TITLE: Beyond Music
AUTHOR: Julian Lee, email@example.com
SPOILERS: “Dead Irish Writers.”
DISCLAIMER: I wish I could say these lovely women are mine, but I’d be lying.
ARCHIVE: Wing Swing; all list archives; all others please ask first. I won’t say no.
SUMMARY: As long as she’s got noise, she’s fine.
NOTES: This is my contribution to the magnificent Wing Swing challenge. Jacques, as always, knew nifty medical things. Thanks, man. Thanks also to Beth, who keeps me around even when I don’t deserve it. This is for McKay, who betaed with flair & told a better joke.
* * *
Beyond Music by Julian Lee
Ellie was about to go home. Ellie really, *really* wanted to go home.
The two women filling out insurance forms in chairs leaned heavily against each other. Not like lovers, but like two people who would fall over otherwise. The darker-haired woman had her hand wrapped – badly – in a blood-soaked gray T-shirt.
Ellie swore and put her keys back in her pocket. “Of all the ERs in all the hospitals in all the world, she walks into mine,” she muttered. “Chen, how long have those women been here?”
Chen didn’t even look at them. “About five minutes. She’s drunk but okay.”
“I’ll take her.”
Chen continued jotting notes on the file in his hand. “You’re going home, Bartlet. Go home, Bartlet.”
“She’s a friend of my mother’s.” **And a constant source of aggravation in my life.**
“God, you are stubborn.” Chen handed Ellie a file. “Here. Do it. And then *get out of here.*”
“Thanks, Chen.” She grabbed the file and headed quickly across the room. Her father would have been so proud of the way she walked with her head held high – though it was only because you never knew what you could walk into around an ER. “Amy?”
Amy stared up with the blankest gaze Ellie ever seen. Then her eyes focused, with great difficulty, on Ellie’s badge. “Ellie! Ellie, thank God! My hand—“
Ellie sighed. Amy was so drunk this was going to be incredibly painful. She slipped an arm around Amy’s shoulders and forced her mind to ignore all of the little swooping things her hormones were doing. “Let’s get you into an exam room. Your friend can come too.”
Amy giggled. “Susan faints at the sight of blood. She’s only here ‘cause nobody else was sober enough to call a cab.”
Ellie settled Amy on a chair and unwrapped the T-shirt. It said “Yale,” which made Ellie smile. The gash in the heel of Amy’s hand was long and deep, but it was clean. It would heal well. “What happened?”
“We needed one more round of margaritas. And what’s a margarita without a lime?” She did a bizarre wiggling thing with her torso that Ellie understood was meant to be a dance. It might have been sexy in a drunken sort of way, or Ellie might just have been inclined to think everything Amy did was sexy.
“It’s going to need stitches.”
“Ohhhhhh-kay.” Amy squinted at her. “Wait. I hate needles.”
“You won’t feel a thing,” Ellie promised. “I’ll numb you up first.”
“With a needle,” she accused.
“A tiny one.” Amy harrumphed in clear disbelief. “What was the occasion?” Ellie asked.
“The what?” Amy clutched the bloody T-shirt like a teddy bear.
“The party. The reason you were drinking all those margaritas.”
“Oh. The occaaaasion.” She shrugged. “No occasion. Just, you know, Thursday.” Amy frowned at Ellie. “You gonna numb my hand or what?”
“I already gave you the shot.”
Amy looked at her hand as though expecting to see a needle sticking out of it. “You’re good.”
Despite Amy’s level of inebriation, Ellie blushed. Amy had been Abbey’s friend long before she was Josh’s girlfriend, and for years Ellie had harbored a little crush on her – a little crush that had blossomed to Shakespearean proportions when Amy started dating Josh and became utterly unattainable. She poked Amy’s hand. “Feel that?”
Amy blinked at her. “Feel what?”
Rolling her eyes, Ellie pulled her suturing equipment closer. “Let’s go, then.” Amy scrunched up her face and screwed her eyes shut tight in dread anticipation. Actually, it was kind of cute. “What brings you to Baltimore?”
“Cab,” Amy replied promptly, and if she weren’t totally drunk and totally serious, Ellie might’ve walked out on her.
Amy relaxed, but her eyes remained shut. “Panel. Women in…something. I don’t remember what.” She paused, trying to recall. “Except I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Jell-o.”
Ellie nearly sewed into her own hand at that. “Jell-o?”
“No thank you.” Amy’s hand lolled forward, her dark hair falling over Ellie’s hands. Ellie pushed it away, trying to concentrate on her stitches and not on Amy’s warm breath ghosting over her arms. “How’s Garrison?” Amy mumbled.
Ellie’s hand drew back instantly. “How do you know about Garrison?”
“Your mother and I got drunk together at her birthday party.”
“Your mom and CJ and even Donna. We let Donna come get drunk with us, even though she’s…well, you know.”
“What? Donna’s what?”
Amy glared at her. “*You* know.”
“I really don’t.” Ellie shook her head, bewildered. She had always found Donna a little too clean-cut to be interesting.
Leaning slightly forward, Amy whispered, “A Canadian.”
“She – what? You can’t be serious.”
“Dead serious.” Amy nodded gravely. “Josh thinks she might be a spy.”
“A *Canadian* spy?”
Amy snorted. “You know how Josh…gets.”
“Yeah.” Ellie tilted her head and considered the curves of Amy’s cheekbones. “How’s that going? You and Josh.”
In response, Amy blew a loud, wet, drunken raspberry. “It comes and goes. He comes, and then he goes. Heh. That was a joke. Didja hear the joke I made?”
“I heard it, Amy.” Ellie stared hard at Amy’s hand. Amy’s sex life with Josh was waaaay down at the bottom of things Ellie wanted to hear at midnight on a Thursday when she should’ve gone home an hour ago. “You’re all done.”
Amy’s eyes, which had been wandering aimlessly over the room, snapped fast to Ellie. “You’re an oncologist.” She said this rather accusatorily.
Ellie drummed her fingers on her instrument tray. She hadn’t *expected* a thank-you, but still. “Not yet.”
“But you will be. You want to be. You didn’t want to do…” She waved around the room. “This.”
“Last ER rotation. If you’d come five days from now, you wouldn’t have found me.” Ellie wrinkled her forehead, considering. “No, you’re right. I could never do emergency medicine. I don’t have the – I need to *stop,* sometimes. But there are moments…there are moments I think I should chuck oncology and come work here.”
“You feel you’re doing more immediate good here?”
Ellie figured Amy must be sobering up; “more immediate good” wasn’t a phrase that just tumbled from the average drunk person’s mouth. She shook her head. “That’s true, but – this is going to sound so awful, but it’s the noise.”
“The noise?” Amy, Ellie could tell, was trying to decide if the alcohol had addled her brain or if Ellie just didn’t make sense.
“Yeah. And I know Josh has PTSD and music sounds like sirens to him—“ She wasn’t supposed to know this, but she did, and so far no one had seemed to care. “—but to me, crazy as it seems, sirens sound like music. Better than music, sometimes. Beyond music, maybe.” She laughed, embarrassed, and pushed the equipment tray away. “I know that’s stupid.”
Amy’s good hand closed over Ellie’s. “It’s not stupid, Ellie. It’s beautiful. Poetic.” She grinned sloppily. “It’s beyond music.”
Ellie gave her a grateful smile. She carefully extracted her hand and went back to cleaning up.
“You know, you’ve always been my favorite Bartlet daughter.”
Ellie snorted. “I’m no one’s favorite Bartlet daughter.”
“You’re mine,” Amy countered. She squinted at the ceiling. “You have more…substance than Zoey. And you’re, like, *way* smarter than Liz. Not that that’s hard.” Her smile probably would’ve been something like seductive if it hadn’t been so drunkenly wobbly. “And I’ve always thought you were the best looking.”
Ellie’s spine straightened and stiffened instantly. She turned slowly to look at Amy, who was doing a rag-doll parody of a slinky come-hither pose, her eyebrows arching and falling rapidly like Groucho Marx on a bad day. She looked absurd, and she probably didn’t mean a syllable she’d just said. Still. “Thank you, Amy. I’ve always kind of liked you, too.”
“Good,” Amy said decidedly. “Wanna make out?”
Ellie couldn’t help herself. She burst out laughing. She really couldn’t help it.
Amy frowned. Ellie figured hysterical laughter wasn’t a reaction Amy was used to when she propositioned people. “Is that a yes? It could be a yes.”
“Oh, Amy,” Ellie gasped when she could manage it, “I would *love* to make out with you.”
“Really?” Amy blinked. “That almost never works.”
“But I’m not going to.”
“Why not?” Amy pouted. “You said you like me, and I sure like you.”
“I’m flattered. Thank you. But I’m not about to do anything when you’re drunk.”
“I’m not so drunk.” Amy stood up fast, as if that would prove her point. It might have, had she not immediately fallen down. “And I’m a*dor*able.”
“Yes, you are. But I’m going to adore you from over here, where I have less chance of getting flattened by your thug boyfriend.”
“You could take Josh in a fight.”
Ellie dropped her gloves in the trash. “Mrs Landingham could’ve taken Josh in a fight, but I don’t fight so well when the moral high ground belongs to the other guy.”
Amy sighed. “Fine. I guess if you insist on having principles, you might as well go ahead and have them all the time. I just *really* wanted to get some tonight.”
Ellie patted her shoulder sympathetically. “I did, too.”
Amy brightened. “Rain check?”
In the morning, Ellie suspected, Amy wouldn’t remember this conversation. Hell, if not for the six stitches in her hand, she probably wouldn’t even remember she’d been to the hospital. She nodded anyway. “Rain check.” Their eyes met, and Ellie thought Amy must be completely sober, completely in control of the situation. Ellie reached out tentatively. “Amy—“
“I can’t feel my hand.”
With a small sigh, Ellie put her arm back around Amy’s shoulders and helped her to her feet. “Let’s get you home.”
They walked back to the waiting room. Ellie scanned the chairs, scanned them again, and yet again. Amy’s friend was gone. “Chen?” she called as calmly as possible, trying to keep Amy from freaking out. “Where’s the woman who came in with Miss Gardner?”
“*Ms* Gardner,” Amy slurred in automatic indignation.
Chen shrugged. “Last I saw of her, she’d passed out in chairs. Probably came to and couldn’t figure out what the hell she was doing in the ER.” He looked around sourly. “I know how she feels.”
“Shit!” Ellie forgot her pledge to keep Amy calm. “What am I supposed to do with her?”
Chen’s eyebrow arched up eloquently. “You’re a bright girl; you’ll think of something.” He walked away.
Glaring at Chen’s retreating back, Ellie turned Amy to face her. “Amy? Please don’t panic or anything, but Susan’s not here anymore.”
Amy hiccoughed. “Okay.”
Ellie dropped her head to regroup. She got a firmer grip on Amy’s shoulders and looked up at her again. “Where are you staying?”
“Wonderful. What’s Genevieve’s phone number?”
Amy swayed to the side. “I don’t know.”
“What’s her last name? We’ll look her up in the phone book.”
“She’s not listed.” Amy swayed to the other side.
Ellie pushed her upright. “Directory assistance? Does your cell phone have Caller ID?”
“Wonderful. Where’s your cell?”
“Genevieve’s house.” Ellie felt dangerously close to tears, and Amy looked about the same. “Ellie, I’m tired. Can’t you just take me home, please?”
Through gritted teeth, Ellie replied, “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
“No, just…home with you.”
Ellie clenched Amy’s shoulders. “That’s a bad idea.”
“I’ll sleep on the couch. I’ll sleep on the *floor.* Please.” She looked *so* pathetic.
Ellie pushed her hair off her forehead. “Okay. Okay. The couch.”
“Thank you, Ellie,” she whispered.
“Just – you’ve got to sit here for one minute while I get my stuff out of the staff room. Just sit right there. Don’t move.”
Amy dropped heavily into a chair. “No problem.” From the look of her, she’d be happy never to move again.
Cursing under her breath the whole way, Ellie walked to the staff room and slammed the door. What the *hell* was she doing? Taking a patient home with her? Taking a drunken patient who also happened to be a friend of her mother’s and the girlfriend of her father’s deputy chief of staff, who also happened to have hit on her just moments ago, to whom she also happened to have a fairly epic attraction, home with her?
**Just this once,** she told herself. **Because it’s Amy, and you like her, and you like Josh, and you’d never forgive yourself if you sent her out into the night drunk and something happened to her.**
Ellie squared her shoulders and walked towards her locker. She could handle this. She could. It wasn’t as if she’d never had women she’d been attracted to in her apartment before – and under, honestly, much weirder circumstances. Amy would sleep in Ellie’s bed, and Ellie would sleep on the couch, because that’s how her parents had raised her. In the morning she’d make a little extra coffee, in case Amy wanted it, and Amy would be grateful and thank her, or Amy would be embarrassed and avoid her, and either way Amy would leave and it would be over.
And, who knew; may there *would* be a rain check someday. Someday after Josh did whatever it was he was always doing to destroy relationships, someday after Ellie’s dad was out of office. Maybe someday she would cut up some limes, and Amy would make her a margarita.
As Ellie opened her locker and pulled out her jacket, she glanced at the phone on the far wall. She should call Josh, let him know that she had Amy, and that Amy was all right. He’d insist on driving up immediately and getting her, insist on taking her back to D.C. That would solve the whole problem, really.
Ellie heard sirens racing towards the building. She closed her locker, shrugged into her coat, and walked out to find Amy.
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