TITLE: Those Who Cannot Do
PAIRING: Kerry/Elizabeth, Romano/Elizabeth RATING: R for language and sexual references SERIES/SEQUEL: The first of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Redhead, following "Some Things Only She Knows." Everything I learned about numbering series, I learned from Douglas Adams. SPOILERS/CONTINUITY: Up through the first episode of the 9th season, after which this becomes an AU. FEEDBACK: Obviously. Send it privately to mosca6@m... ARCHIVE: Yes to list archives, ER Femslash, and Mmm... Doctor. Everybody else ask first. Please don't alter my disclaimers and notes.
SUMMARY: Romano's in pain.
DISCLAIMERS: ER is the intellectual property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television. This original work of fan fiction is copyright 2002 Mosca. I make no profit, so it's protected in the USA by the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. All rights reserved. All wrongs reversed. Blah blah blah fishcakes.
NOTES: Thanks to k and Katisha for being awesome beta women. This one goes out to Invicta.
This story was greatly inspired by the Kristin Hersh song "Not Like You."
The poem excerpt at the beginning is from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens, and the whole series is a homage to that poem.
My arm hurts. It hurts all the time now: when I wake up and when I'm trying to fall asleep, when I think about it and when I finally get my mind off of it, when I try to jerk off without my left hand for balance and can't get the angle right. Maybe it's too early to be weaning myself off the Vicodin, but I don't like the way it makes my mind feel cloudy. And I really doubt I should be trying to work. I just can't stand leaving the mice alone to tear the hospital to shreds for any longer than I have to.
I'm running my first management meeting since the accident. People are putting on that whole Vaudeville act of pretending that it's just a matter of time before I'm back in the OR, but we all know the truth. I've got a fine career ahead of me as an administrator or a med school lecturer. God knows that County could use a full-time chief of staff who isn't distracted by his alter ego as a surgeon, but that's not who I want to be. It's not what I fucking signed up for.
We get through the meeting. People seem clear on who's taking care of what while I'm on reduced hours. Emphasis on "seem." Tomorrow, I'm going to get at least a dozen memos and e-mails asking me to reiterate points that I fucking beat to fucking death at the meeting. Most doctors are so flaky and arrogant it's a wonder they can manage anything. Many, in fact, don't. And then they wonder why assholes like me end up in charge.
I take a detour to the men's room, remembering only once I'm inside that it's going to be a long fucking detour. I lock myself in the handicapped stall and take a deep breath. My arm hurts. It hurts like fucking hell.
I am dealing with the complex chore of one-handed fly opening when I start hearing voices. They're too muffled to be coming from the open area of the men's room, and besides, they sound female. I take a few waddling steps closer to the back wall of the stall. The ladies' room shares a wall with the men's room; the pipes must be carrying the sound. And those are two voices I'd recognize anywhere. Kerry Weaver, high-pitched and strident. Elizabeth Corday, sensual and accented. I've got no moral qualms about pressing my ear to the pipe.
"...almost made me laugh in the middle of a meeting," Kerry is saying.
"Too bad," Elizabeth says. "I was hoping for a squeal, or..." The rest of the sentence trails off, but I can imagine the gist of it.
"...so unfair," Kerry says.
"I thought I was allowed to flirt."
"There's flirting, and then there's a foot in my crotch at a staff meeting." Strangely enough, the significance of this is not really registering with me. Elizabeth is a flirt. She flirts. She's doing it to Kerry because it fucking gets to Kerry.
"Oh, come... you liked it," Elizabeth says.
"...we weren't going to do this again."
"...weren't going to expect to do this again," Elizabeth says. "But we could." Then again, Elizabeth used to flirt with Peter Benton because it got to him, and it got him into her bed. Elizabeth gets what Elizabeth wants. And if what she wants isn't you, well, you can just forget it.
"...make you squeal?" Elizabeth says.
"You're going to have to work for that," Kerry says. It's quiet for a little while. I successfully empty my bladder. I think about sending Shirley in there to tell Elizabeth that one of her surgeries has been pushed up in the schedule. Hell, I should go in there myself. Catch them half-naked and humiliated. Threaten to tip off the press.
There are moans and "Oh God"s emanating from the other side of the wall, and I know I'm going to have to button myself up and get out of there fast, becase the sound and the mental image of the two of them together is starting to turn me on.
When I think about it, it all starts to make sense. I remember a day a few months ago when Kerry came in to work walking on air. "Somebody had a good night," I said.
"What makes you say that?" she said.
"Come on, Kerry," I said. "You look like the cat that ate out the canary." She scoffed and limped away. I wonder now if that was when it started, because Elizabeth left town about a week after that and didn't come back until a month ago. Of course, this thing they've got going could be new, but it didn't sound like that.
My arm is killing me. I hustle back to the refuge of my office and pop a couple of Vicodin. I can't think clearly enough to do anything productive, but my arm hurts less. I am trying to have a look at expenditure reports. My mind is wandering all over the place. It's irritating as fuck.
It seems like a grand and profound observation: today, we have conclusively demonstrated that Elizabeth Corday not only would, but in fact has, fucked Kerry Weaver before she would so much as consider sleeping with me. Well, fuck Kerry Weaver. Fuck her raw. Let Elizabeth have her experimental lesbian love affair, or whatever it is she'll want to call it, but let her know this: no one will ever love her like I love her. Not Peter Benton, not Mark Greene, and certainly not Kerry Fucking Weaver. There's no fucking way.
Sheila, my secretary, knocks and pokes her head in my office door. "Dr. Weaver to see you," Sheila says.
"Let 'er in," I sigh.
Kerry comes in and shuts the door softly behind her.
"What can I do for you?" I say.
"I... just wanted to make sure you're doing okay," she says.
"If I wasn't doing okay, I wouldn't be here."
"Wouldn't you?" And she knows the answer, because this is a woman who has taken exactly two sick days in the past seven years.
"I'm fine. Thank you." Fuck you. "Kerry."
"Because I know that the pain management can be rough at first, and I wanted to make sure you were handling it okay."
"I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't hurt," I say, "but I'm handling it fine."
"Have you got a good physical therapist?"
"Irene Thalberg," I say. "She's supposed to be the best in Chicago." If she is, she's also a self-righteous hippy-dippy twit, but there's no need to get into that.
"Where did you hear that?" Kerry says. Apparently there's some kind of joke that I'm missing. Once I understand it, will I have been initiated into the sacred fraternity of the crippled?
"I'll e-mail you Maria Sarkisian's phone number," Kerry says. "She's down at U. of C. She's-- she's good."
"I don't need your help, Kerry."
"You don't have to call her," Kerry says.
"I'll... think about it."
"Good," she says. "Good."
"Is there anything else?" I say.
"No, I just wanted to make sure..."
"Thank you," I cut her off. "For your concern."
I feel like I should stop her from leaving. I should demand to know what's going on between her and Elizabeth. But then, I'd have to tell her how I know what I know, and that will spark a tirade on the fact that her personal life is, to an astronomical degree, none of my fucking business. Never mind that Kerry's made her sexuality everyone's business; if she doesn't want to talk about it, it's still none of mine.
"It does get easier," she says. "You don't get used to it, but it gets easier."
"Do me a favor and get the fuck out of my office, would you?"
She narrows her eyes at me.
"Get out," I say. "Save your fucking compassion for the nutjobs in the ER."
She pivots on her crutch and walks out silently, making a point of leaving the door wide open after she passes through it. She knows exactly how much she has on me.
I shouldn't be thinking so hard about this. It shouldn't matter. I should get over Elizabeth already. But telling myself that is like telling myself that my arm will stop hurting if I stop thinking about it. Resigning myself to the fact that Elizabeth Corday will never love me won't stop that fact from breaking my heart. It won't stop me from hating her lovers. I'm stuck hurting. I am numb and clumsy and scarred, and I've been that way since long before I walked too close to a helicopter blade.