DISCLAIMER: E.R. belongs to the wonderful folks of Warner Brothers Television.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set during season 11/12. Old challenge issued from hotrobotnurse over at livejournal community abbyneela.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Dr. Rasgotra?" A resident nurse called.
"Yes?" Neela turned, distracted by her paperwork. She had a full caseload to manage.
"Have you checked on Ms. Leigh? Her labs are in."
"Right on it." Neela answered. She rushed off in the opposite direction.
Susan was standing guard at the front, reviewing one of the many patient files that engulfed the desk. Seconds later, sounds of crashing silverware and a door slamming echoed through the area, puncturing the relative chaos of the ER.
Curious, Susan looked to her left.
"Neela, what in the hell happened to you?" shouted Susan over the din in the ER. Susan put down her clipboard and walked over to Neela, who had made her way to one of the big trashcans near the entrance of the ER. Her scrubs were covered in slimy gravy and her hair in matching lime jello, and she was wiping the goopy remains into the trash.
"Didn't you hear me? What in the world happened to you? Did-" Susan glanced toward the patient board. "-Ms. Leigh. Did Ms. Leigh do this to you?"
Neela wiped her arm. "What do you think? I covered myself?"
Susan gave her a look.
"Sorry. I had just walked in the room to tell her the results of the lab we ran when she went ballistic she started screaming and trying to unplug herself from the machines. And like a fool I rushed over to her to try and calm her down." A young boy and his mother sloshed through the sliding glass doors near where the women were standing, stopping to wipe the snow from their feet. The boy took a glance at the state that Neela was in, dripping with splattered cafeteria food. Unable to control himself, he laughed till he began to wheeze and cough. His mother gave Neela a dirty look and grabbed her son, scolding him in foreign whispers. Neela turned away from the entrance, slightly embarrassed.
"Don't mind them," Susan said. "Keep going."
"Well when she stopped screaming and struggling, I went to the door to call in a nurse to watch her. Just as I was getting to her bed, she picked up her tray and threw it as hard as she could."
"I can see that." Neela touched her face where the tray had hit her, wincing when her hand grazed the spot.
"My shift's almost over, and I smell like yesterday's garbage," Neela glanced at the clock on the front desk. "Can I leave a little early?"
Susan looked at the board. She hated to lose the extra help but Neela did smell, and the bump needed to be looked at. "Uh sure. Go grab a fresh pair of scrubs to leave in."
"Before you go," Susan called from the main desk, already focused on the nurse standing beside her. "Wait in room three and I'll have Abby come to check out that bruise before you sign off your shift."
Neela was waiting in room three as per Susan's orders, staring up at the ceiling with her hands behind her head. The bed she was laying on was medical standard hard and offered little comfort, but Neela believed most people who are forced to stay in the hospital had more pressing issues to worry about than the softness of their bed.
Neela's thoughts were also focused on something elsenamely the woman who was coming to examine her. Well, not her personally, but her bruise. It had been a while since Neela had a true one on one conversation with Abby other than a quick 'Hey' in the crowded halls or a rushed command given while working on a patient. Since Jake had come into Abby's life, Neela started to slowly fade out of Abby's life and Neela missed her in ways she couldn't put into words.
Abby had quickly become Neela's only true confidant in ER, the only one who would listen to her complain about the other staff, her patients and her parents. She was the only one interested in how much she loved the taste of coffee ice cream, and the smell of oranges and vanilla. She could brighten Neela's life with a smile or a look that sent shivers down her spine. How she longed to go back to those uncomplicated times where she could stay up all night and watch dreadful television movies with her again, to be near her again. Neela was drawn from her thinking, focusing her attention to the door. Someone was trying to sneak in.
"Either come in here and help me or go check on someone else."
"And let you sit here like a trash covered lump?" Abby came into the room fully and shut the door. "No way." She gave Neela a bright smile, sensing the foul mood that she was in. Neela positioned herself near the end of the bed, facing Abby.
"Let me see that bruise." Abby said, walking towards the bed. She pulled out her flashlight, ready to examine Neela. Abby reached over to Neela's chin and lifted it slightly to the light. Neela held her gaze to the far wall, afraid to look into her eyes. Abby looked her bruise over twice, turning her head left and right.
"Does it hurt?" Abby asked softly.
"Like hell." Abby reached out to touch it gently and Neela let out a hiss of pain. She moved back slightly, partially from the pain, partially from the contact.
"'S Ok." They watched each other silently.
"Are you going to tell me what happened, or should I guess?" Abby offered, trying to change the subject.
"Do you really have to guess?" Neela smiled. "One of my patients got upset, over what I don't know."
"Could it be over the god-awful cafeteria food spattered all over you?" Abby snapped on a pair of gloves.
"Maybe. She could have been bipolar too." Abby chuckled as she finished examining the other wounds that Neela received.
"Well it's not as bad as it seems. It's a small bruise and it doesn't look like it's swelling anymore." Abby snapped off her gloves. "Go home and put some ice on it and it will be fine tomorrow."
"I sat in here for a half an hour and that's all you have to say?" Neela asked, smirking.
"Yes it is," Abby nodded. "I suggest you go home now or face the stack of paperwork waiting "
"Fine, fine." Abby collected her things, ready to leave. Now, Neela thought, was her chance to talk with her without interruptions.
"Abby, wait. I -" Abby turned to look at her. Any declarations of love and lust floating in Neela's head were suddenly lost. Neela realizedwhat could she say to her?
'Abby I've missed you? Abby I need you? Abby I can hardly stand it here without you? Abby I think I love-'
"I " Neela started. But those complicated words would not come up. So Neela dropped her hands and sat further back into the bed, wanting nothing more to go take a shower and crawl into her bed.
"Come on, you can tell me."
"Nothing. It's silly, really." Abby found a spot next to Neela. Neela could feel the mattress sag slightly under her weight as she sat along the edge. In the back of her mind, Neela was chanting, hoping that they would calm her already frazzled nerves.
'I need you to get up. Get up. Get up...'
"I miss this."
Abby raised an eyebrow. "Missed what? Getting abused by your patients?"
"No," Neela smiled. "I've missed the time that we used to spend together the bond that we had." Neela gestured to Abby.
"It's still here."
"Not in the way it used to be."
Abby let out a sigh. She ran her hand through her hair, feeling her frustration growing. She never had a problem with talking to Neela before, and whatever she was hinting about was lost on her.
"Let's drop this, please?" Neela shifted to face the front of the room, away from Abby. The mood had changed quickly and all Neela could do was hope Abby could take a hint. Instead, Abby moved closer, reaching for one of her jello-covered strands of hair. Neela could feel Abby's fingers brush against her skin as she released her hair. Neela wanted to reach out and touch her hand, to feel the warmth coming from her. How easy it would be to break the bond of friendship and to venture to what lies beyond. Never had she been more tempted to cross it, and damn if she would now. So she settled for the one thing she could give outbold, emotionless rejection.
"Abby, you have your limits, and I have mine. Don't make this more difficult than it is."
"Neela, what the hell are you talking about?"
"I should go," Neela said, standing to leave.
"You'd rather run than talk about whatever is bothering you?"
"About you, yes." Neela said softly.
"Oh I see. So you're going to leave me here, sitting clueless as ever, without taking the time to explain yourself."
"No Neela, cut the dramatic crap and tell me what's going on." Neela jumped up. She was furiousshe was this close to telling Abby everything and here she was calling her out. Emotion subdued Reason as Neela decidedtell Abby the truth.
"I'd never thought you could be so damn irritating. You aren't the easiest person to get along with!" Neela yelled, pointing at Abby. "You come in here, oblivious to the world around you, acting as nothing will affect you. But you ignore the small things in your personal life, the details that make your world-"
"I don't have time for this." Abby replied prickly. She stood, eyes locked on the door.
"Just let me finish Abby!" Neela shouted, grabbing Abby's arm. In the back of her mind Reason was screaming that a crowd was surely gathering outside the room, attracted by the noise. But Neela couldn't let this go.
"I know you've been busy." Neela said. She turned, forcing herself to look directly at the older woman. "And I know that you don't like to have your love life exposed to everyone. But this avoidance tactic that you seem to enjoy is driving me insane."
Abby folded her arms over her chest. "Do you think I'm really trying to avoid you Neela? Come on, you know me better than that."
"I would have said yes, in the past," Neela shrugged. "But things have changed between us, Abby. I feel like I don't know youthe real Abby anymore."
"I could say the same, you know." Abby said. Neela nodded in agreement.
"So you see, when I asked you for a little space, it wasn't out of a petty schoolyard jealousy. It's because of you." Neela pushed herself away from Abby. She walked over to a clear patch of wall and laid her head against the cool surface.
There, Neela thought bitterly. Her true feelings hanging in the air. The confessional silence filled the room, a stark contrast of the hum of activity outside the door. She felt trapped by her admission, the silence confirming her suspicion that Abby didn't understand what she truly meant. She put her hand on the wall to push herself up, her gold charm bracelet tinking softly against the plaster. Neela felt numb, wanting nothing more than to hide from the world, her world. Reaching parallel with the wall, Neela felt arms wrap protectively around her, preventing her from moving. Abby laid her head on Neela's shoulder, eyes closed.
"I'm sorry," Abby said gently. "I didn't know what a problem I've been for you."
Neela turned to face the brunette. "You don't have to-"
"But I do." Abby said. She saw the emotion gathered into Neela's soft brown eyes. Those eyes were willing Abby to understand; to share her pain, her desire.
It clicked. Everything made sense to Abby; Neela's reluctance to be near her, the excuses she threw her way. Neela wanted herit surged around her, swallowing her. Could she feel the same? Neela's voice drew Abby's attention.
"Are you all right?" Neela asked. Concern filled the younger woman's face.
"Uh, yeah, y-yes." Abby replied shakily. Her whole body felt tense, her nerves on end. She was drawing closer to Neela, physically and mentally as Abby stepped closer to her.
"Are you sure? You seem a little pale." Neela's heart thudded in her chest, a menacing beat. She raised a tentative hand to Abby's cheek. Neela's thoughts raced; what was she doing? Her mind cried for her to stop, pleading for her to drop her hand and walk away. She couldn't. Neela needed this, to touch and feel Abby's warmth without distractions or interruptions. Never had she wanted to kiss Abby more than now as the older woman leaned into her hand, eyes closed.
She would take that chance.
Neela leaned in slowly, surely, to capture Abby's lips. She felt Abby stiffen in surprise, bringing out those old fears rumbling in the back of Neela's head. All doubt dissolved when she felt Abby relax, deepening the kiss. She was soft and warm, Neela noted, her lips tasting of coffee and femininity. Neela had never stepped outside of her comfort zone so boldly before, and the reward was bliss. She could stay like this forever, as Abby rested her hands on Neela's hips over stained scrubs. Needing air, Neela pulled away, gently.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-" Neela started. Abby interrupted, shaking her head.
"Abby look-" There was a knock on the door. Abby let her hands fall to her side as Neela walked over to answer the door.
"Dr. Rasgotra? What are you still doing here?" The young nurse asked. Neela remembered, she was kind enough to help with her insane patient.
"Abby took a look at my bruises."
"Dr. Lockhart, we need you at bed six."
"Thanks. I'll be there in a sec." Abby answered, distracted. The young nurse nodded and closed the door.
Abby turned her attention back to Neela. "I have to-"
"Gotcha," Neela said, a bitter smirk souring her face. Abby turned to leave and Neela looked towards the floor for comfort.
"I know, we'll talk. Go take a shower." Abby called over her shoulder. She closed the door softly behind her.
Exhausted, Neela sank onto the bed, her hands covering her face. Neela's mind was a chaotic mess and it was too much to take in. She had kissed Abby, and most importantly, Abby had kissed her back. There were a slew of questions burning in Neela's mind right now but the only one who could answer them was beyond her touch, again. She could see the dark clouds gathering over the horizon and Neela knew that everything would change. Gathering what little strength she had left, Neela grabbed her things and lurched to the door, her mind focused on the hot, soothing shower waiting for her at home.
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