Additional Notes Thanks to slackercaste for beta'ing the thing
Disclaimers: I don't own them, they're just cohabiting in a corner of my mind space. I'm not even charging them rent.
I wake slowly, gently, as if reluctant to face the world to come. A slight throb in the back of my brain tells me I had been drinking. Damn. And I'm naked. Naked and not alone. Double damn.
I try to return to the comforting world of my dreams. If I hide long enough, then maybe whomever I am with will wake and leave and I won't have to deal.
A leg moves, slowly, gently between mine and suddenly I am very awake. A sigh, a mumble, another gentle shift and silence.
I start to piece my world together. Ok, a leg between mine, and yup, mine similarly entwined. No quick escape. An arm over my hip, a hand on my breast and a head tucked under my chin. Hmm. So not a tall person. Ok. My right arm is lost beneath us both, a casualty to restricted blood flow and so can tell me nothing. The other rests lightly somewhere on a smooth soft back. A smooth, soft, hairless back. Oh oh. Is that a hint of stubble I feel against my legs? Please, let it be a confused teen aged guy... I move my arm slightly and it dips into a very feminine waist. Strike three, you're out.
I swallow and my mind finally identifies what I have known all along. Tequila and the taste of a woman linger in my mouth. As my body continues to wake I become aware of breasts pressing into me just below mine. A hint of perfume, not mine, shampoo, also not mine but familiar. Comforting yet scary. My head throbs with the familiar tequila hangover though not nearly enough to justify the presence of the woman in my bed. Oh yeah, and a low-grade ache all over tells me that whoever she is, we sure had fun.
The briefest of glimpses confirms what I know to be true. Red hair. Shit. I've done it again. My fourth Weaver look-alike this month. Ha, who I am kidding? The month isn't even half done. My fourth in twelve days. This is so not happening.
I still have no idea who she is, this woman in my arms. I start the painful process of trawling through my memories to work out how it is I ended up in bed with a redhead and a tequila headache despite swearing off both of them after the first, second and third time this happened.
OK yesterday. What happened yesterday? Umm, normal day at work. A couple of GSW's. Weaver and Carter save them, Weaver's happy, a big MVA then Romano comes down to annoy Weaver. Great. So much for happy Weaver. A few chest pains, ugh vomit. Weaver's still in a bad mood but at least now she is in cute scrubs. Lots of sniffles, another MVA, lunch, Weaver goes to a meeting, more sick people, Weaver comes back from her meeting in an even fouler mood, more sick people. Home time. Yup, normal day. So what happened?
Oh, that's right. A message for Weaver just before I am about to leave. She was in the Ped's room, looking after cute little 5 year old with a broken arm. One look at the gentle expression on her face as she talks to the child and I'm a goner. I am out of there faster than vomit out of a 10 year old. Did I even remember to give her the message? Yeh, I must have. Well, maybe. I have no idea. I just remember running. Running straight to that bar and the tequila.
I've been avoiding that bar. Not out of fear of running into any of my one-night stands That is not where I found any of them. No, the temptation stands behind the bar. Sal. I'd been coming here for months, ostensibly to flirt with Mike, the cute bar tender with abs to die for. It's only recently that I realised my true motivation. Sal. A younger, softer, more accessible Weaver. What she might have been if her life had been a little less hard, a little less driven. The safer reflection of my hidden desire.
I'm not sure when it crossed over from curiosity to desire. The curiosity was there from the start. Weaver watching. A long-time hobby of mine. A dangerous hobby to be sure. One to be indulged only when I was certain she was too busy to notice. She and everyone else. It's not a good idea to be caught watching the chief. I'd become so adept at hiding my attention that even I had forgotten I was doing it. A subconscious awareness ticking over, drawing me closer and closer to her. I always know where she is, what she is doing. No matter how busy the day, how many patients in chairs, or how many traumas on the way in, I still track her, multitasking to a degree that will never be shown on my CV.
Hey, she's The Boss. I have to know where she is, right? Her and all the other doctors. Yeah right, keep telling yourself that, girl. It may have been true once, in the beginning, but it's gone way past that. I've seen too much, flashes of pain quickly hidden, compassion like a river flowing to her patients, her fierce concentration as she battles for someone's life. I've seen her drooping with exhaustion after her second double shift in three days, barely able to stand, yet gathering again to fight as yet another trauma comes in. The smiles she has for our younger patients, the quiet respect for the elderly, and the compassion to allow those whose time has come to die in dignity.
I've seen it all. Seen it, and want it.
Another movement from the woman in my arms startles me from my musings and reminds me of my quest for a name. She'll be awake soon and I have to remember if I am to look like anything other than a complete heel. My situation leaves me with little enough cause for self respect without making a total fool of myself.
The Bar. I remember sitting at the bar playing with tequila number five. One through four were no problem. Dispatched quickly and easily overlooked. This was the one that counted. Four I could get away with. Four I could walk out, dignity and memory intact, with no headache in the morning, nothing to regret. Number five was different. Number five meant letting go. Number five was surrendering to the possibilities. Number five would help me forget that smile. Number five looked damn good.
Not ready to make the decision, I play with my drink and watch the others in the bar. I flirt with Mike, try not to stare at Sal and fend off yet another jerk offering to buy me a drink. Can't they see I already have one? One too many?
I go back to watching the bar and not looking at Sal when a patch of red and familiar movement registers in the corner of my eye. Oh my God, it's her. Without even looking I know it. Weaver. Here, in my bar. This has to be a joke, right? I glance at number five. Nope still there. Sal, still there. Weaver, still there, and she's seen me. My brain goes into meltdown as I smile and wave her over. My body takes advantage of my brains' temporary absence and number five is gone before I get the chance to vote. Oh God.
I place the empty glass on the bar and try to wipe the smile off my face as I offer to get Weaver a drink. A scotch joins tequila number six and I know I'm in trouble.
We talk stiltedly for a while. Small talk. Work talk. I ask her about her meeting, she says she'd rather forget. I ask her about the kid. Apparently, she fell over at school. She'll be in the cast for six weeks or so and then she'll be fine. She asks about my classes and I chatter inanely for a while, not really paying much attention to what I am saying, which is OK 'cause neither is she. Both of us play with our drinks. I wish I had some ice, a cocktail umbrella, anything to fixate on. Anything other than her.
With my patented Weaver-watching skills I check her out. Tight black jeans reveal the most amazing legs and cutest butt. I already knew what to expect, like I said. I've seen it all, but never so obviously on display. And her top, a brilliant green that does wonderful things to her eyes. Better even than the green scrubs I adore seeing her in. The top couple of buttons are undone revealing a hint of cleavage that has me staring way too long. A brief glance. That's all you can get with Weaver. Linger too long and she'll catch you.
"You look beautiful, Dr Weaver" I blurt as artlessly as Malucci at his worst. She looks up, startled. "That top, it really suits you. It's a great colour, does wonders for your eyes and complexion." I babble as I try and undo the damage of that unguarded comment. This is why I should have stopped at four. Even as I think this, the last of number six disappears down my throat.
She blinks as she tries to process what I said. Then her face is bathed with faint blush as the compliment registers and is accepted.
"Thank you, Randi." She pauses, then, smiles and adds, "I think."
We both smile, a little relieved.
"Oh, and you can call me Kerry. It's not like we're at the hospital now."
We chat some more, sharing our favourite clothing shops. Though, given our differences in taste, I doubt she would ever set foot in any of the places I frequent. She finishes her drink and I can tell she is getting ready to leave. Searching her mind for a polite way to exit, but I can't let her. I should, but I can't.
"Another drink, Kerry?" I ask as I signal to Mike.
"Thanks, Randi but no. I really should be going. I've an early shift tomorrow and I've got a lot of paperwork to catch up on."
I panic at the thought of her leaving and my body takes over again.
"Oh, come on, Kerry. We both know you're not on till 12," I tease. "Do you really think I'm going to let you go now that I've got a chance to get you drunk and pry out all your secrets?" The second these words come out I know it was the wrong thing to say. No one is more private than Kerry Weaver. Having been reprimanded for gossiping more than once, I know she'll take my comment seriously, rather than as the joke it should have been.
The anger that washes over her face does nothing to me. I've seen it so many times before, though rarely is it aimed directly at me. No, it's the loss of the smile and the peace that lingered there only a moment before that hurts. I search frantically for a way to undo the harm I have done to her. She stands and reaches for her crutch.
"Is that what this was Randi, a fishing expedition? I am sorry not to have provided any gossip for you, but I am sure you can make up something suitably juicy."
Her words hit me harder than a slap to the face and I know I have to do anything I can to rectify the situation. I can't bear to have her think that way of me.
"I'm sorry Dr Weaver, that's not what I meant. You have to know that's not what I meant. I would never do that to you Kerry, never. I respect you way too much. Please?" I curse the alcohol that has made me so clumsy and has blurred the edge I need in order to hide from her.
I reach for her hand to prevent her from leaving, hoping somehow that my touch will convey my remorse. We both look down, startled, as my hand wraps around hers, and her crutch.
It's not like I've never touched it before. Brushed up against it during the busier days. Hey, I've even used it to take down a psycho that took a swing at her. This time is different.
It is still cool to the touch, though I somehow know it will warm soon enough. Even now it is absorbing our heat, hers and mine. It is smoother than I expected, and there is something comforting about it, solid and sure. Totally involuntarily my thumb moves to caress it, to learn more of its reality. A reality which is so much a part of Weaver's life. In doing so I caress her too, which seems only natural as this is so much a part of her. Eventually my mind catches up with my actions and I realise what I am doing. My head whips up as I jerk my hand away, like a kid caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
I have no idea how long we look at each other. A moment? Forever? A thousand and one emotions crash through me and I am sure she can see each and every one. Her face however is totally unreadable. For the first time in years I have no idea what she is thinking. All my knowledge, all my Weaver watching has been in vain. I have no idea what she will do next.
"I... I..." I try to croak out something, anything, but there is nothing to say. My mind is a blank. I clear my throat and try again "I..."
I close my eyes and try desperately to forget those angry twin green fires staring into my soul. I swallow and use everything that is in me, all that I have learned, all that I have done. I draw on the strength that got me through prison and every day since and I regroup.
Opening my eyes, I meet her gaze steadily. I reach out and touch her hand again, firmly and deliberately. "Please stay," I ask. Free for now of number five I wait for her verdict.
She stares at me for a moment longer, then looks down to where my hand covers hers. Her other hand moves over and I tense as I think she is about to remove mine, but instead reaches for her crutch. We both let go at the same time and she removes her hand from its embrace and replaces her crutch against the bar between us and sits down.
I breathe again as Mike comes over and places new drinks in front of us with a smile and then goes back to the other end of the bar where Sal is watching with deep interest. She catches my eye and quirks her eyebrows at me, and I know that I've been sprung. No matter what happens between Kerry and I tonight, my evenings of covert Sal watching are a thing of the past.
I know that Kerry has not yet forgiven me for my earlier comment, though by staying she is giving me a chance to prove myself, to somehow win back what I so carelessly threw away. I search frantically for a way to repair what was between us. I play through and reject hundreds of scenarios. I scan through my database of one liner's looking for a way to diffuse the situation. I hear her stir beside me as she reaches for her drink. Eventually I realise that the only way to regain her trust is to show her mine. I have to make myself vulnerable to her. I have to remove my gum chewing, wise cracking mask and show her my real self.
Desperately in need of detachment I swallow my drink whole and signal for another. Then I begin. I find myself speaking the words I had hoped never to say again. I tell her of that night. The night that changed everything. The night that landed me in jail and branded me for life.
My Weaver-watching skills come into play again as I monitor her reactions to my story. She tenses at first as she watches me drink. I feel her apprehension mount as she waits for me to say something. Through the detachment granted by the alcohol I can sense her puzzlement as I start. This is obviously not what she was expecting. I can tell the exact moment when she realises what's going on. There is a moment of indecision then a tension of a whole different kind as I become the entire focus of her attention. Knowing that she is hanging on every word is almost too much, so I instead I bury myself in my story, becoming one with my memories.
As I slowly recite the events of the worst months of my life, I find myself pulled deeper and deeper into the memories of prison. The violence, pain, fear, the feeling of being constantly on edge, 24/7, and the smell. Memories of beatings from the officers, as well as the other inmates, the ever-shifting alliances, offers and counter offers. Offers of drugs and, at night, offers of other forms of solace.
For a brief moment I struggle, frightened by the darkness I find myself surrendering to. What if this time I can't get out, can't break free of the memories? Then the feel of Kerry's hand on mine calms me. I know that she is there and that she will protect me. Nothing can harm me with her on guard. My eyes open and fall on her crutch, propped against the bar between us. The sight comforts me, a visible reminder of this woman's amazing strength. Nothing gets past that crutch without Kerry's permission. Nothing.
I signal for another round, 10? 11? I can't remember, but with Weaver here, I don't need to. I glance at Kerry, offer her a brief smile and I return to my story.
Years later I reach blindly for my next drink, startled when I find, not the comforting shot glass I was expecting but a tall glass of... water? I look up at Mike to ask him what the hell is going on, but he has already retreated to the other end of the bar. Instead I turn to glare at Kerry.
"You've had enough, Randi," she says gently. Unwillingly I find myself caught in her eyes and the pain and compassion I see there overwhelms me.
"It's not enough, I can still remember."
"I know, sweetheart," she says, "but this is not the way." She reaches up to dry the tears I didn't even know I had cried. Her touch, gentle and barely felt, burns through me and I am lost. Time freezes again as I scramble for the last vestiges of my control. I feel her fingers leave my face and desolation wars with relief.
I jump when I hear her voice. Soft, tentative. I have to concentrate to hear it over the hum of the bar.
"I was five when we moved to Africa. I didn't want to leave my friends, but the thrill of the unknown drew us all on..."
For a moment I am angry that she has turned from me, certain she is using her memories to hide from my truth, saving herself from having to deal with me. I open my eyes and look at her. A gentle smile lingers on her face, her eyes are slightly unfocused as she looks back on a landscape only she can see. A landscape she is sharing with me. The breadth of it startles me as I realize she is not running from me, but taking me to a better place, a better time. A time when she was happy and free. She is trying to free me from my memories, even as I am free of that place.
I sit back and listen, my body welcoming the water she gave me even as my soul welcomes the tale she is telling. Suddenly I want to be sober for this. No longer seeking comforting oblivion, I reach instead for clarity. I want to remember this in the morning. I want to remember this forever.
By the time she stops talking I am on my fourth glass of water and the place is getting ready to close. Even though I don't ever want her to stop, I realise that my body is desperately in need of the bathroom. Not to throw up, as seemed my destiny earlier on, but to empty my bladder. A more pleasant, more natural function. The water having washed away some of the rather large volume of toxins I have been pouring in all night, even as her stories have washed away some of the darkness of my memories.
I throw down enough money to cover our tab, ignoring her protests, and ask Mike to call us a cab. Together we rise, neither of us entirely stable, and make our way over to the ladies room. If there is more touching than is entirely necessary neither of us mention the fact. It seems natural now for me to be holding her, guiding her, though as always it is she that leads and I that follow.
My face is a mess from my tears, and she smiles at my attempt to repair the damage. After several minutes shaky work that has left me, if anything, looking worse, she suggests that perhaps it would be best if I just washed the whole lot off. My look of horror is enough to start her giggling and I soon join in. Of all the things I have learnt about Weaver tonight, I think this is the most surprising. She has a wonderful laugh and I vow to do everything I can to make sure I hear more of it in the future.
I am not entirely certain how we ended up kissing, or who made the first move. I suspect it may have been me, though it could just as easily have been her. Neither of us was exactly what you would call sober, though not overly drunk either. Not anymore. Happy is probably what I'd call it. We were both happy and it seemed only natural to stay that way.
The trip back here is a bit of a blur. I was way too wrapped up in her to notice where we were going. As long as she was there I didn't really care. Come to think of it, I am not entirely certain where I am. Oh, that's right, her place. Thicker walls! Well, it seemed important at the time. I smile as I remember what came next. Memories flooding through me and causing a corresponding flood a little lower down.
I feel her stir against me once more and suddenly I know she is awake. No longer scared, there is a smile on my face as I open my eyes. I have the name I've been searching for. "Good morning, Kerry," I say as I bend down and kiss her again. She snuggles closer as she returns my kiss.
Not a look-alike then. The real Kerry Weaver.