Author's name: Lin
E-mail: email@example.com Title: An Acid Flashback Without the Good Parts Category: ER fanfic, vaguely slashy. Rating: R - vaguely fem slashy, vaguely hetero-slashy; casual swearing
Spoilers: ER S8 - for Ep 4 "Never Say Never" and 19 "Brothers and Sisters"
Summary: Susan Lewis's second day back at County.
Other: My first publishable non-crossover fic: aaaah. I wondered why Susan had come back to Chicago, what she thought of events since she'd left, and why she was so unfazed that Weaver had become a lesbian - despite nobody telling her. Sort-of sequel to my earlier " Straight Up".
The characters and setting of ER are the property of NBC, Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and Constant C Television.
An Acid Flashback Without the Good Parts
Wednesday, 7.45 pm, late fall, Chicago. A rundown County Hospital. The ER. Its lounge.
Observe Dr Susan Lewis, winding down sometime after the end of a twelve-hour shift , about to go home, but not quite free of the hospital's stresses yet. In her clean lab coat, standing in the doctors' lounge of the ER, holding a cup of coffee and contemplating a poster that commands Cure Autism Now. There's something about her expression, her attitude that invites the observer to describe them as the cool professionalism of a truly dedicated doctor
The observer would have been wrong, for Susan was actually building up to a weapons-grade sulk. Take the lab coat, for starters. Oh, it was hers, and always had been, plus it was white and crisp. But it was only clean because she had made it her mission to put it through Bio Pre Soak and Boil Wash until she'd got the mould out. All of it. It had taken seventeen cycles. And she'd practically had to jack-hammer out the creases. Mark - allegedly her best friend - Mark had kept it for her. In a box on a shelf in a locker in a room in the stores in the basement in a hospital. For FIVE YEARS. Whatever had possessed him? She repressed the names of half a dozen clinical syndromes without conscious effort.
Then there was the coffee. It was liquid, black and warm, and that meant it could pass for coffee - around County , but nowhere else in the universe, however far you boldly went. As for the cup - better not mention its previous owners, where she suspected it had been found, or what she fervently hoped it had not contained.
She'd paid over the odds for hair by Jim Henson. There were no windows in the ER: she came to work in the dark, she went home in the dark. She felt like the Bride of Dracula.
And you can't cure autism, period.
Susan was missing Scottsdale, badly, and missing the Chicago of her memories even worse. Five years ago, she'd known an invisible city embraced within the cement and steel, bricks and mortar of the city she shared with millions of others. Within that was her own citadel of imagination, friends, habits, day, nights, evolved as their lives interwove.
Go to Angelucci's for the best coffee; round the corner, pick up Jane at the bookstore on her way to drop off her dry cleaning; drive past the park where she used to play with little Suzy; two blocks over, the bar where she met her old friends from med school, her soul mates, to catch up and brag about what happened after the jazz club; pick up pizza from Ed's and then all back to Mike's for a good laugh. Compare frequent flyers, tell sweet stories about Mark, less sweet but much funnier ones about Weaver.
Old man Angelucci had sold up when she was in Arizona. Another hideous Starbucks now. Jane Pratt moved to New Jersey after she'd got married, and boy had Susan been weirded out to be a bridesmaid at that wedding. The bookstore was gone, the drycleaner's was gone, even the corner was gone, all for a now bankrupt dot.com's offices. The swings were broken in the little park, the roundabout didn't turn, the slide was dangerous. She wasn't even sure if it was safe in the evenings any more. Different people had the bar, Ed's, probably even the jazz club, where none of them went any longer for risk, adventure, change. Mike was in private practice, lived in the suburbs, played golf, only had married friends himself now. What his wife's name was, she couldn't remember. The rest of them, she got Christmas cards from, most years. Even Jane.
When she upped and followed her sister and new brother-in-law and little Suzy to Scottsdale, she just thought of the continuity. Family's the most important thing. You've got to prioritise. You'd just miss the kid too much.
That's not how it appeared under the searchlight of 120o heat. In Arizona, she'd wake up some mornings in a green sweat of fear because of the things she'd never done, the places she'd never been, people she'd never met. Continuity disappeared over the event horizon with its ass on fire.
Once Susan got to Arizona, life was all about change. And drive. And energy. How she had needed that.
As she drove round Chicago, or walked round the hospital, her invisible city of five years ago would flash back into her mind, while she was jiggling the door on her locker, teasing Carter or listening to vitals. Then, almost before she could place the memory, that city would vanish back into the fall mists over the lake.
In comparison, the present day hospital, like the present day city was - if she was honest, it was a blur. Patients, diagnoses, frequent flyers, treatments, delays, families, blended into one another. Even the staff were a blur. Even though it was her first day back, Susan was embarrassed to admit to herself that she'd actually resorted to snapping her fingers and calling "Nurse, Nurse". She'd pissed that one off royally. Not that it would take much doing, since Nurse Crabby was pretty damn negative and sarcastic to start with. Almost negative and sarcastic enough to be British, in fact. Still, she squirmed, a bit.
Five years gone, six days back, and what's changed? Just about everything.
She'd returned to Chicago to discover her friends' lives had gone to hell in a hand basket. There were probably people on death row having a better time.
She repeated her litany of disbelief, like she'd once learned symptoms and side-effects. Carter got stabbed by a patient; Mark's married to a woman who stole Sideshow Bob's hair (but she seems nice, she drilled herself conscientiously, she seems nice); they had a baby daughter, who howled incessantly, and who could blame her?
Carol had just got on a plane to Seattle one day; Benton had a five year old son himself, who lost his mother in a car crash not six weeks ago; Jeannie had hepatitis C as well as being HIV positive, if she was still alive, which nobody knew, not even Weaver, who'd mysteriously lost all contact with her around Thanksgiving last year.
Deb was now Jing-Mei, and had quit, again, this time over a textbook case of Marfan's whom she'd failed to diagnose and somehow contrived to off without a guide wire in sight, AND had given up a half-Chinese, half African-American baby for adoption. Always was over-competitive, that girl.
Five years gone.
Five years. Gone.
And Mark has a brain tumour.
Sometimes change is over-rated.
Especially if it puts Kerry Weaver in charge. Did she spend those years in Africa learning from a witch-doctor how to be 100% effective in shredding people's nerves raw?
"Susan." That voice. Destroyed people and left buildings intact. At least she wasn't yelling. Yet.
"Any coffee left?"
"This is the last. Make you some fresh if you got the time?" Oh please please PLEASE ...
"It has quietened down ..." Chicago Coffee Torture, here we come.
She sniffed the packet. "Bit stale. What's the roach coach like these days?" Still hope.
"Over-priced. Forget the cafeteria, they scald it. "
Damn. "Doc Magoo's?"
Kerry winced. "Stay on hospital premises during your shift, Susan."
There was no polite escape while the coffee was still brewing, and no real point in reminding Weaver that her shift was over. Fortunately Susan didn't have to struggle for small talk, as Weaver unsteadily turned away and limped heavily to her locker, which she tried to shut silently. She came back with Tylenol, which she washed down with two glasses of water. Susan watched her boss move stiffly to the nearest chair and sit down very cautiously indeed.
Anybody else, thought Susan - with far less sympathy then her own record in Scottsdale merited - anybody else and you'd have said they were massively hungover after spending a pharmaceutically enhanced weekend being fucked senseless right down there on the floor.
But Kerry Weaver? EWWW. There's an image.
Now Weaver was silent, there was no need to rush the de-stressing process.
Why had she come back to Chicago? Oh yeah, she'd quarrelled terminally with her sister.
Susan shuddered as she remembered the final row before she left Arizona. Different from the rows they'd had before, when Chloe had run off with loser boyfriends, got drunk, abandoned her daughter, got drunker, started using.
Because this time round she hadn't been using, from what she could see. Admittedly, she hadn't been round as often as she would have liked. Clean and sober Chloe. Five year anniversary. Who'd have thought it. Still a colossal pain in the ass.
Their final row had inverted the pattern of thirty five years. Usually Chloe started off with an obscene outburst, yelled and flailed her arms - frequently so as to collide with the less desirable, but still insured, items of china or glass - until she wore herself out, when she reluctantly absorbed the truth of what Susan had to say, and subsided into sullen acquiescence.
This time she started from a Zen of indifference, worked her way up to passive, through mild, vexed, indignant and theatrical, until her temper went nova. It was the worst row the sisters had ever had.
Different sort of row altogether. This time Susan had lost.
Forbidden the house, shut out from the family, exiled from little Suzy. Her fianc Dev hadn't been much help. It wasn't the sort of hurt you could heal with sex.
He was part of the problem. Or the sex. Or the sex with him. The never-ending, always inventive, on demand, hot monkey sex. You wouldn't believe there could be such a thing as too much sexual chemistry. You'd be wrong. There were only so many times you could tell security guards, or cops, that he'd just proposed and you were holding an impromptu celebration. There you were unloading up your shopping cart before the ice-cream melted, the next moment your eyes met, or your hands brushed, and BAM, there you were screwing like mink in heat, in the parking lot, in broad daylight, in the back of the pickup, in a nearly impossible position you'd just invented, right there on the floor, and probably on CCTV, until you regained your senses in a puddle of Cherry Garcia that he was desperate to lick right off you.
Unorthodox way to get into yoga.
There were times when she was warming up through different positions - Grasshopper , Cow - when she could swear she felt Dex's body brushing up against hers, pressing against hers, moving into hers, moving with hers. Then it was time for Downward Facing Dog, and for Susan to crumple gasping into a red-faced heap.
Away from Arizona Susan could tell how much she'd needed a break from Div. Great man, great lover, if that was all you needed. But he wasn't all she needed.
Even in bed. Or the back of a truck. Or on a fire-escape. With or without the handcuffs. The blindfold. The oil. Up against a wall. In the river. Park. Mall. Cinema. Changing rooms. Station. Alley. Fire escape. The desert at night. A parked ambulance.
All the same in the end.
Some things she wanted weren't his to give.
Crabby flung the door open and yapped "MVA rolling in, five minutes!"
Weaver cringed as the door slammed, then recovered. "How many?"
"Two major, five minor."
"On my way." Weaver finished her pseudo-coffee and hauled herself up, hiding the pain in her eyes with almost complete success.
Susan put down her own cup and made to follow her, until Weaver held up her hand.
"Go home. You've been on since seven. Abby - get Carter."
Weaver swung awkwardly out of the lounge, calling orders in a subdued bark.
Relief triumphed over duty. It had been a hard shift. For twelve hours Weaver had been on her case. Susan, could you take. Two GSWs in five minutes. Where are your charts. County can't afford that. These your labs? Sometime before Easter would be good. Radiology's backed up. Blunt head trauma. Call transport. Mrs O'Reilly in Trauma One. Get him up to surgery. Can you take. Rule out appy in 4. You got vomiting guy? Call housekeeping. Straight to Curtain Three. Security. How long have they been sitting there? Blood-bank. Carter needs you. Put him in Trauma Two. Call Security. How long has she been down. Chest pain. Anytime soon. Can you take.
No let up. Twelve hours. Seemed like twenty-four. Especially with Weaver sneaking looks at her like she'd just pot-roasted her puppy.
OK, so her first shift yesterday had ended in a misunderstanding over the girl with the ectopic pregnancy. Plus, she'd cut off a call Weaver had been making. An unfortunate mistake, Susan conceded, but nothing you couldn't get over. And yet - every now and again, throughout her shift, she had been convinced she could feel her colleague's eyes boring into her back. Jeez, woman, lighten up, it's not like she won't call you back ...
Today had been one long hard shift. Susan felt like a train wreck.
Some good advice Susan had received as a med student: at the end of a draining shift, don't stop - change gears. Do something different. In Susan's case, that night, doing something different would involve: no straight-to-videos. No microwaving, no take-out. Music she hadn't picked herself. Different people. New people. Living people. Chilling out instead of sticking pins in the Weaver voodoo doll.
Sometimes she wondered whether that was what had happened to the woman's leg.
Susan went to shut her locker and realised she'd decided what she was going to do that evening. She was going to a bar.
Only problem was, she needed to find a new bar.
Her first day back at work, and Weaver had chewed her out for not being a team player. Weaver. Gotta learn to pitch in some more. The nurses will cut you some slack. Until you get back up to speed, Susan.
Her first night back in town, after she'd accepted the job at County, she'd gone to her favourite bar to celebrate, delighted to find some piece of the invisible city still incarnate in bricks and mortar, pleased to find Thursday wasn't a mixed night any longer. She still couldn't believe her bad luck. The one place in Chicago away from County she thought she could call her own, and who the hell was perched tensely on a stool centre-stage at the bar having a Mexican standoff with a vodka straight up?
And the bartender had been cute. Make that CUTE.
She'd always had a thing for bartenders, like Chloe had for smack. The rows she'd had with Jane over that.
Susan shut her locker. Chicago is a big city; there'll be other bars, other bar-tenders, other blondes - other blonde bar-tenders, come to that, and just as cute.
But - wow. Weaver really was a lesbian. Susan felt - cheated. It took all the fun out of spreading malicious rumours about her painfully conformist colleague's sexuality if the gossip was true.
Almost all the fun.
She was just going to have to invent some juicier rumours, that was all.