaim myself. So, how did I think this wonderful woman for the ego boost?
And would she let me? Did I follow the wary invitation in her expression? Or did I do the safe thing and discuss it?
Oh, fuck it.
Shaking with anticipation and fear, I climbed into the enormous bed and snuggled up into her warmth. For a moment, Maggie remained rigid as I threw an arm and leg around her, to get as close as humanly possible. Then she unwound and one hand came up to settle into my curls and I felt something utterly unexpected.
I felt happy.