Title: Everything and Nothing
Character(s) or Pairing: Ray/Neela
Prompt: #18 - And if the answer is no / can I change your mind?
Summary: Tony asks Neela a question in the wake of 'From Here to Paternity'.
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognisable characters, and they are used here without permission. ER belongs to Michael Crichton, John Wells, Amblin Entertainment, Warner Brothers and a bunch of other people all of whom are richer than me.
Beta: Ash. Thanks, hon!
"You want me to move to Wisconsin? With you?"
"So that i we /i can be closer to Sarah?"
Neela collapsed against the sofa in Abby's apartment. Still Abby's. Not hers.
"Look, Neela," Tony ran a hand through his hair as he tried to gather the words to explain it to her, "you and me? We work. Neither of us has anything holding us here. You don't even have your own apartment. Think about it. What's stopping you from finding somewhere else or taking over Abby's lease?"
"No. Think about it, promise me?" He looked down at her, pouting, hoping she would cave. "What's stopping you?"
What's stopping you? The phrase circulated her mind whenever she had a free moment in her next shift, and even when she didn't. That had been the end of the conversation; Tony'd had to leave to get Sarah from school.
Tony was right. There was nothing stopping her. Everything and nothing.
Chicago had become her whole world. Chicago held her heart and her home.
It had taught her. It had destroyed her. It had rebuilt her.
How do you leave something like that?
"Hmm? Did you say something, Neela?"
They were seated at Tony's kitchen table; Sarah was in her room packing up some of her stuff to take to her grandparent's home.
"And?" He gave her that dopey grin; the one he'd obviously learnt over the years would give him everything. And nothing.
"No, what? You don't want Chinese? We can go for Thai instead, or Sarah might offer to cook again."
"No. To what you asked yesterday."
"What?" He looked astonished; as if it hadn't occurred to him that she might turn him down. Didn't he remember that that had been the first thing she'd ever done to him?
"Tony!" Sarah's voice sounded through the kitchen, "I can't find my Green Day t-shirt!"
"Can it wait a minute, Sarah?"
It seemed he was hearing that a lot today.
Luc-, no, Doctor Dubenko had Mae-Lee tailing him again. Her of the smug face and smug answers. Like she knew everything. More like nothing but books.
Mae-Lee had taken every surgery case in the ER from under her in the last week. She was just a student. This had never happened with Katey. She snorted. Well, it wouldn't have would it? Katey would have done better at Seattle Grace as opposed to County.
"Doctor Dubenko, I-"
"No, Neela. This is a perfect teaching case for Mae-Lee."
What's stopping you?
"Everything and nothing." She muttered.
"I'm sorry, Neela, did you grumble something sarcastic under your little British breath?"
"No, Doctor Crenshaw. Sorry. I have to get back to the ER."
"And I'm sure they'll be happy to have you."
"Did you mean what you said yesterday?"
"Hmm, sorry?" She said as she lifted her eyes from the words in the online textbook she was using to check up a few facts before she called Crenshaw down.
"When you said no. Did you mean it?"
They were standing in Admin. Frank was very obviously i not listening /i . Hope was off to the side filling in a chart. And Ray, Ray was attaching the postcard Timmi and Gracie had sent to the bottom of the board.
"Is this really the time, Tony?" She asked from behind gritted teeth.
"Don't you know that 'no means no', Dr Gates?"
Neela nearly laughed aloud at the comment from Hope and the looks it provoked all round. Instead, having found her answer, she reached for the phone and effectively put an end to the conversation.
"Is it the change in hospital? Because the nearest hospital to where Sarah will be is very good, highly thought of and all that."
"Is it Sarah? Because, you know, she really does actually like you. She's just being a girl about it."
Yeah, Tony. That's the way to get me to change my mind.
"No. It's not the hospital. It's not Sarah." She took the coffee the guy at the cart outside the ER handed her and handed over the correct change with a smile. "Thanks."
"It's him, isn't it?" Tony took his and paid without looking at the guy.
"Oh, don't give me that Neela! You know exactly who I mean."
"I-" She's stopped by an ambulance pulling up into the bay and Luka shouting for them both to grab this one, it's most likely a surgical case, while he and Abby take the next one.
"What, are you messing around with him behind my back?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
Sam was eyeing them both as she passed a vascular clamp to Neela.
"Tony. Now is really not the time."
"No. I think it is. You-"
He's stopped by several alarms going at once. The patient is crashing. This may be the one time in her life she's relieved to hear those sounds.
"Hey Neela. You need a lift?"
The first smile on her face in days and it's at his voice, and the memories that it provokes. She almost says yes. She looks up and movement behind him catches her eye. It's Tony. Anger written across his face.
"Uh, thanks, Ray." She looks back at him and that smile covering his face and sighs as she adds, "but I've got it covered."
She knows that she needs to talk to Ray. But this time Tony needs to come first, this time. She sighs again as she turns towards Tony and attempts a smile, it comes across as more of a grimace.
"Ok then. See you later guys." Ray calls as he heads out the doors.
She's sitting in a front seat again. Somehow this time isn't going to be quite as fun as the last.
"I was right wasn't I?"
"I, the thing is-"
"No. No, thing is. I. Was. Right. Wasn't. I?"
"Do you have any idea what this year has been like for me? A year ago I was still married. I may not have been totally happy, but I had that in my life. I had love and stability. I had a home and a heart."
"But it wasn't with the guy you were married to, was it?" He snarls back at her. The shock on her face is evident. "Oh, Neela, the hospitals a big place, people talk. Everyone knew you were banging Barnett behind Gallant's back."
Her hand is out and across Tony's face before she realises what she's doing. For a minute they sit in total stillness and silence. She breaks it.
"I wasn't. I didn't."
"I'm hearing that a lot these days."
"Maybe should have heard it earlier. No I've never, never, slept with Ray. Never."
Maybe the pain at that is evident in her voice and in her face because Tony's face changes to total hurt.
"You used me, didn't you?"
"Only as much as you used me. You used me to avoid Meg. I used you to avoid Michael's death. You used me to avoid Sarah and work and everything in your life that you can't handle. I used you to avoid Ray and work and everything in my life that I can't handle."
They were silent again for a moment.
"I need to move on, to move forward. I thought that that was what I was doing. It really wasn't. You and, and every other stupid thing I let myself do. That was avoiding. And not dealing. I've still not grieved for what I lost. I need to do that. I need to move on. I need to move forward, without trailing one hand behind me still holding on."
"What about what I need?"
"What you need? It's not me. It's not Chicago. It's Sarah. It's Wisconsin."
"Why don't you let me make that decision for myself?"
"But you already did, Tony, you already did. You just won't let yourself see that."
"So, that's what you're doing? Helping me?"
"I, I think it's time you took me back to Abby's."
"Are you ever going to find a home, Neela? That's what I could give you. What Sarah could give you."
"I have a home, Tony. I just need to find my way there."
Everything would be well were there not a "but." - German Proverb