Notes: Written for the Ray/Neela LJ community's "April Showers" challenge. And for those of you who are wondering (Tinkoo), I do have a few multi-chaptered fic ideas in the works. But I have a bunch of one-shotters I want to finish first.
Thanks much to fc2001 for the beta.
Rating: T (if you can watch, you can read.)
Content Warning: Allusions to child abuse/molestation.
Disclaimer: ER and its characters are the property of Michael Crichton, John Wells, Amblin Entertainment and Constant C Productions. No infringement intended, please don't sue, yadda yadda yadda.
When the Rain Comes
© 2005, By: Ash Carroll (a.k.a. ShadowDiva)
Ray scanned admit for his wayward roommate, but his search proved fruitless. He frowned. She was riding home with him, since her car was in the shop, and he was pretty certain she'd said she'd meet him here.
"All right," Morris called in his usual obnoxious manner, "who's going to Ike's after work? First round's on me."
Maybe she'd decided to wait in the lounge.
Or anywhere else Morris wasn't likely to be.
Twenty minutes later, he'd checked the short list of other places he'd thought she might be, and asked at least five different people if they'd seen her. No one had. Out of ideas, he'd found himself back at admit.
"Hey, you seen Neela? She said she'd meet me here when shift was over."
Abby looked up from her charts and shrugged in reply. "Not since earlier. Susan grabbed her for something in exam 2."
"Okay," he replied, digesting the information, "you seen Lewis, then?"
"Try exam 4," Sam offered, looking up from the computer screen.
Ray nodded once in her direction by way of a thank you, then headed off to locate his boss.
The rain fell in a steady mist of silver as he peered out through the ER's rear double doors. All Lewis would tell him - before suggesting he try the ambulance bay - was that they'd had a difficult patient and Neela had gone out for some air. Somehow he got the feeling there was a lot she wasn't saying. He stepped closer to the glass for a better look, causing the barriers to slide open.
A rush of air assaulted him, and he shivered involuntarily, wondering if Jerry had messed with the calendar again because it sure as hell didn't feel like April. He peered out into the rain once more. Neela couldn't possibly be out in this, but then again, he'd checked every other possible place he could think of, and no one else had seen her since Lewis had called her in to assist with her patient.
Ray shivered again as he stepped outside. If he didn't find her out here, he was leaving. She could find her own damn way home.
Squinting through the rain and the darkness, he swept his gaze across the empty ambulance bay until he spotted her, sitting alone on a bench under the glaring red lights. Frowning at the odd sight, he tugged the collar of his jacket up and sprinted across the bay.
"Hey, I've been looking all over for you. Shift's over, let's go."
He started heading in the direction he'd parked his van, but halted when he realized she hadn't followed. He walked back over to her, rain drops beginning to trickle down his neck as his jacket reached saturation.
"Neela. Come on." He waited for her to get up and follow him, but she made no effort to move or speak. "Neela?"
His gaze drifted downward and he studied her closely. Her eyes were red and puffy, dark hair plastered to her forehead and neck. Her scrubs - once a light green - dark and soaked through.
He touched her shoulder. It was cold. Not quite cold enough for hypothermia, but it would be soon if he didn't get her warm and dry. "Hey," he murmured, "let's go home. It's freezing out here."
She didn't reply, nor did she fight him when he gently pulled her to her feet and slid his left arm out of his jacket sleeve so he could curl it around her shoulders and drape the jacket partway over her. She didn't protest as he guided her to where his van was parked and buckled her into the passenger seat.
The ride home was a silent one except for the blow of the heater and the low hum of the radio. Even then, it was only because the silence drove him crazy.
But, truth be told, it scared him, too.
He glanced over at her as they entered the apartment. Huddled in his jacket - easily two sizes too large - she wandered over to the living room window and stared out at the rain.
This wasn't Neela at all.
It had to have been her difficult patient, which he knew in Susan-speak meant an emotionally taxing case. He wondered how just bad hers was; she'd had difficult patients and cases before, but none had ever gotten this reaction out of her.
He dropped his bag by the door and joined her at the window. "You should get into something dry. Take a hot shower or something."
Her gaze remained fixed on the rain.
He sighed. "Look, you're going to go into hypothermia if you don't get warm, so you've got two choices. You go into the bathroom and get yourself a hot shower and some dry clothes, or I'll do it for you."
Expression blank, she didn't move, and he wondered if she'd even heard him. Well, he couldn't wait around to find out.
And if she wasn't going to do it, he would.
Placing both hands on her shoulders, Ray turned Neela around and guided her toward the bathroom. Turning the shower on full force, he peeled his jacket off her shoulders as he waited for the water to warm up, regarding her wet clothes with a frown.
He knew she had to get out of them, but decided against doing it himself. They hadn't lived together very long, but there were certain things about Neela it hadn't taken him very long to learn.
She didn't have a problem letting people know when she was pissed off at them, but she wasn't as obvious when other emotions were involved. He knew she wouldn't have wanted him to see her like this, with her emotional barriers stripped away - and she sure as hell wouldn't want him to see her without her physical ones.
Maybe if he put her under clothes and all, the heat of the water would snap her out of her funk enough for her to finish on her own. Besides, he was feeling pretty chilled himself.
The water began to steam and he regulated the temperature so that it would be hot enough to warm her but not enough to burn. Then he picked her up and stood her in the tub before proceeding to maneuver her under the spray.
At least he tried to.
She was semi-aware now, struggling against him to try and get away, but he held on; his size affording him a clear advantage. "Neela, stop! You're gonna get hypothermia if you don't warm up!"
"I want to!"
Ray blinked, confused. His grip on her arms loosened slightly, though not enough for her to get away. "What the hell's the matter with you?"
She could feel the heat radiating from the water; her body wasn't numb anymore.
And neither was her mind.
She could still see her patient; blonde curls, blue eyes, tear-stained face...hand-shaped bruises covering her thighs. Every detail was forever burned into her memory.
But she doubted he'd understand. He was the Dispo Doc; treat'em and street'em. She'd torn him a new one only a few months ago for treating medicine like a day job instead of a career.
Tonight had left her wondering if maybe he didn't have the right idea.
Come in. Do your thing. Leave.
But she couldn't do that.
She didn't have it in her to be that kind of doctor, and she envied him because he did.
She sighed, ceasing her struggles. "You wouldn't understand."
Ray's eyes met hers, his gaze unwavering and completely serious. "Try me."
"I just...don't want to feel." She closed her eyes. "Not tonight."
He studied the woman in front of him; soaking wet, chilled to the bone, and completely drained - physically and emotionally. She could barely stand on her own. Her hands found their way to his shoulders, using them to try and support herself. Ray readjusted his grip on her arms to hold her up, positioning their bodies so the hot spray hit them both.
Silence stretched between them, the hot water doing its job to warm them little by little. He wished she didn't have her eyes closed; she was easier to read when they were open.
But even without her eyes as a guide, he was pretty sure he knew what this was about.
"Lewis said you had a difficult patient," he murmured, breaking the silence.
Neela sighed, squeezing her eyes more tightly shut. "Difficult doesn't even begin to describe it."
"You wanna talk about it?"
Another sigh. "I did my first rape kit today. It was bad."
Well that explained it. He squeezed her arms gently in response, waiting to see if she'd say more.
Her eyes opened slowly, and she stared at a spot on his shirt. "She was eight years old, Ray. I-" she shook her head, lifting her gaze to meet his. "What kind of monster does that to a child?"
She was looking to him for answers, but he had none to give. "I don't know."
It was too much.
She lost the battle she'd been fighting all evening. Fatigue won and her knees buckled, refusing to support even her slight weight any longer. Ray caught her on the way down, cradling her against him as he slid them to a sitting position; hot spray pouring on them from above.
Her bottom lip quivered, tears spilling down her cheeks as she hid her face in the crook of his neck. Wrapping his arms around her, he rested his cheek atop her head, rubbing her back in slow rhythmic circles.
After several minutes, his back hurt and his legs were cramping from the awkward angle, but he ignored it. Neela was more important.
They sat that way in silence until she managed to pull herself back together. Sniffling, she straightened up and pulled away, ducking her head in embarrassment as she wiped at her eyes.
"Hey." He tipped her chin up. "Don't apologize."
Neela sighed and looked around, registering exactly where they were. She bit her lip, shivering. "We should turn off the water and get out of here."
"We should," he agreed, and she shifted so he could get up.
He pulled her to her feet then, and she glanced around. "I suppose clothes would help. Dry ones, I mean."
He ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I guess they would."
She gestured over her shoulder toward the door. "I think I'm going to go get some."
He climbed out of the tub and shut off the water, offering her a hand. She let him help her, then moved off toward her room.
She emerged from the bathroom half an hour later to find him at the counter, fiddling with a pot; wet clothes piled in a heap on the kitchen floor.
"Didn't you want the bathroom?"
He shook his head. "Changed in my room. Dump your clothes with mine, if you want. I'll take them downstairs later and put them through."
She retrieved hers from the bathroom and dumped them on top of his. "Aren't you cold?"
"Was. Not so much now, though."
She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering. "I'm freezing."
"So get into bed and bundle up. I'll make you something hot."
"That-" She was about to protest, but her teeth chattered and she changed her mind. "-sounds like a really good idea."
He smiled, turning his attention back to the pot in front of him as she shuffled off to her room. Kicking off her fuzzy blue bunny slippers, she climbed into bed and burrowed down under the covers - the sheet, a thermal blanket, and a quilt - hoping to stop shivering.
Ray came in several minutes later, carrying two steaming mugs. "Here you go, Roomie. Just what the doctor ordered."
He set the mugs down on the nightstand, perching on the edge of the bed as she sat up. The smell of hot chocolate wafted towards her, and Neela held out her hands as he passed her a mug. Bringing it to her nose, she took an appreciative sniff then chanced a sip, careful not to burn her mouth.
She nodded, shooting him a small smile as she blew on the hot liquid and took another sip. "I could get used to this, you know; might become a habit."
"Fine by me." He smiled, sipping from his own mug. "Better?"
She swallowed a mouthful of hot chocolate, then blew into her mug and took another large sip. "Yeah."
They drank in silence for several minutes before she finally drained the last from her cup. Lying back down, she burrowed down under the covers once more, as Ray pulled the blankets up around her.
She frowned and shivered again. "Not really."
Normally she'd have asked for another blanket, but tonight - with her world turned on its head - all she wanted was someone to hold her.
Pulling back the covers, she looked up at him with beseeching eyes. "Could you stay? Please?"
Ray grinned as he slid in beside her, pulling the blankets back up. "I knew you couldn't resist me."
Neela rolled her eyes and snuggled against his side, pillowing her head on his chest as he wrapped an arm around her. "Right, that must be it."
"Wait till the ER hears about this."
She tilted her head back to look at him. "Do it and I'll tell Lewis you were the one who ate her double chocolate doughnut."
She stared at him.
He swallowed. "You would."
Silence descended and she laid her head back down, listening to his heart as it beat beneath her ear. Ray's hand came up to play with her hair, fingers gently working out the tangles before moving down to trace abstract patterns on her back through her pajama top. His chest rumbled, voice breaking the silence.
"You scared the shit out of me tonight."
"It's just - I've never seen you like that before. And by the way, it's not an experience I wanna have again, so talk to me next time, huh? Let me help."
She nodded the best she could - with her head in its present position - but she was far too comfortable to move. "Promise," she agreed, and she could hear him smiling when he answered.
Another stretch of silence, shorter this time.
She mumbled his name in a sleepy voice. "Ray?"
"S'it still raining?"
She felt him turn his head to glance out the window. "Yeah." Another smile. "Get some sleep."
"'Kay," she mumbled, already halfway there.
He hummed softly - a tune she couldn't place. It was the last thing she heard as his fingers returned to tracing patterns on her back and the steady beat of his heart drowned out everything else.