PAIRINGS: Kerry/Elizabeth, Carter/Abby
RATING: R for language and sexual references. And het smoochies.
SERIES/SEQUEL: The third of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Redhead, following "The Exotic."
SPOILERS/CONTINUITY: Through "Chaos Theory," after which this series becomes an AU. The story takes place in autumn 2002.
SUMMARY: Most days, Abby doesn't interact with Weaver half this much. Really.
DISCLAIMERS: ER is the intellectual property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television. This original work of fan fiction is copyright 2003 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. Yum, celery bits.
NOTES: Thanks to k and Katisha for being awesome beta women, and to The Distraction for many things.
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. The title is from a stupid song we used to sing at Girl Scout camp. I borrowed a couple of snappy comebacks from the good people at

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

It's ten in the morning, which means that the roaring hellspawn of Shortness of Breath in Curtain 3 has been roaring for an hour and a half. It's his mother who's sick, and he's bored out of his mind. In theory, I sympathize with Hellspawn, but I think my eardrums are throbbing. The Rule Out MI in the other bed, whose vitals I'm checking, looks like he's contemplating violence.

Dr. Weaver comes in to talk to Mother of Hellspawn. Weaver is armed with crayons. Half the time, that stuff works wonders, and I've got to give her credit for trying. It's not really her job to pacify roaring hellspawn. You've got to acknowledge the good things about people, and one of the good things about Weaver is that "But that's a nurse's job" isn't part of her vocabulary.

"I'm a lion," Hellspawn tells Weaver. That explains the roaring, then.

"I've heard that lions draw great pictures," Weaver says.

From that, I doubt she's going to win the kid over, but Weaver has a strange power over children. Maybe it's that tough love thing, or manybe she's just incredibly persistent. In any case, I've got to focus my attention on my own patient, who's got a litany of questions that all boil down to, "Am I gonna die?"

Yes, sir. We're all gonna die.

By the time I'm finished with Mr. "My MI Made Me Realize the Importance of Living In the Now," the hellspawn is coloring happily. I wonder if my MI patient wouldn't be happier if I gave him some crayons. I think most people would be happier if they had some crayons.

I walk by just in time to hear Mother of Hellspawn ask Weaver, "How old are your kids?"

It's one of those questions that stops you dead in your tracks. Not so much because it's presumptuous and ignorant, or because there's no way to answer it that will avoid an uncomfortable discussion, but because the intentions are so innocent. It's natural to assume that a woman over 30 has kids. More than once, I've had women try to convince me that no, I really do have children, and I just haven't noticed.

"Oh, I don't she'll promote me to nurse manager or something."

"You'd make a good nurse manager," he says, and he's serious.

"You think?"

"Yeah," he says. "You're smart, you're organized, you're cute, people respect you. You're an ideal banana."

"What does being cute have to do with being nurse manager?"

"Oh, I just stuck that in to see if you'd notice."

"I noticed," I say. I lean across the table to kiss him. Within a few seconds, we are making a public scene. People are watching us.

They can watch all they want.


Weaver is in the lounge, squinting into the tiny magnetic mirror affixed to the inside of her locker door, putting on eye makeup. She's changed out of whatever sensible top she wore to work today and into a black button-down shirt that hugs her a little tight at the chest. "Hot date?" I say as I walk by.

"Not really," she says. "I'm... just going out with a friend."

This is so completely none of my business. "But you're hoping?"

"I don't know," she says. "I-- I guess so."

"It's... kind of uneven," I say.

"What? The eyeliner? I know."

"Want some help?"

"No. No, I've got it."

"Come on. I'll give you smoky eyes." That's it. I've got a fine career in management ahead of me.

She hands over her makeup bag.

"Close your eyes," I say. She hesitates, like she doesn't trust me at all. I don't know why I think she should.

I brush eyeshadow the color of old silver on her eyelids. "Did Carter really give you a cat?" I say.

She snorts. "Did he tell you that?"

"I never know when he's making it up."

She pauses like there's a story to tell, and she's trying to figure out how to tell it. "You know he used to live in my basement, right?"

"Yeah," I say. "I do."

"My house used to have a mouse problem," she says. "I tried everything; couldn't get rid of them. My birthday was coming up, and he kept saying he had some solution, and he was going to give it to me on my birthday."

"And you thought he was full of shit."

"It was... a pretty safe assumption."

"Yeah," I laugh. "Go on."

"So I got home from work on my birthday--"

She was at work on her birthday. Of course she was at work on her birthday. I work on my birthday.

"--and he was waiting in the kitchen with a little black kitten."

"And a shit-eating grin on his face?"

"Exactly," she says. "He said he'd keep her in the basement if I didn't want her but... she won me over."

I'm finished with her makeup. "Open your eyes," I say.

She blinks into her locker mirror. "You don't-- you don't think it's too much?"

"I think," I say, "she'll fall in love with you the second she looks at you."

"Goddamn it, that means I'm going to have to wipe this off and start over."

I panic, and then I crack up, because I realize she's joking. "No. Really. It looks good."

"Thanks," she says. She seems to be hiding behind her locker door. She is shyer than I thought she was.

"Good luck," I say, getting to the door before this gets awkward. And I do wish her luck. I wish her a box of crayons, and a day without patients who ask uncomfortable personal questions, and a perfect banana, and a woman who will look in her eyes and love her instantly. She deserves it as much as anyone.