Book 5: Ripples.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions/Rapids. Begins just after the new year, only days after Refractions ended.
Pairings: Kerry/Zo. Sandy/Joan. Maggie/Elizabeth.
General Disclaimer: This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females. All characters are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Disclaimer: “ER”, the characters and situations depicted are the property of Warner Bros. Television, Amblin Entertainment, Constant C Productions, NBC, etc.
Disclaimers: “The West Wing”, the characters and situations depicted are the property of Warner Bros. Television, John Wells Productions, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This site is in no way affiliated with "The West Wing", NBC, or any representatives of Allison Janney or Stockard Channing. This site contains stories between two mature, consenting adult females.
Summary: Zo makes some new friends, who help her out when things go unexpectedly wrong.
++ Kerry ++
Never thought I’d see the day. My beloved Zoey in a classic tizzy. Unflappable, adaptable and unshakable… well, that was normally the case. Days after all hell had broken loose with Dace and Snake-Eyes, the Amazons had commissioned Zo for an gallery showing right in downtown Chicago at the club, and the guest list was impressive. After showing off on our home turf, we would both be on tour with the collection of paintings, because there was no way I could live without her for that damn long. Besides, I’d welcome the break.
“Kerry!” Zo’s voice grew shrill with stress and I finally winced. “Have you seen that blue silk shirt of mine?” Time to step in.
“No, but come here, baby.”
“I don’t have time for anything, theh mou! This sucks.” Despite the continued rant, Zo obediently trotted out, clad in painted on black jeans and a lacy black bra that made my mouth water. She was an emotional wreck, and it didn’t take her lover to see that. “I know it’s here somewhere, dammit! I just saw…”
The rant stopped as I poked her in the stomach with my crutch. None too gently either. Blue-green eyes rounded in surprise and she reflexively grabbed my weapon of choice. “Sit down,” I instructed gently, but with steel beneath the tenderness. When her mouth opened to object, I poked her again. “Sit. Now.” Still wide-eyed, Zo gingerly sat beside me, as tense as though she expected the couch to bite her. So I hooked a hand around her neck and firmly tugged her into my lap where I could concentrate on those glorious curls. “Now,” was my first salvo. “I realize that you want to be on time and make a good impression, but I think that fashionably late and sane would be better in this case.” Fingers buried in that thick, silky mane, I felt Zo’s tension began to ease as I massaged her scalp and neck. “Second, I hate seeing you like this. As your lover and your doctor, I want you to relax for a few minutes and regroup.”
Zo caved to my will with a shuddering sigh. Her lanky body curling trustingly into my smaller frame made me feel ten feet tall and invincible. Nuzzling my belly, Zo hummed softly and the tension began to leave her body slowly. We stayed like that for a long time.
After nearly half an hour of peace, Zo snaked her arms between me and the couch to squeeze until my hips creaked with the strain. “I love you, Kerry. Thank you. I didn’t realize just how worked up I’d gotten.”
“Love you too,” was my pleased response. “Now, as for your shirt. Maybe the green one instead? Make those pretty eyes of yours more mysterious?” Happy with the suggestion, Zo abruptly disengaged and jumped to her feet with a heart-stopping grin. Before I could prepare myself for the onslaught, she had leaned over and pressed me back with a kiss that left me in a vacuum of sensation and oxygen deprivation. Still reeling, I was then nailed by the woman’s sweetest, most adoring look and was lost all over again. “What would I do without you?”
++ Zo ++
Thank whatever deities that looked over fools like me that the evening was going smoothly. The vast majority of my stress had been pointless, as the Amazons proved what pros they were. The very ballroom where Dace had entertained the most carnal interests of the Four Suits had been transformed into a varied landscape of surfaces for my beloved paintings.
While I missed Kerry’s steady presence at my side, her calm and love like a layer of armor, but the memories were sustaining enough. The shirt that reminded me of those gorgeous green eyes helped too. There was a reason I bought this color, and it was for more than bringing out the green in my own gaze.
“I liked your work before,” came a familiar voice and a glass of champagne was held out in a manicured hand. “But like this? It’s magnificent.” Grinning at Jane, I accepted the glass, restraining myself from taking a healthy swig and instead, savored the fine wine.
“I owe your tribe,” I said quietly, seriously. What the Amazons had pulled off was nothing short of amazing. White fabrics in a multitude of textures and tones draped artistically to enhance the paintings and sculptures and several performance artists that provided a shock to the audience. And the turnout was nothing short of amazing. There was a multitude of accents and dress and I had to wonder where the hell the Clubs had scared up such an international crowd. Honestly, I was feeling wildly out of place amidst the sophisticated people and all the glorious fashion.
But they were here for the art and I was humbled and thrilled that the general consensus was favorable. There was one powerfully handsome woman in particular that caught my eye, as she stood, completely engrossed in my favorite piece. Gemini had remained my best work, haunting even me with the images of the dual sides of my lover. It had taken the combined flattery of both Mel and X to convince Kerry and myself to put the canvas up for public display.
It had been the center of attention all night.
The attention made me feel so very exposed, and yet warmed me with the quiet accolade of this sophisticated crowd. The focus of that accolade seemed most poignant through the eyes of the striking brunette with the fiery highlights that wore a jeweled broach of the symbol of the Swords. I remembered the dagger-like, elongated spade tattooed so intimately on Michael’s body, as well as the rest of the New York pals of Dace. I wanted to approach the woman, but how?
Then another brunette with fiery highlights joined the first, just as striking, and I actually choked on my drink. The undignified squeak and the champagne staining my favorite shirt was forgotten as her familiar countenance registered.
++ Jane ++
I’d watched Zo all night, keeping tabs on her stress levels. After all, I was under orders from my wife to keep our buddy sane. So far I’d managed pretty well, but something just made her go ashen and do a classic spit take. Chuckling, I pulled out the napkin I’d been hiding and mopped off my hand before blotting the worst of the stain spreading over that great shirt she was wearing.
“You’re going to need a dry cleaners,” I laughed at Zo, as she finally noticed that she had made a small mess of herself. “Seen a ghost?”
“Jane,” she whispered in a strangled tone. “Am I seeing shit?”
Now I was curious. Who was in the crowd that made her look like she was at the end of a loaded shotgun? When I turned, I was instantly saluted by a near-matched pair of beautiful, middle-aged brunettes that I knew well. Only one was a personal knowledge, but the other was all too distinctive.
“Well then,” I managed to say after swallowing my shock and forcing my eyebrows back down from my hairline. “We should go say hello, seeing as the Grail seems to be so fascinated with that rockin’ piece of yours.”
“Huh?” Was the ineloquent reply, but she allowed me to drag her over to the smirking pair.
“Roselane, ma’am,” I greeted the baron of DC respectfully. While I technically ‘outranked’ her, treating one’s elders respectfully was always a good idea. Then I turned to her friend, noting that the woman, while striking on TV, was quite gorgeous in person. “Madam First Lady.” With briefly lowered eyes, I sketched a respectful bow to the woman, and she chuckled throatily.
“Oh, Jane, really. Please, call me Abbey. I’ve heard so many good things about you from Carolyn, that I feel like we’re already friends,” said Abbey Bartlett, married to the President of the United States, all charm and smiles. It worked, and I graciously accepted the elegant hand offered and shook it, restraining the urge to kiss her knuckles. Then she turned that winning grin on Zo, who ‘meeped’ like a frightened squirrel, but gamely held her ground. “And you are the one I came to see.”
“M… ma’am?” Zo stuttered.
“I spotted that water explosion piece that Carolyn keeps in her office months back,” Abbey was explaining, holding Zo’s woodenly offered hand in comfort. “When she told me about this, it was a perfect excuse to visit Chicago. This canvas alone,” she continued, drawing our eyes to the magnificent painting, “is well worth the trip.”
++ Zo ++
Goddess, but this was like some kind of surreal story that Maggie would tell, bless her tall-tale tellin’ heart. For a long moment, I stared at Gemini, taking in the remembered strokes of paint, all my adoration of my mercurial angel, caught as best I could in my altogether inadequate medium.
“Love is always the best inspiration,” I murmured, forgetting for a moment that I wasn’t at home, where the piece normally hung above our bed. Then I ducked my eyes back to the matched set of brunette women, watching me with kind amusement. “Sorry, this piece always makes me introspective.”
“I can see why,” smiled Abbey Bartlett. “Your doctor must be some kind of woman to get that look.” Both she and the one with the multiple names sighed dreamily like teenage girls and burst out laughing at each other. There was an ease of a very long friendship between them and it made me smile.
“Wait,” my voice suddenly piped up with no conscious input from my brain. “Water explosion piece?”
“Oh yes,” Abbey enthused. “There’s a magnificent spray of water with a truly spectacular sunset in the background. And an island in the distance, almost blending in with the clouds.”
Wryly, the other woman spoke up, “it’s called Catalina Four.”
Wracking my brain desperately, I came up with a blank that left my head aching and my nerves raw. My helpless look, even banked with a sense of decorum, and not a small need for self-preservation, garnered me instant sympathy from these powerful women. “Don’t fret, Zo,” purred the lady with the Spade broach that Jane had called Roselane. “I don’t expect you to remember everything you’ve ever put to paper or canvas. Your painting brings me great joy, isn’t that all that matters?” Then she smiled and flashed Jane a mockingly askance look. “Tarzan, dear, you never did finish introductions.”
“Actually, I never even began them,” Jane castigated herself lightly. “I apologize for my bad manners. Mel will have my head, I’m sure. Zo Goldston, meet the baron of Washington DC and a member of the House of Spades, Carolyn Roselane, known also as the Grail in our circles.”
“Like the Holy Grail?” Yep, that was my voice again, blathering away like a complete idiot. Okay, enough of this, Zo, get a grip. Shaking off my shock, I cast through years of schooling and trivia, trying to remember why there was a buzz of connection with the names. “Wait… Roselane was some kind of hereditary name for the family line believed to be of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, who some believe was the Holy Grail.” (1) The musing ramble trailed off and I dragged my mind back to the present, smiling sheepishly. “Or something like that.”
A brilliant smile graced the face of the attractive woman, and I could feel my kudo count inching up among these powerful people. “That’s actually pretty accurate, Zo. Most have no clue.” A sudden, sly expression on the First Lady’s face, accompanied by an emotional intent to tease, made me grin. Roselane flashed her a warning look, heavily laced with mutual amusement. “And you keep your naughty comments to yourself, Abigail. Leave me some dignity.”
I liked them both, surprised by their warmth and friendliness. Not to mention the firm handshake I shared with Carolyn Roselane. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am. You’ll have to send me a picture of Catalina Four to jar my memory. I’m afraid that I’m a bit of an ADD child. In one ear and out the other.”
“Entirely appropriate for an artist,” she smiled and I could only laugh in agreement.
++ Kerry ++
The apartment was lit only by the morning sun as I stumbled in, and reset the alarm with the ease of long practice. The green shirt was in the dry cleaning basket by the door, so I knew Zo made it home, and I skipped breakfast, shower and all else to go check on her. Sprawled out in boneless elegance, she was as enticing a picture as always. Particularly naked from the waist up, with the tight jeans gaping open to reveal her flat abdomen. Ah, mornings like this made night shift almost worth it.
Startled, Zo jerked awake, despite the gentleness of the hand I set on her abdomen. “Huh?”
“Shh, babe, it’s me.”
Groaning expressively, she went limp again, blinking in the morning light through the windows. “It’s morning.”
The note of confusion made me chuckle, smoothing my hand over that enticing ‘v’ of flesh that her open fly revealed. It was an observation that required no real comment, but I hummed something confirming and continued to touch her. The sweet physical connection broke through the haze of her night, and the startling blue-green eyes cleared with a wry grin. Without further comment, she tugged me down to sit carefully, then lean over and share a long, loving, and hot kiss with her.
“Missed you,” breathed against my ear, her hands gentle in my hair, caressing my scalp and neck, sending electric prickles through my nervous system. That mouth subtly tortured ear and neck, my moans echoing up from my chest… and the mood was broken by the flash of pain from my hip that made me hiss and tense. “Ah, I know that noise. C’mere baby.”
One thing that Zo remained so wonderfully consistent about, is never making me feel as though there was anything wrong with me. In her absolute unwavering blasé attitude about my hip, was an acceptance like I have never known.
She squirmed away only far enough to press me onto my side, a pillow tucked up between my thighs, her artist’s hands firm and healing on my aching joint. With only six-odd months of practice, she has become a master of my body, particularly this. Stroking and kneading, she coaxed away my long night, loosening the half-numb muscles, the stiffness of the joint and the pain surrounding it.
Honestly, it’s one of the best reasons that we’ve remained in love. Maybe a ‘whole’ person cannot understand the physical connection. The loving healing from her hands, the easy acceptance of me just as I am.
++ Zo ++
Humming happily to myself, I went through the familiar motions of easing my sweetheart’s pain. Truth be told, I loved this. It was relaxing and loving, and I did so love to work with my hands. The hip felt different, decades of walking awkwardly taking their toll on bone and muscle and sinew, but Kerry was as much flesh and blood as the next gal. Sometimes, I know she marveled at my easy acceptance of her, as is, like she’s some kind of damaged goods, but she is what she is. She can no more change that leg than Mangas could fly.
The image of a winged ferret made me snort and lean over to nuzzle Kerry’s ear and temple, while I continued to lightly stroke her hip. “Sleep, or nookie?” I asked in my driest tone, and her pale lashes fluttered open as she giggled.
“Sweet talker. Tell you what, how about the bath? I know you just did a wonderful, drawn-out seduction on Valentine’s Day, but the memories of what we did in that tub have distracted me for days.”
“Done,” I growled and kissed her soundly before scooping up her small frame and prancing into the bathroom. While the water warmed, we frisked around and undressed, her lips on my belly while she tugged the tight jeans off, and I tossed her shirt onto the counter. “Love you,” I reminded her quietly, hugging her to my larger frame, rubbing our noses together affectionately.
“So, I had a normal night,” Kerry grinned, her expression full of half-hearted disgust for her medical profession, and I laughed as she expected me to. “How did the reception go?”
“You’ll want to be sitting down for this.”
“That bad?” She winced and I laughed again.
“No, not bad, just… shocking.”
Quickly scrubbing her small frame down, and massaging shampoo through her fine, red hair, I then made Kerry stand behind me, while I worked on my own mane and she lathered me up. There was some hanky panky that set us both to giggling, and we held each other after rinsing off and waited for the tub to fill. A little yummy-smelling oil, something piney that reminded me of my warm-weather home in this icy place, and we were settled in to cuddle.
“Okay, I’m seated,” Kerry grinned where she was settled against my chest. “Spill.”
“The paintings looked amazing, I hardly recognized some of them. The Amazons have the whole ballroom draped in a mass of textures and fabrics, all white. It looks like the dancing scene from Labyrinth. I half expected David Bowie in those tights with that boofy hair to glide by with some pretty thing in his arms.” We chuckled together. “And the art is scattered through the whole, draped mass of it. They put Gemini in the prime spot.”
“Oh god,” Kerry muttered, flushing with embarrassment.
“Everyone loved it,” I said quietly, still awed by how great the crowd had been. “All these powerful people, and not one of them could walk past that piece. So, I felt like you were there, y’know?”
Her, long, slow kiss derailed me completely.
++ Kerry ++
Well, there was no way either of us were interested in conversation at that point, as my adoration and hormones boiled out of control for this sweet woman of bluntness and fire. The tub was a fairly recent purchase, wide, deep and full of water jets. With some careful maneuvering, and Zo’s strong hands to keep me from slipping, I was able to turn around and straddle her. It was my favorite position, the wideness of the tub easing the strain on my hip, her strong thighs curled up against my butt to help keep me steady.
With scattered love-talk, Zo smoothed those coveted hands over my skin, her seductive mouth open and probing with mine. No hesitation in her touch, there never had been, as she traced my spine, hips, backside, arms and thighs. While I caressed her fine breasts, she returned the favor, and the only language we needed was the moans and sighs in the steamy bath.
When she slipped a hand down, pressing inside, I was once more hers and hers alone.
Recovering from the intense orgasm, I laid dizzily against Zo’s chest, listening to her steady heart. The sound was music to me, sweet and reassuring. “So, there was this one woman,” she picked up our earlier conversation and my dizzy mind raced to catch up. “Turns out she’s the Spade in charge of DC, but Jane’s keeping an eye on me, and another brunette steps out of the crowd, and I swear, I actually did a spit take.” I just chuckled, waiting for her to drop the bomb, stroking her chest and collarbones with light fingertips. “It was the First Lady. I thought I was seeing things, until Jane bodily dragged me over to get introduced.”
“Seriously?” I had to ask, leaning away to study her face.
“Yep, Abbey freakin’ Bartlett. Nice woman. And she and Roselane, the DC Spade, are old buddies. I knew the Suits were powerful, but sheesh! Roselane’s got one of my paintings. I didn’t remember it until I got home and looked at the pictures. I’ll show you later, after we sleep.”
“Sleep?” I tease softly, my roving hand getting more and more caressing, her eyes gone dark with arousal. “A little later. Take me to bed, so I can ravage you.”
++ Zo ++
It had been surprisingly easy to adapt my life around Kerry’s mobility on a permanent basis. Right now, I used dancer’s muscles to lever us both up, grabbing the bars mounted on the walls until I could park my ass on the edge of the tub. There were towels within easy reach, and we patted each other mostly dry. After that quickie, she’d be wobbily, so I kept that fine ass in my hands and stood, using my arms to support her legs, and headed for the bed.
“And how would madam like me this evening?” I intoned in my best snooty butler’s voice, making her laugh.
“With all that wet hair, you’d better be on your back.”
“Sweet,” I leered and she smacked me on the hip before kissing me deeply. Generally speaking, we were pretty much equals in all aspects of life, including our love life. But I sure as hell didn’t mind when she got all bossy with me. After all, wasn’t it the fierce little tyrant that had caught my eye in the first place? The sweet woman underneath the steel was my pleasure alone. After kissing me breathless, didn’t take much as turned on as I was, Kerry slowly worked her way down, reintroducing me to all my erogenous zones. By the time she settled in between my thighs for a morning snack, I was howling like a dog.
Some sane little voice in my head read from my internal ‘things not to do’ list and I managed to not squish Kerry’s skull as the pleasure roared through me. By the time the third assault beached on my shores, her fingers deep in my cunt, I was having a damn tough time remembering, and she let me wind down.
“Wee,” I said my usual post-coitus celebration to her chuckle as she scooted back up to drape herself down my side. This was the life!
About twelve hours later, I was longing for my girl’s sweet touch.
With the shock value of the gallery worn off, the mechanics of it were becoming just that, mechanical. The crowd was no less appreciative, but it lacked the extreme polish of that first night. How quickly the magic fades! There was no doubt that kept me painting, the elusive chase of capturing just a twinkle of magic.
My wandering mind had its choke chain yanked when someone materialized discreetly at my elbow. The handsome young blonde, impeccably and somberly dressed, rang a bell, and I jerked up a hand to halt her in mid-word. “Let me see if I can bring the ADD down a notch and remember you.” Bemused, the woman subsided with a smirk that gave her away. “I know where you learned that expression,” I chortled in delight. “Your boss did it several times at FLOTUS (2) last night.” Now she looked startled that I’d picked up on her being more than merely secret service. “With the Greek name. Gamatoh, (fuck) what was it?” To my huge amusement, my companion made a wet explosion noise, and the prompt rattled the information loose with a delighted bark of laughter from me. “Santorini!” Grinning, she sketched a deep bow and chuckled along with me.
“The ladies would like to know it they could treat you and your doctor to lunch.”
Lunch? With the First Lady? Something of my panic must have shown on my face, because Santorini smiled understandingly.
“They’re cool. Give them a chance.”
++ Jena ‘Nemo’ Santorini ++
This firecracker was observant. After looking over her body of paintings, it shouldn’t have surprised me, but I was still taken aback. Very few would realize that while Abbey Bartlett was my job and my privilege…
It was The Grail that owned me.
I was plucked out of a promising career as a pro soccer player after blowing out my knee. My Amazon buddies in Philly got me back on my feet and sent me off to New York to train with the Swords. My aggressiveness was better suited there, and the Spade enforcers honed off the rough edges to leave me quick, calm, confident and deadly.
I’m not sure what drew The Grail to me, but I’m not complaining! My heart and soul and body are imprinted to her strength and power, even as I’d willingly take a bullet to save her dear friend and my grave responsibility. Truthfully, I love them both dearly. After a harsh year of physical recovery and training with the Swords, I was in for a second year beneath the steel and velvet hand of The Grail, where I truly came into my own.
Besides, my presence means that the Bartletts can play while still remaining under official protection. That was originally my role, and Madame First Lady decided that I was worth keeping in her immediate sphere. While I missed my Mistress dearly sometimes, it’s worth it.
Zo wailed off key to some random dance track on the radio, pounding away at a keyboard or some instrument that only she can see. We’ve been chatting for nearly an hour in the cold, while waiting for Kerry to finish work so that we can all get fed. With the sedan idling and the heater huffing away in concert to Zo’s energy, I found that I don’t mind. I’d given Zo the basics of my somewhat odd life story, and she thought it was riot. Hers was almost as good.
Before I could get annoyed at the impromptu concert, I spotted a small figure on a single crutch, red hair flaming in the crisp winter night, illuminated by the lights at the emergency room’s entrance. Stretching like a stiffly weary cat, the woman shook herself out and I tapped Zo to point her out. Like a shot, Zo’s out of the car with a happy sound and I got a very bad feeling as she pelted across the icy pavement.
The driver of the car had to be a native, because I had no idea how the hell the Honda CRV didn’t crush her flat. There was a short, sharp retort of rubber on bad footing, and the little SUV skittered one way, then the other. Zo froze for an instant, like cartoon slow motion, horror on her face as the headlights bore down on her, before making an insane leap that would have made a cougar proud, her body jerking awkwardly as the car just caught her foot, making her squall in pain.
++ Kerry ++
In the Emergency Room, I see the aftermath of the incidents, what’s left behind after the accidents and sickness and stupidity. I’m so rarely there to see trauma happen, that I don’t even realize what I was witnessing for a long, blank moment.
There’s a car bearing down on Zo.
There’s a car bearing down on Zo!
And she’s just standing there, awkwardly, like she’s trying to catch her balance in the icy street. Screaming her name broke the spell, tires squawking on the bad footing, those fine dancer’s legs coiled and Zo executed an Olympiad-worthy leap out of the way. She nearly made it too, the bumper tagging her foot just enough to yank her whole body stunningly to the sidewalk.
Even as I marveled at her reflexes, I was on the move, horrified that she had been hurt, the lover and the doctor focused now on getting to her to help. “Zo!” A woman’s voice yelled, a blonde layered in black danced through the slowing traffic and dangerous ice like a pro.
“Oh shit,” came a man’s voice, the driver of the SVU, his vehicle parked crookedly nearby. “Is she okay?”
Kneeling painfully, I wrapped Doctor Weaver around me like a cloak, smiling warmly at Zo, who blinked blearily where she was just picking her head up from the frozen sidewalk, hissing in pain as she left behind a icy crust of blood behind and more oozed over her face and hairline. “Oh Sweetie, that was a nasty tumble.”
“Kerry?” She asked softly, her tone childlike and bewildered, shakily holding herself on her elbows where she was sprawled ungracefully on her chest. “What happened? I was in the car…” There was no doubt in my mind that the nasty fall had left her with a concussion, and I fretted internally. The handsome blonde woman knelt beside us, but kept her hands to herself.
“Jeezus, Zo, there’s easier ways to impress your baby here than bravely jumping into traffic.”
“Fuck off, Nemo,” Zo giggle-groaned as I scooted closer so that she could rest her head on my thigh. “Kerry, I don’t feel good.”
With a decisive nod to cover my fear, I turned my attention to the handsome blonde that knelt beside us.
“Get into the ER and grab somebody to get a wheelchair or stretcher. Tell them it’s for Doctor Weaver. Go!” With her off scrambling to get help, I ignored the hovering man and stroke my lover’s undamaged cheek while we waited.
++ Maggie ++
“I need a stretcher!” The yell made most of us jump, despite how busy we were. It sucked how slowly we reacted, but we’d heard it a million times. “Doctor Weaver’s with Zo, who got clipped by a car!”
Okay, that did it! With a quick nod, and a angry-looking pair of gestures from Mel, I was off with Abby hot on my heels. The ruffled blonde looked totally nonplussed at me for a moment, and I couldn’t resist teasing, “what? You a friend of Sara’s?”
“Huh? God damn, but you look like my partner. C’mon, Zo’s out on the sidewalk.” There was no time to question her comment, as the bite of February in Chicago took a chunk out of both my lungs and thinly-clad body.
“Yikes,” I muttered, not even earning a smirk from Abby. Both of us were worried as we followed the strange woman to the nearby sidewalk. Sure enough, there was Zo, head in Kerry’s lap, a decent amount of blood frozen to the pavement. “Stopping traffic with your head?” I joked and knelt to shine my little penlight over her face. It earned a wince, and revealed her unevenly dilated eyes. “Bet you’ve got a concussion. Feeling a little queasy?”
“Yeah,” Zo whined. “And my fingers are cold.”
“I bet. It’s nasty out here. Good thing you’re near a hospital. C’mon Abby, let’s get her up.”
Kerry’s silent, hovering, but stayed out of my way. The hovering male and Zo’s blonde knight helped gently get her long body settled on the stretcher, and we were careful not to jar her spine, just in case. Abby fell behind for a moment to get Kerry on her feet, while blondie and I headed indoors.
There was the usual blur of checking her vitals, getting her out of the coat and checking for further injury. The ankle was swelling badly and we had to cut away her boot, revealing swathes of purple that guaranteed some kind of fracture. As the limb wasn’t bent where it wasn’t supposed to, I took it as a good sign that it wasn’t as serious as it could have been. There would be x-rays soon, but for now we had to tread carefully around the damage done to her skull and brain by her obviously spectacular fall.
Elizabeth arrived at some point, talking in urgent whispers to Kerry, who very reluctantly allowed herself to be drawn from the room where I was working on Zo. Immediately, the tension dropped a notch. Soon, we took her gurney to x-ray, where we took snapshots of her left shoulder and right ankle. Abby chattered at our woozy buddy while I squinted at the hazy images of white on black. “Well, congrats,” I started in abruptly. “You managed to fracture your ankle, but luckily, your shoulder seems unbroken, though I’m betting it feels like it is.”
“Mags,” Zo whimpered, traumatized eyes awash in tears. “This really hurts. Please.”
I felt terrible about her suffering, especially from multiple injuries, but there was nothing to be done for it. “Not with a concussion, Zo. Any chemical right now could do further damage.”
It was going to be a long twenty-four hours.
++ Kerry ++
If I had ever been so rattled, I couldn’t find memory of it.
My own little slice of hell. My heart, torn, bleeding and helpless from my breast. My sweet, bouncy lover broken and bloody beneath my hands.
The surroundings didn’t register, nor the bustle of my staff around me. I was totally on autopilot, terrified of the damage to her brain, registered in her unevenly dilated pupils. What if it was more serious than a concussion? Every instinct told me that she had been unconscious for a few seconds where she lay on the frozen sidewalk.
That could be so bad…
My inner voice was wildly gibbering at me, rendered discordant by my visceral terror.
Then something… no… someone was in my face. A voice began to break though the hysterical static in my brain, my bones, my heart. “Kerry, you need to step aside. I know how hard it is to work on someone you love. Let Maggie take care of her.”
Elizabeth. It was Elizabeth, with pain and empathy in her eyes. And it was those emotions that broke through my crippling hysteria. The agony of what might happen here, in this familiar trauma room, flooded through me, left me broken and drowned. “Zo…” I moaned low and pained in my chest, leaning hard against her for support for an endless moment.
But I heard her.
And, agonizing in every corner of my being…
I stepped aside.
++ Liz ++
It had never been so far to the emergency room before. Robert had taken the call, his normally sardonic face gone still, concern and something that was almost horror replacing it. The room began to spin as he told me that the call had been Abby, there’d been an accident…
Expecting something bloody and horrible, I was brought up short by Mel’s hand jerking almost violently at my sleeve. “Hey!” She shouted, scowling darkly. “It’s not that serious. Come down a few notches before you tweak Kerry worse than she already is.”
Painfully swallowing my stress, I nodded at Mel, who clung to me for a moment longer before letting me go with a decisive nod.
Maggie acknowledged me without seeming to move, as I entered quietly. She was doing a basic exam, talking calmly to the woozy Zo. “Humor me, Goldston.”
“I don’t remember,” Zo whined petulantly, weakly batting at Maggie, trying to get the bright light out of her eyes. “I was at the reception. There was someone that met me there. I kinda know her, but I can’t remember!”
Then I noticed Kerry and I went to her, knowing that she needed to be away from this to get some perspective. So, I gently gripped her upper arms, willing the wide green eyes to meet mine. “Kerry, you need to step aside. I know how hard it is to work on someone you love. Let Maggie take care of her.”
Slowly, painfully slowly, she became away of me, her countenance ravaged with emotions. “Zo…” she moaned softly, finally leaning against me for support.
++ Kerry ++
I hated this.
And yet there was no place I would rather be.
Zo would not open her eyes to find herself alone during this crisis. I’d rather die first. This time she would not wake to find a stranger standing over her, telling her mommy and daddy were gone…
Rubbing my aching eyes, I tried to chase the thought away. My sweet lover, only ten years old, trapped in the back seat, her parents both dead only feet away.
Good thing I had an in with the staff here. The perversely amusing thought made me huff and refocus on Zo.
She looked helpless and frail among the sheets, but her breathing had leveled out, pulse steady, color improved from her ashen hue of earlier. A hundred technical terms flashfired through my brain, all of them white noise to me now. Twenty-four hours since her spill was approaching rapidly, and the signs remained positive. Her memory remained decent, except for the missing hour spent with her new friend in the car waiting for me, and the actual fall.
Every few hours, Zo had been wakened and quizzed over her surroundings. Every time broke my heart, as she woke to disorientation and agonizing pain, but the concussion had to be monitored.
Thank god for Maggie’s pragmatic, easy-going personality to ground us both through this. Right on cue, my colleague thumped into the room, buried in a file. “Hey Kerry. How’s sleeping beauty?” Exhausted and raw, I shook my head mutely, and received a strong shoulder squeeze from the younger woman. “Well, the good news is, that it’s damn well close enough to twenty-four hours. Let’s wake her and see how she’s doing.”
For a moment, neither of us moved, and I realized with a start that she was waiting for me to do it. The dark eyes were heavy with fatigue and empathy. Maggie would never know how relieved I was to do this, to lessen the stress of my sweet lover as she woke again and again to pain.
++ Zo ++
This game was getting old, and I grumbled pissily to the jostling. “God dammit, Maggie,” I growled, pain killing all ability of kindness and tact. “I swear I will kill you.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” said my pal dryly as I peeled my eyes open reluctantly to meet Kerry’s watery gaze.
“Hey baby,” was all I could manage, worried about the look in her eyes. “Am I gonna be able to play the guitar?”
“Smartass,” she giggled shakily. “You don’t play the guitar.”
They gently grilled me on the same stupid shit that they’d been grilling me on, while my attention tried to float away on the swamping waves of pain from head, shoulder and ankle. Then Maggie finally seemed satisfied and I watched with hungry eyes as she injected something into the IV line that almost instantly rolled over the agony like the tide.
Groaning in relief from even a little of the hurt, I felt some of the tension and relaxed the death grip I had on Kerry’s hand. “Thirsty?” She teased gently and twisted to retrieve a cup from the table nearby. I suckled blissfully cool water from the straw and immediately felt better.
“Love you,” I murmured drunkenly, determined that she should hear it before the drugs made me even stupider than the pain. “So much.”
“I love you too,” Kerry whispered with her voice even rougher with emotions. “Now rest for a few minutes until Art and Liz get here.”
++ Liz ++
As much as I had wanted to stay with Maggie and my friends, there was no way I would let anyone else run this errand. Besides, the stress and relief of not being able to do something about Zo’s fractured ankle was making me a little crazy.
Would I know her? Sure, I had seen pictures, but in this throng…
O’Hare was its usual hectic self as I headed for the luggage carousel to find the older sister Zo so adored. How on earth would I find her in this throng?
Then something caught my eye. An aggressively self-assured stride, the flash of army green, familiar black curls slicked back behind aviator’s sunglasses. It was a jolt of shock and something I guiltily suspected might be arousal that raced down my spine. She was striking in a more down-to-earth way than Zo, rugged and confident in her movements. But the resemblance was obvious, especially when she paused to pull off the sunglasses and I saw the eyes. They were a pure, deep crystal blue, rimmed in exhausted red, the color like cloudless evening skies in the tropics. Or deep, deep ice. God, she looked so calm, but those eyes spoke volumes.
A bark somewhere jerked her attention away and the spell was broken. “Art?” I called out and she looked back again. There was a sparkle of achingly familiar humor there and she strode over.
“You must be Elizabeth,” she spoke only loudly enough to be heard, her voice that same low timbre as Zo’s. Up close she was even more striking, and I could see that her impeccable military appearance had been marred by stress. Small curlies had escaped the tight little tuft at the back of her head, there were wrinkles in the tough green fabric and her posture was undeniably weary. I pulled my eyes away from the glitter of silver chain around her neck that held the dog tags and shook her outstretched hand. Like her first impression, the handshake was firm and self-assured.
“I wish this could be under better circumstances.”
“I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“Hang on, I need to get my partner.”
Confused, I followed her through the crowds as the barking grew frantic, and remembered just as we reached the porter with a large dog crate that her partner was a police dog. ‘WARNING: MILITARY WORKING DOG,’ was written on the crate and the animal within calmed at a quick command from Art. “Lucky, quiet.” In a few minutes, the paperwork had been settled and the laptop computer case handed over to me. In silence, we headed out of the enormous airport and into the chaos of the traffic and winter weather outside.
“Will she be alright in a car?” I called over the noise and Art chuckled.
“Trust me, she’ll be fine.”
Her good humor warmed me thoroughly; despite the fact that I was certain that the attraction I was feeling was just stress release. And that ole’ Goldston magnetism…
++ Art ++
I liked Elizabeth. She was warm and intelligent and obviously loyal. Once again, Zo had managed to surround herself with people that cared about her. Not that there was any doubt that the Goldston charm wasn’t the most powerful in the youngest of my family. The British woman gave me a sideways glance as I chuckled to myself. Sam and Janet were going to hear all about this when I returned to Colorado. Small talk and some details about the accident kept my mind occupied until we reached the hospital. Nerves and lack of sleep were threatening to get the best of me, despite all of my efforts to the contrary. Car accidents still made me shake like a terrified fifteen year old in the back seat, with mom and bahbas so close, yet so far…
Thehmou, I hated hospitals.
“I’ll take you up there,” her accented voice told me and I followed with no hesitation. We approached what I realized was the emergency room and when I looked at her questioningly, Elizabeth shrugged. “It’s habit to park in the employee area and come in this way.”
It might have been amusing under different circumstances, the two of us striding through the swinging doors like gunslingers in a bad western, every eye in the place resting on us. A pretty Asian woman in a labcoat paused and eyed me disdainfully. “You can’t bring that dog in here.”
Damn civilians. Instead of getting mad, I put on my best smile and lowered the sunglasses to catch her in the full force of my well-honed intensity. Once again it worked as she gave me her full attention. “This is my partner, Lucky. She’s a military police dog.” Then her reaction changed, dark eyes softening in sympathy.
“You’re Zo’s sister, aren’t you?”
Of course Zoey was pals with all the staff at her woman’s work. I quickly ran through descriptions of the people that Zo had described. Then kicked myself mentally when I noticed the name stitched into her lab coat. “Yes. She’s mentioned you.” My eyes skimmed over the faces gathered, almost familiar from my sister’s stories. “All of you.” Emotions tightened my throat, for I was too tired and full of memories to resist the painful memories and the tears much longer. “I’m glad she’s in good hands.”
Their eyes followed me as I shadowed Elizabeth from their silence.
++ Kerry ++
It had been awhile and the quiet lulled me into a doze. The familiar sounds of the hospital hummed around me like a living entity. Then something tickled across my perceptions and I stirred in the uncomfortable chair. A presence came to me, a presence I knew well, and another with her that was so close to being well-known that I turned to the door to see. In slow-motion the slab of cheap wood swung towards me and I was relieved to see that Liz had returned. Then I paused at the stranger who was no stranger, that followed in her footsteps. Even after all this time, I could recognize her from my trip to Colorado when X and Kim’s friends had gotten married.
I knew that Art acknowledged me without actually looking at me at all. The shadowed eyes were trained on the bed where Zo lay. I couldn’t take my gaze off of her as she moved across the room like a wary predator to stand over Zo.
“Ahdehelfee mou, eemay dhoh. Ahneekso mahtia sou (My sister, I am here. Open your eyes.),” spoke a soft voice so different, and yet so similar to the woman I had grown to love so much. One hand came to hover over Zo’s battered forehead and the clouded blue eyes looked to me for permission to touch. I nodded and that hand settled to Zo’s skin, their coloring indistinguishable from the other. A soft moan rumbled up from Zo’s chest and her eyes fluttered open.
“Art,” she breathed.
“Mooleepsees (I missed you),” Zo sobbed quietly, both arms coming up to settle on the loose army-green sleeves of her sister’s fatigues, fingers flexing urgently in the cloth.
For a long time, they remained like that, as still as a painting, noses touching, tears mingling, looking so alike and yet so different. Eventually, they spoke softly in that beautiful language they shared, and there was even a matched set of quiet laughter. Then they looked at me, and I was again struck by how alike and how different they were. Groaning from being hunched over for so long, Art straightened up, cracking her spine and smiled at me.
It was just wrong that my hormones reacted to that familiar expression.
As though sensing my thoughts, Art’s smile deepened as she stepped over to me, hands out. “Come here,” she instructed softly, and I obeyed without thinking. Her grip was stronger than Zo’s, more compact, with strange calluses. In a moment, I was wrapped in a powerful, loving hug from this woman who was a stranger, yet family.
The tears burst from me before I even knew they were coming.
++ Art ++
Humming in reassurance to us both, I held Kerry’s small, trembling body close, both of us needing the contact. “I remember you,” I grin at the woman, leaning my head back so that our eyes can meet. “We never really met at Karen and Dare’s wedding. So, hi.”
It cracked a grin, humor lightening the shadows in her pretty green eyes. “Hi,” she managed to rasp hoarsely. “Is that Lucky?”
On one of my favorite subjects, I pressed her back into her seat near Zo’s bedside, while I pulled up the exam stool. My sib watched with a lingering smile as Lucky was properly introduced to Kerry, impressing all of us when she reached out that regal head and gave the red-head a little kiss on the chin. “Wow,” Zo marveled sleepily. “You’re special. Lucky doesn’t kiss hardly anybody.”
Curious, Kerry paused in petting Lucky’s head to fire me a questioning look. “She’s mostly right. Lucky’s not much of a kisser. You are indeed, special.”
Kerry looked inordinately pleased with that.
Someone slamming through the door made all of us jump, Lucky in a defensive crouch. “Sorry,” the attractive and vaguely familiar brunette there grinned sheepishly, arms laden down with greasy bags and a paper holder of sodas. Elizabeth jumped into action, helping with the bags and getting the newcomer out of the bulky White Sox jacket. With an armload of greasy-spoon fare, I witnessed a quick kiss between them and grinned.
“You’re Maggie then,” I offered, along with a hand. Grumbling at her work and warm coats getting too friendly, Maggie finally stripped them both off, much to the amusement of all of us. Taking a moment to compose herself, she gave a faintly amused glower and grabbed my hand.
“You’re Art. Damn glad you made it. She’s been making us crazy, whining about every little thing.”
That made me laugh, accompanied by the quiet huff of amusement from Zo, and a distinctly dry, “fuck off.”
Despite what happened, she was okay.
And if she was okay, than I was okay too.
(1) This little piece of trivia was a gift from Stormwriter, a former English major and font of interesting trivia. And here, I thought I was just making a tribute to President Roslin…
(2) Stormwriter strikes again, for teaching me this acronym. Do you know it? No? First Lady of the United States.