DISCLAIMER: All "ER" characters and institutions are the property of
Warner Bros., ConstantC Productions and Amblin Television. This is
written strictly for entertainment value, no infringement of copyright
or ownership is intended, and nobody is making a profit on this piece.
As always, any errors in continuity, characterization, or common sense
are entirely my own fault.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A combination indirectly inspired by Mika Epstein. As usual, DON'T READ if you're offended by f/f slash, but I hope you'll enjoy this anyway! This is not intended, in any way, as accurate or intelligent commentary on the subject of sexual harassment. The situation is extremely contrived, for the sake of dramatic license. (Although "dramatic" may be a rather pretentious term for such a cheap sex fic!)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Scott J Welles
Maggie Doyle heard the doors to the lounge open and looked up from her paperwork. Her eyes met Elizabeth Corday's, and there was a moment of intense discomfort between them. Then Maggie's eyes returned to her reports and she made a point of ignoring the surgeon.
"I'm sorry," the taller woman said, "I didn't realize there was anyone here."
"Well, there is," Maggie said, flatly.
"I won't disturb you," Elizabeth said, "I just need some coffee..." She went to the pot and poured herself a cup.
"Need some fucking balls, is what you need," Maggie muttered darkly.
Elizabeth had just opened the door to leave, but her spine stiffened at Maggie's words. She turned back to the resident and looked at her coldly. "I beg your pardon?"
Maggie hadn't meant her words to be audible, but she didn't bother to retract them. "You heard me," she said, simply.
There was a moment of brittle silence before Elizabeth let out a sigh and ventured back into the room. "Look...Dr. Doyle," she began, "I don't blame you for still being upset with me, over my lack of support for your harassment suit. However, for better or for worse, the issue has been settled."
"Try for worse," Maggie snarled.
"As I understand it," Elizabeth went on, as if Maggie hadn't spoken, "Dr. Romano ended up writing you a much more accurate review. Quite a favorable one, in fact. Or have I been misinformed?"
"That's not the point!"
"Then may I ask what the point is, precisely?"
Maggie stood, facing the Englishwoman. "The point is, it's no thanks to you that things worked out okay. When the time came to make a stand, at least Weaver went to bat for me. All you did was cover your own ass!"
Elizabeth's tone grew even colder. "Not that it's any of your business, but that's not entirely--"
"It's every woman's business when we don't support each other!" Maggie interrupted, her fury rising. "You sent the message that we're just gonna lie down and take it whenever some asshole decides to judge us unfairly!"
Elizabeth's jaw tensed, as though she was biting back her words.
"What, you've got something to say to me?" Maggie goaded her, "Spit it out, already! Or are you too afraid to say it?"
Elizabeth remained silent.
"I thought you were stronger than that," Maggie sneered. "You can stand up for yourself at an M&M conference full of surgeons, but when the personal shit come down, you're wussy." She shook her head in contempt. "Tell you what. You're a surgeon, maybe the next patient you operate on, you should borrow some of his guts, since you've none of your own."
"Really? Well, I was about to make a suggestion of my own." Elizabeth looked her straight in the eye. "I was going to suggest that you either learn to curb your temper... or perhaps grow yourself some thicker skin." She said the last with a barb in her voice.
WHACK! Maggie's palm stung as it impacted across Elizabeth's face. The surgeon was rocked back with a sharp gasp.
Realizing what she'd just done, Maggie felt a sudden wave of guilt and embarrassment. She hadn't raised a hand to anyone in anger since she was twelve, and the blow had occurred without conscious choice. "Elizabeth, I'm s--"
Her apology was abruptly cut off as Elizabeth's right hand caught her by the jaw and slammed her against the wall with unexpected force. She felt her right wrist caught up in Elizabeth's other hand, and it was also pinned. Years of self-defense classes should have brought a countermove to mind, but her own shame at lashing out had dulled her reflexes, and Elizabeth's hold caught her by surprise. Wide-eyed, she stared into Elizabeth's face, inches away.
"Now let's have something perfectly clear, shall we?" Elizabeth grated at her, "I can only tell you I'm sorry so many times and in so many ways. I have tried my best to be courteous and supportive. But I see no reason to put up with physical abuse, from you or anyone else. Do we understand each other so far?"
Maggie nodded, timidly. She could practically taste the Englishwoman's breath.
"Now, I suppose I could go running to management and raise a complaint against you for striking me. However, I have always preferred to handle personal conflicts in person. That goes for physical conflicts as well, if you insist on our having one. Are you still with me?"
"Good. Now let me conclude this in terms even you violence-prone Americans should be able to understand clearly..." Elizabeth leaned closer, the tip of her nose almost touching the other woman's, as she hissed, "Don't fuck with me, little girl, or I'll kick your pretty ass."
With that, she released her hold and stormed out of the room.
Maggie let her go, frozen by a melange of emotions. Among them, embarrassment and remorse at having struck a co-worker, fear - she didn't mind admitting that she was intimidated by the taller woman, at least to herself - and, most curiously...
After her shift, Maggie glowered about the incident over a beer at Monica's, a lesbian bar she occasionally frequented. Damn that woman, anyway, she thought. Damn her for backing out of the investigation, damn her for being so stuffy and proper, and damn her for being so goddamn hard-assed.
The problem, Maggie decided some drinks later, was that Elizabeth Corday just didn't take the whole harassment issue as seriously as she should. Maybe they're just like that in Britain, she thought. Old school habits, and all that. Then again, maybe she's never been harassed herself.
Maybe I should show her what it feels like...
The more she drank, the more appealing this prospect became. But it raised the question of how to harass Elizabeth in a way that would make her point effectively. Maggie couldn't threaten or influence her job, of course, but maybe if she were to show the surgeon a little...unwanted attention? Come on to her, a bit? Not a directly aggressive tack, like their argument today; Corday would be prepared for that. But a more subtle approach might do the trick...
The next day nearly passed without the two women encountering each other, but Maggie finally managed to run into her. As the taller woman exited the cafeteria, her attention already deep into a stack of files she carried, Maggie fell in beside her. Their collision sent Elizabeth's files scattering over the tile floor.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Maggie exclaimed, reaching her hands out to steady Elizabeth, and letting her hands linger a bit longer than necessary on her hips. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm quite all right, thank you," said Elizabeth. Her voice was flustered but civil.
"I'm really sorry," Maggie oozed, stooping to help her gather the files. "I should have been more careful. You sure you're okay?"
"Yes, really I am." Elizabeth seemed to be caught between politeness, anger, and embarrassment. "Please don't give it a second thought."
They stood up, Maggie handing her the last of the files. As Elizabeth took them, Maggie made a point of letting her eyes linger on the other woman's lips. "Glad to hear it," she smiled sweetly.
Real smooth, Doyle, she told herself. Strictly schoolyard stuff here. You want to dip her pigtails in the inkwell while you're at it?
"Actually, Dr. Doyle, I'm glad I ran into you," Elizabeth said, though she was obviously uncomfortable.
"Oh yeah?" Maggie replied with a devilish grin. "You want to do it again?"
"Ah, no, thank you," she stuttered, momentarily taken aback.
Not so cool when you don't have someone pinned, are you? Maggie thought. She put a hand on Elizabeth's back and steered her over to the side of the corridor, out of the way of people passing by. Without removing the hand, she leaned closer, so they could talk more privately. "So what's up? And call me Maggie, okay?"
"Maggie. All right." Corday's nervousness was clearly visible. She looked like she wanted to take a step back from the resident, but couldn't do so without seeming rude. "About what happened yesterday..."
"Mm-hmm?" Maggie kept smiling brightly, giving no sign that she remembered their earlier conflict. Let the bitch sweat about it, she decided.
Elizabeth took a breath and composed herself. "I really feel that I owe you an apology..." she began.
"Oh, hey, don't worry about it," Maggie replied, breezily. "I had it coming, slapping you like that. I had no right to do that."
"Yes, that's certainly true, but it still doesn't justify my behaving like a character in some low-budget women's prison film." Elizabeth ventured a rueful smile.
"Hey, don't knock 'em, I love those." She winked surreptitiously at the surgeon. "Don't you?"
"Listen," Maggie said, pressing her advantage, "if you really want to make it up to me, how about you buy me a drink tonight?" Five bucks says this creeps her out, Maggie thought to herself.
"I..." Elizabeth dropped her eyes to the files in her hands, then said, "Yes, I think that would be good..."
Hmm. Either she's braver than I thought, or just too dense to know when she's being flirted with. "Great. I know just the place, you'll love it..."
The crowd at Monica's was lively without being packed. Elizabeth hesitated briefly at the entrance, but Maggie took her hand and led her inside.
"Well, this is certainly interesting," the surgeon spoke above the music, a note of ambivalence in her voice.
"Yeah, I come here all the time," Maggie told her. "So what do you drink?"
"Oh, ah, whatever you're having," Elizabeth told her.
"Two drafts," Maggie ordered from the bar. She turned to find Elizabeth eyeing the pool table. "You play?"
"A little," the Englishwoman replied, uncertainly.
"Great. Rack 'em up!" Maggie set their drinks on a nearby table and grabbed a cue.
"Oh, I'm really not very good..."
"Good, I hate to lose," Maggie replied, honestly.
Elizabeth took up a cue with only a slight hesitancy.
Maggie broke, called stripes, and sunk two balls before deliberately missing. "Your shot, babe," she said with a grin. If just being in a lesbian bar had Elizabeth off-balance, let's see how putting her in the spotlight increases things.
"All right, here goes..." Elizabeth hefted the cue and leaned awkwardly over the table, lining up her shot. Her stance obviously left something to be desired, Maggie noted.
"Here, lemme help," Maggie offered, stepping close behind her. She put her hands over Elizabeth's, guiding them to better grips on the cue, aiming over Elizabeth's shoulder. This position brought the two women into full-body contact, back-to-front, as Maggie leaned them into the shot. Her breasts flattened against Elizabeth's back, and she let her breath tickle the other woman's ear. "Easy stroke," she cooed.
The ball sunk.
"Like that, then?" Elizabeth asked, not meeting her eyes. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," Maggie purred, not stepping back.
"Excuse me," Elizabeth said, coolly, "I need to get round the table for my next shot."
"Sure." Maggie let her slide by, but just barely. She let her palm pass over the other woman's buttock in the process. If she doesn't take this for a come-on, Maggie thought, she's gotta be blind, deaf, and brain-dead.
Elizabeth seemed to be avoiding looking at Maggie, which Maggie took as a sign that she was having some effect. With any luck, she'd get Elizabeth sufficiently agitated that the surgeon would finally call her on it, telling her how uncomfortable Maggie was making her, and asking her to stop. At that point, Maggie would take great pleasure in replying, "Oh, so you mean you're feeling a little...HARASSED?!! You SEE how it feels?!" Maggie looked forward to that, and to the mortified expression that was bound to appear on Elizabeth's face. But they hadn't reached that point yet.
Elizabeth lined up her next shot carefully, as Maggie stepped deliberately into her line of view, across the table. "Now that you've got the idea," she drawled, "how about a little wager...?"
"What did you have in mind?" Elizabeth asked without looking at her.
Maggie leaned over the table, giving her opponent a good look down the low-cut neckline she'd worn with the evening in mind. "What are you willing to bet?"
Elizabeth glanced up, clearly distracted by Maggie's body language (or perhaps just by her body?) and replied, "How about, eh, a dollar a ball?" She fidgeted nervously with the cue.
Maggie leaned even further, propping her face on her elbows. "Make it five, and you're on," she said in her best bedroom voice.
The taller woman was obviously feeling quite disconcerted by the attention, which thrilled Maggie no end. "All right, if you like," she responded vaguely.
"Er, you're blocking my hole, I'm afraid," the redhead diffidently pointed out.
"Pocket," Maggie gently corrected her, slowly straightening with her best 'come hither' smile. "It's called a pocket."
"Pocket, yes, well..." Elizabeth returned her concentration to the table with what appeared to be extreme difficulty.
Ooh, darlin', Maggie thought venomously, before the night is through, I'm gonna leave you high and dry with your wallet empty and your head thoroughly fucked-with. Show you why you shouldn't mess with a Doyle.
Even as the thought came to her, a little voice from deep in the back of her mind nagged at her. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? it said. You're going out of your way to make this woman feel bad, just for spite.
Yeah, that's the point, she thought back at it.
But isn't that the same thing Romano did to you?
She had a mental comeback ready, but that suggestion made her pause.
Perhaps she should go easier on Elizabeth, she thought guiltily. She'd started off liking the British woman when she first arrived at County. Maggie had often tried to be friends with her, not even taking it personally when Elizabeth once responded to her words of encouragement by telling her to shut up. Temper aside, she'd shown herself to be a pretty cool person. How many surgeons do you meet who could dive into a gunshot trauma and enjoy a friendly discussion about the 9mm semi-auto vs. the AK-47 while doing so? And damn, that woman had a great smile.
Maggie was just deciding that maybe she should forget the whole thing and be nicer to Elizabeth, when...
CRACK! The ball sank into the pocket. Then, CRACK! Another. And, CRACK! A third. Elizabeth pivoted slightly, bringing the cue to bear with the ease of an old pro, and CRACK! sent the 8-ball home.
Maggie's jaw dropped, watching as Elizabeth proceeded to clear the table, wielding the cue the way Eric Clapton handled a guitar. CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
Elizabeth completed her circuit of the table and ended up by Maggie's side. "Beg pardon, Maggie, you're in my path."
"Wait, never mind." Elizabeth reached both hands around from behind Maggie and, as if holding the Irishwoman in her arms, CRACK! sank the final ball. "I believe that's my game," she said, sweetly.
There was some laughter, applause and hoots of approval from some women who'd stopped to watch the game. Maggie felt her face reddening as she realized she'd just been hustled expertly.
With great stiffness, she pulled the money from her pocket, counted it off, and held it out to Elizabeth, who still pressed up behind her. The Englishwoman plucked it neatly from her hand, said "Thank-you!" in a much-too-cute voice, and pecked her condescendingly on the cheek before spinning away to order another round at the bar.
That's it, she thought, I'm gonna get that smartassed bitch for this.
The little voice appeared again. Now, now, she beat you fair and squ--
She conjured up her .357 magnum and shot the little voice dead.
"I'm sorry to cut the evening short," Elizabeth said as they stepped out into the night air, "but I'm scheduled for surgery rather early tomorrow. Hope you understand."
"Oh, sure, duty calls," Maggie replied as amiably as she could.
The surgeon hailed a cab, which pulled over promptly. "I had a lovely time, though. And I don't mean that as gloating."
"Nah, don't worry. You bought the drinks, after all."
"It seemed only sportsmanlike." Elizabeth opened the cab door, and held out a hand. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, I guess."
Maggie looked at her hand, wondering whether she should shake it and just write the evening off, or play her final card. What the hell, she thought, in for a penny, in for a pound.
She stepped into Elizabeth's space, looped an arm around her neck, and kissed her soundly. Their lips crushed together as Maggie's tongue glided along the roof of the surgeon's mouth. It wasn't a tentative, exploring kiss, it was an 'I want to rip your clothes off and have you right here and now' kiss.
Elizabeth stood stock-still in her embrace, and Maggie neither noticed nor cared how the cab driver reacted. She let the kiss linger, and then pulled away very, very slowly.
She was rewarded by a stunned expression on Elizabeth's face. Maggie had never seen her so flustered, even after working round-the-clock. Her mouth remained open, but no words came out.
Maggie stepped back and shook the hand, which had remained outstretched all through the lip-lock. "Goodnight, Elizabeth," she said casually. "Sleep well."
"Er, yes..." Elizabeth managed a tight nod before getting into the cab and closing the door.
Maggie watched it drive away, then turned to stroll back to where her BMW was parked. That, she thought, was worth it just for the look on her face.
They didn't see each other again for two days. Maggie didn't know if this was because Elizabeth was avoiding her or because their workloads just didn't interact during that time. The latter was always possible, but she suspected it was a combination of the two. Having rattled the Englishwoman's calm demeanor once, Maggie decided to cool it and settle for that victory, however small.
Actually, she was beginning to regret her actions, seeing them in retrospect as rather petty and mean-spirited. Perhaps Elizabeth could come off as rather superior at times, she reflected, but it didn't seem like she meant any harm to anyone. In fact, except for her uncharacteristically cowardly decision not to support Maggie's suit against Romano, her behavior had always struck Maggie as admirable. Maybe she didn't deserve to be embarrassed the other night. True, she'd humiliated Maggie at the pool table, but Maggie had walked into that one. That parting kiss, she decided, had been a rather cheap shot.
An arriving trauma - motorcyclist vs. humvee - drew her attention away from the subject, even when she found herself working alongside Elizabeth Corday herself. After some rather intense procedures, she watched Elizabeth accompany the gurney up to the OR, then returned to her paperwork.
When she saw Elizabeth downstairs again, she asked, "Hey, how's the Wheelie King?"
Elizabeth rubbed her brow tiredly. "Stable," she replied. "I think he'll keep the leg, though I'd like to know what possessed him to ride without a helmet."
Maggie nodded. "People do some stupid things, all right. Then again, that's what pays our salaries, right?"
"That's one way to look at it." The surgeon smiled ruefully.
There was a pause.
"About the other--"
"You know, I--"
They stopped, and chuckled.
"You go first."
Maggie paused, wondering if Elizabeth would buy the same 'you looked so cute in the moonlight' line that Amanda Donohoe had used on 'L.A. Law'. "I think I had a little too much to drink that night," she ventured, aware that she'd barely touched her beers. Certainly not enough to get her drunk, as she knew from experience.
"Yeah, I wanted to apologize. I mean, I don't know what I was thinking, you know..."
"Kissing me?" Elizabeth lowered her voice.
"Yeah. I mean, not that you're not kissable, but...oh, jeez." She wondered if there was room in her mouth for the other foot.
Elizabeth took pity on her. "Why don't I go, then you can decide what you're trying to say, shall I?"
The surgeon hugged herself, gripping her opposite elbows. "It seems, lately, that we end up overreacting every time we encounter each other," she began. "This has been a source of some concern for me."
"Don't blame you." That seemed more than fair, given that Maggie had been the one to get physical, both times.
"I've been...hesitant to approach you about it, given that level of unpredictability, but I think we need to resolve this, if only for the sake of our professional relationship." Her body and voice were stiff, denoting her discomfort.
Here it was, Maggie realized. Elizabeth was going to lay it on her, telling her how angry she was. Maggie had already decided to let the matter drop, but if Elizabeth needed to give her some grievance, the least Maggie should do is let her vent. "I agree," she said.
"Good. Very well, then..." Elizabeth took a breath and met Maggie's eyes. "I wonder if you'd like to have dinner with me."
"You have every right to feel that w--what...?"
"Dinner," Elizabeth repeated. "I'd like you to come to dinner, and we can talk. Is that all right?"
Maggie went blank.
Maggie swallowed, wondering if she wanted to go through with this. She hadn't had the courage to come out and ask what Elizabeth had in mind for tonight, and the surgeon's poise left her few real clues to her intentions.
She checked her reflection in the hallway mirror, checking that no dust or lint marred the deep black of her 'hot date' dress. Well, maybe 'dress' was being kind; more like a swimsuit that was left open at the bottom. It left her arms and shoulders bare, and showed off her legs nicely. Her mother had once commented that, if the dress were any shorter, people could see her underwear. Maggie had solved that problem; she wasn't wearing any.
She'd given her hair a little extra fluff, and applied a carefully chosen shade of lipstick, not too loud, but just enough to suggest sensuality. She didn't wear much makeup, usually, since it never seemed too practical on the job, and she'd always hated the term 'lipstick lesbian' - sounds like a cheap porn flick - but for a special occasion, it seemed right. If only she knew what kind of occasion this was, a real date or just hanging out...
That reminded her of the asshole patient the other day who'd overheard her talking to Chuny about their love lives, or lacks thereof. The guy had asked her whether she considered herself a Butch or a Femme. She'd forced a smile and told him she considered herself a doctor, and anything beyond that was none of his business.
The part she'd really vacillated over was the shoes. Her best imitation black leather open-toes with four-inch spike heels. They made up in sexiness what they lacked in comfort, but only just barely. Her brother always bitched about having to wear a necktie every day, which made her snort with derision. Let him try wearing heels for a while, then he'd see how little he had to complain about!
She mustered up her courage and knocked on Elizabeth's door.
It opened a moment later, revealing Elizabeth in a tan thigh-length sweater-dress, belted at the waist, and sandals of the same color. She looked relaxed and casual, just about the opposite of how Maggie felt right now.
"Hi," Maggie said, holding up the bottles in each hand. "I didn't know whether to bring red or white."
"We may end up going through both." Elizabeth smiled at her - a little nervously? Or was it her imagination? - and invited her in.
"How'd you put up with working for Weasel Boy?" Maggie asked, halfway through dinner.
"The very same."
"Oh, you know, he really wasn't that bad," Elizabeth answered. "Certainly, he took advantage of my repeated internship to put me through all the usual drudgery. But I really had no one but myself to blame for it; I knew there would be a fair degree of that when I made the decision. And he surprised me on occasion, by showing some unexpectedly professional behavior with patients." She refilled their wineglasses. "I remember being with him last Hallowe'en, when he had to inform some parents that their daughter was actually, in a sense, their son."
"Whoa. How'd he handle that?"
"Remarkably well. He didn't talk down any more than necessary, and he was appropriately sensitive and calm with them."
"We are talking about DALE Edson, right? Surgical resident, about this tall?" Maggie held up a hand. "Brown hair, and nose to match?"
Elizabeth nodded. "I know he's not well-liked in the ER, but believe me, he was a cakewalk compared to some of the stuffy old gits I had to deal with during my original internship. And that was back when I really didn't know what I was doing. We Brits didn't invent the stiff upper lip for no reason, you know."
"So Edson wasn't that bad?"
"All things considered, he was a small price to pay."
"Then you'd work under him again if you had to?" Maggie lifted her glass to her lips.
Elizabeth's voice dropped a full octave. "Not if you held a fucking shotgun to my skull."
Wine spewed as Maggie burst out laughing. "Oh, jeez, I'm sorry!" She didn't know which to mop up first, the wine soaking into the tablecloth, or that which dribbled from her chin.
"Don't worry, I'll wash it later," Elizabeth assured her with an easy smile. "I got Peter to do the same thing, once."
"Benton, the Great Stone Face? How'd you manage that?"
The Englishwoman just smiled more broadly and didn't answer.
"Never mind, I think I can guess."
"Have you finished?" Elizabeth stood, collecting her dishes.
"Yeah, it was wonderful," Maggie said, meaning it. "A lot of people don't really know how to cook vegetarian, but this was great."
"I tried it for a while," Elizabeth said, carrying things into the kitchen, "but the truth is, I'm rather fond of meat. Perhaps not so highly evolved of me, but there it is."
Maggie paused, wondering if that was Elizabeth's subtle way of saying that she was a confirmed heterosexual. All through the evening, they'd skirted the line between friendship and flirtation, without ever managing to cross it. "So, you and Peter are really through, huh?" she said, bringing her dishes into the kitchen with her.
"Oh, Maggie, you don't have to do that. I'll take care of the dishes."
"Come on, I grew up with working class parents and a bunch of brothers. Nobody eats for free."
"All right, how about you load the dishwasher?"
"Sure." Maggie hadn't missed how Elizabeth had ducked her question. "If you don't want to talk about him..."
"I'm not sure if I do or not," Elizabeth replied, vaguely. "So, how about you? Anyone special in your life?"
Maggie's spine tingled at the question. Was that a casual inquiry, or an attempt to see if the field was open? "Well, you know how hard it is to meet anyone, with the hours we work," she said, noncommittally.
"And no one in the workplace that tickles your fancy?"
You mean besides the one right next to me? Maggie thought. "Well, yeah, but how many of 'em go for women?" She shrugged. "I always thought Carol Hathaway was kind of cute, but she's so obviously not interested. We didn't exactly get along at first, anyway. When I first met her, she must've been in some kind of early mid-life crisis or something, 'cause she was really running hot and cold on me. One minute she's getting bitchy with me over minor stuff, then she's trying to kiss up and play good neighbor. I could never seem to get in synch with her moods."
"Well...Carter once as much as accused me of having the hots for Anna Del Amico. Remember her?"
"I didn't, exactly, but I had to laugh at his assumption. I swear, I'd've hit him with a harassment suit, too, if I didn't know what a nice guy he really is, deep down. What are you smiling about?"
"It's funny you should mention those particular women. Peter came to my door one night, hoping to find me alone. We hadn't yet begun our relationship in earnest, but his interest was clearly piqued. So imagine his surprise when he found I had someone else with me that evening."
"Better. He was just starting a flush of jealousy when Carol Hathaway came to the door behind me..."
"Oh my God!"
"...followed closely by Anna Del Amico."
"Oh my Double God!"
"We gave him a polite brush-off and sent him on his way. Honestly, we were just having a few laughs and a few drinks - you know, a real girls' night in - but from the look on his face, I imagine he was picturing a full-scale lesbian orgy taking place!"
"And him not allowed to take part in it, poor guy!"
After they had laughed about that one for a minute, Elizabeth said, "Peter could be quite a good lover, but his heart clearly wasn't in the relationship. It wasn't easy to draw him into it, and once he was in, he took very little interest in its upkeep."
"Ahh, that's men for you," Maggie said with a smile.
"I don't think that's necessarily true of all men," the surgeon replied, not unkindly. "It's just that Peter was - and is - a very driven, goal-oriented person. He commits all of himself to something, and everything else has to take a backseat to it. In his case, it was his son. Having no children of my own, I don't know what kind of parent I'd make, but I should hope I'd be as devoted to them as he is to Reese."
Maggie hadn't dealt directly with Benton very much, but she knew Carter had always spoken highly of him...when he wasn't griping about him. Maggie had the impression that he was a real hardnose, but an excellent surgeon. Maybe the two went together.
"I just wasn't part of his picture of the future," Elizabeth went on. "Our relationship ended mostly because it had outlived its usefulness to us both. It was primarily filling a need, like food and rest. It became clear, eventually, that he didn't want or need anything more than that."
Elizabeth stopped rinsing the serving dish and looked at Maggie. "I don't know," she said.
Maggie dropped her eyes, wondering how they had ended up focusing the conversation on Benton. It wasn't a good sign, she thought, when you're with a woman and you end up talking about men.
"I don't blame him, in any case," Elizabeth said, drying her hands, then offering the towel to Maggie. "What little of his time and energy Reese didn't occupy, his work did."
"Career above all." Maggie followed her back to the living room, snagging the wine bottle and glasses from the table. "All surgeons are like that. I remember talking to Carter once..."
"I beg your pardon! I believe I represent that remark!"
"Okay, all male surgeons, then."
Elizabeth eyed her as they sat on opposite ends of the sofa. "What is this particular animosity you have for surgery?"
"It's nothing personal," Maggie assured her, pouring more wine for them both. "I just hate how cutthroat it all is. There's supposed to be this kind of honor code among the surgical elite, but the ones who make it to the top are always assholes like Romano. I mean, who'd he screw to get where he is today?"
"Believe me, you have no idea," Elizabeth muttered, taking a large sip.
Maggie picked up on it. "What did he do to you?"
The surgeon looked away.
"Did you and he...?"
"What? Oh, GOD, no!"
Elizabeth sighed. "He screwed us both, Maggie. You and me. I should say, you through me."
"What are you talking about?"
She raised her wineglass. "I must have had too much of this, or I'd never have said anything."
"Well, you said something now. C'mon, don't leave me hanging."
Another sigh. "He implied that if I gave Kerry Weaver my testimony in your case, he'd inform Anspaugh of my former relationship with Peter. I'd probably have gotten off lightly, but Peter's career could have been irrevocably damaged."
Maggie stared at her in astonishment. "Oh my God," she said quietly. "Is that why you pulled out?"
"You were protecting him? Not yourself?"
Maggie felt ashamed for her earlier wrath toward Elizabeth. Integrity and loyalty, even misplaced, were qualities she had always admired. Carter's covering for Edson's mistake, for instance, had secretly impressed her. She'd thought he was a dope for extending it to someone so obviously undeserving, but she had liked him all the more for it, just the same.
Now Elizabeth had made the same sort of sacrifice. All this time, Maggie had thought she was just too chicken to speak up, when in fact she'd had to choose the lesser of two evils. And Maggie had to admit, the poor evaluation Romano threatened to write her, when mixed in with all her other, far more positive reports, was minimal compared to the harm he could have done Peter Benton. Maggie didn't know Benton well, personally, but there was no doubt that County needed people like him.
"Elizabeth, I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I really didn't know..."
"I wish I could have protected both of you, Maggie," the Englishwoman said quietly. "I really do."
"Forget it, it's okay..."
"No, it's not," she replied, vehemently. "It's not okay when manipulative little schemers can get away with abominable behavior at the expense of good, honest people like the both of you."
"Like the three of us," Maggie corrected her. She regarded the woman sitting next to her. It would have been easy, she realized, for Elizabeth to feel bitterness toward an ex-lover, and to make the choice not to protect him. But Elizabeth Corday had too much character for such pettiness. Looking at her now, Maggie was struck by how beautiful she really was. If Benton didn't know what he was missing in giving her up, he didn't deserve her in the first place, Maggie decided.
"Thank you, but I haven't felt good about it, in any case." She offered Maggie a watery smile. "Am I forgiven?"
Maggie leaned closer and kissed the corner of her mouth. "If I am," she replied.
For yelling at you, for hitting you, for being a complete bitch and trying to hurt and humiliate you... "For everything," she said. She gazed into those lovely eyes, so close...
What am I doing, Maggie thought abruptly. She's straight, she's not going to be interested in me. She only invited me here to clear the air. Maggie looked away.
Gentle fingers took her chin and turned it back. "You know," Elizabeth said slowly, "you didn't have to dress up just for dinner with me." She didn't move her hand.
"I didn't know what to expect," Maggie replied in a soft tone.
"You thought perhaps I asked you here romantically," Elizabeth went on, "as a result of your efforts to seduce me?"
"Oh, you noticed..."
"A tongue down one's throat provides a subtle hint."
Part of Maggie began to wish Elizabeth would remove the hand from her face. Part of her wished the opposite. "When you invited me, I wasn't sure what your intentions were..."
She trailed off as a fingernail traced the outline of her lips. "I wasn't either," her hostess whispered.
Maggie shivered under her touch. She closed her eyes.
The touch of Elizabeth's lips on her own was almost too faint to be felt. Maggie felt the vaporous kisses first on her upper lip, then her lower, then a full contact at last. Elizabeth's breath, tinged with wine, tantalized her momentarily, then retreated.
She opened her eyes again, looking into the other woman's. There were questions in them, unspoken. Did you like that? Did I do it well? Do you want me to do it again? Maggie had one answer for all three.
"We're really going to do this, aren't we?" she whispered.
The reply was almost inaudible. "Yes, we are."
Elizabeth kissed her again, bolder this time. The tip of her tongue ventured between her lips, caressing the inside of Maggie's lips without penetrating deeper. She felt the hand move from her chin, down her neck, to cup her breast, the palm seeming to devour her erect nipple even through the black dress. Maggie's arms had slid around her, pulling her closer.
It was too soon when Elizabeth pulled back, gasping for breath. "We're too old to act like teenagers," she said, standing. "Let's do this properly, shall we?" She held out a hand.
Maggie took it and stood, toeing her shoes off. The feel of Elizabeth's carpet beneath her toes was surprisingly sensuous.
They stood, silently facing each other and holding hands for what seemed like an eternity before Elizabeth turned away and walked toward her bedroom. As she walked, she undid her belt, dropping it thoughtlessly to the floor, then pulled the sweater-dress over her head. Maggie had only a glimpse of her bare back before she disappeared into the bedroom.
Maggie stood where she was, her head spinning. Whether from the wine or the kiss, she couldn't tell.
To her surprise, she found that little voice was back. You've lied to her, it said accusingly.
How do you figure that?
You allowed her to think you were trying to seduce her. That's not what you had in mind at all.
Look, do we have to talk about this now??
Maggie Doyle, you know she deserves the truth. She was honest with you. Are you really going to go in there and have sex with her after what you were willing to do to her?
Maggie considered that question carefully. Then she considered the fact that Elizabeth Corday was naked and waiting for her in the next room.
"Aw, screw it," she said out loud. Then she pulled her dress off, flung it inelegantly into the nearest corner, and marched into the bedroom.
Venturing naked into Elizabeth's bedroom, Maggie felt like she was treading upon increasingly sacred ground. No lights were on in the room, only the faint illumination from the curtained window and the light from the hallway.
Elizabeth lay on top of the bed, framed in the hallway light. The loose curls of her hair cascaded about her shoulders. Maggie ran her eyes over the woman's nude form, noting with pleasure that she appeared fit without being artificial. There was none of the narcissistic body sculpting or cosmetic enhancements many of Maggie's dates seemed to favor. Elizabeth was clearly a woman comfortable with her own body, as it was, and that just made her all the lovelier in Maggie's eyes.
"Are you coming in?" she murmured softly.
Maggie realized she'd been hesitating in the doorway. She couldn't remember being this nervous since her first sexual experience. She forced herself away from the doorway, joining Elizabeth on the quilted comforter. They lay side by side, facing each other.
Elizabeth reached for her guest.
She withdrew her hand. "What's the matter?"
Maggie wished she could get the words of that little voice out of her head. She knew it was right, and that she should tell this wonderful creature the truth, but if she did...
"Maggie, darling, if you don't want to..."
"It's not that. Really."
She thought of something. "You didn't sleep with them, did you?"
"Carol and Anna? When Peter found you?"
"No, I didn't."
Maggie feigned relief. "That's good to hear."
She smiled. "'Cause they'd be a hell of an act for me to follow."
Elizabeth laughed at that, and Maggie joined her. They giggled like schoolgirls, letting all the nervous energy out. And when they calmed, Maggie had made her choice.
She pulled the surgeon closer and kissed her, gently at first, then with greater insistence. Elizabeth welcomed her with lips, arms, and legs, drawing her in further. Maggie rolled her onto her back and slipped her leg between Elizabeth's, her thigh finding the wetness between her hostess's legs. So she wants this as much as I do, Maggie thought.
She kissed gently up along Elizabeth's cheeks, ears, eyelids, and forehead, as though memorizing the other woman's face by touch. Elizabeth sighed, her nimble fingers dancing over Maggie's flesh. She caressed Maggie's breasts, lifting one to her lips, suckling gently at it.
"No, wait," Maggie said, pulling away with difficulty. "You first."
Elizabeth lay back as Maggie's hands and mouth began a careful exploration down the length of her body. I may be taking advantage of her, Maggie thought, but I'm at least going to make damn sure she enjoys it.
She paused in her pilgrimage to pay homage to Elizabeth's breasts. They weren't perfect, like the silicone-enhanced globes of a fashion model, but they were real and natural, and Maggie much preferred them this way. She alternated between them, licking, nibbling, sucking, every action increasing Elizabeth's excitement. She moaned aloud, her fingers twining through Maggie's hair. "Yes, darling," she gasped. "Please, more..."
When she felt Elizabeth could stand it no longer, Maggie descended, marking a trail of butterfly kisses along her stomach, dipping her tongue briefly into Elizabeth's navel, then verrrry slowly ran the tip of her tongue down over her pubic bone. She paused, tantalizingly, at the apex of her journey before entering her destination.
Elizabeth gasped sharply, her hips rising off the bed to meet Maggie's mouth. "Oh, God..." She was ready to come, Maggie knew. But Maggie was determined to take her time.
Performing oral sex on another woman, in Maggie's opinion, was the issue that separated the true lesbian from the woman who was merely bi-curious. For the latter, experimentation with other women was a means to an end; hearing that women knew best how to please each other that way, she looked for a woman who would give her new and more exotic orgasms. Returning the gesture was the price to be paid. For a lesbian, however, a woman who truly loved and admired the female form in its own right, the act of orally pleasing another woman was a pleasure all its own; it was truly better to give than to receive. Well, okay, maybe not better, but very nearly as good.
Maggie applied her talents as a painter applied a brush. No, she thought, more like a sculptor with a chisel, removing the excess from a block of stone or marble, until the shape of truth and beauty that lay within is revealed at last. An apt metaphor, she decided, since every woman's orgasm was a work of art. The creative act of bringing one into existence was a reward in itself.
Of course, even the greatest of artists is only as good as her subject. One couldn't create something from nothing, only look at the block of marble and try to see what is already there. In Elizabeth Corday, however, Maggie - who considered herself quite the artist - knew immediately that she had the makings of a masterpiece.
Taking great pleasure in the way Elizabeth's limbs vibrated with uncontrolled rapture, Maggie was stunned at how completely the Englishwoman abandoned her poise and control, surrendering herself entirely to her lover's ministrations. She didn't seem to know what to do with her hands, first stroking and teasing her own nipples, then running her fingers through her own tangled hair, then through Maggie's, then clutching handfuls of the comforter. She rolled her head from side to side, her hair flying, and her hips bucked fiercely; Maggie had to hold onto her thighs to maintain contact. She was so close...
"Dear God, Maggie..." Elizabeth breathed, hoarsely, "Ohh, yes, there...pleeease, now...I'm..."
Her words dissolved into more primitive vocalizations as her climax loomed before them. Recognizing its imminence, Maggie gave it her best effort, diving in with everything she had. The indescribable taste of the Englishwoman enthralled her as she strove for the final triumph...
Elizabeth convulsed beneath her, her spine stiffening and her eyes rolling back into her head. She let out a scream that must have covered the musical scales at least twice on its way down. Then she seemed to melt, releasing all the coiled tension in her body, and collapsed on the bed, devoid of strength.
Maggie let her rest for a few moments, then briefly retraced her path up to Elizabeth's lips. She kissed them gently, granting the woman a taste of herself. "Oh my God, girl," she said, "you'd think you haven't been laid in years."
"I don't think I have," Elizabeth whispered, her eyes still closed. "Not like that."
"You're kidding. Benton never went down on you?"
"Yes, he did, but it was always a warm-up, never the main event."
Maggie shook her head. Men, she thought.
Elizabeth slowly opened her eyes, gazing lovingly at her friend, then pulled her down for a lingering kiss. "A guest shouldn't do all the work," she said when they parted. "May your hostess attempt to return the compliment?"
Maggie crinkled her face. "Uhh, gee, I'll have to think about that for a New York Minute..."
"How does a minute in New York differ from anywhere else?" Elizabeth asked, perplexed.
"Not a minute, a New York Minute. It's the smallest unit of time that human science is capable of measuring or conceiving."
"Ahh..." Elizabeth smiled. "Sort of the opposite of a Texas Mile."
"Right." Maggie rolled off of Elizabeth, onto her back. She stretched contentedly as Elizabeth took her place on top of her and kissed her again. This was the other great advantage to making love to a woman, she thought. When done right, it inspires her to do the same to you.
Elizabeth spread over her body like a warm blanket, albeit one that seemed to seek out all her most sensitive spots. Elizabeth's mouth went straight to her breasts, exploring them, reveling in them. She approached them like a child with a fascinating new toy. Maggie generally tried to avoid relationships with straight women - they always ended badly when the novelty was over and they went back to men - but she couldn't deny it was fun to watch them discover the differences from men's bodies. Elizabeth kissed and licked each nipple, bringing them to the hardness of diamonds.
As she moved down over Maggie's stomach, however, Maggie began to sense a stiffness and hesitancy in her actions. "That's good," she soothed, trying to encourage her. "Just like that."
Elizabeth's skills at orally pleasuring a woman were sparse, but she was a quick and adaptive student, and an eager practitioner. She almost made up in enthusiasm what she lacked in experience or technique, and she succeeded in bringing Maggie to climax in due course. Maggie wouldn't have ranked it among her all-time greats, but it certainly got the job done. There was no denying it was anticlimactic, however.
Elizabeth looked up, the disappointment clear on her face. "I'm sorry," she said.
"It's okay, that was fine," Maggie told her, stroking her hair. The truth was, she could have done better with her own hands, but she didn't want to crush the other woman's spirits by saying so. It figured, she thought wryly, that the one thing Elizabeth was less than expert in was making Maggie come.
As much as she tried to hide it, Elizabeth obviously caught the gist of her feeling. Her face fell into misery as she bit her lip. Taking pity on her, Maggie pulled her gently up until Elizabeth's head rested on her chest. "It's okay, really," she whispered, holding the Englishwoman like a distraught child.
"I'm sorry, Maggie, I so wanted to please you," Elizabeth said, her voice tight.
Maggie held her closer and kissed the top of her head. "Don't feel bad, honey," she replied. "Nobody hits a home run their first time at the plate."
Elizabeth had to chuckle at that. "Why do Americans always resort to sporting metaphors when talking about sex?"
"National obsession, I guess. Like you and that 'cricket' thing."
"Don't go there," Elizabeth warned her, humorously. But Maggie could feel the hot wetness of tears on her chest. "I'm sorry, I'm usually considered quite a good lover. I don't know what happened..."
"Well...you remember when you first kissed me, back on the couch?"
"You had it perfect then, just needed to apply that same style. Same thing you did to my mouth, only lower." She brushed strands of hair off Elizabeth's face. "I think you just put too much pressure on yourself, and you choked."
"Well, it's your own fault. You did set the standards rather high just prior."
"Thanks, I think." A thought came to Maggie. "You know what it's like? It's...it's like making a speech."
Elizabeth raised her head and stared quizzically at Maggie. "How on earth is it like making a speech?" she asked. "Am I meant to picture my audience naked? That's not much of an effort."
"No, see...you don't want to say everything in the same tone and speed, or you'll bore your audience."
Elizabeth looked skeptical, but rested her head on Maggie's chest again. "Go on..."
"Well, um...it never hurts to start off with a joke..."
"I mean, keep it light at first, then get into more serious areas once you've got their attention."
"You're making this up!"
"No, I'm really not," she lied. "Then, once you've got their attention with your opening declaration, then you want to follow up with your supporting arguments." Hey, I'm on a roll here, she thought. "You make bold, sweeping statements, then go into more detail, covering all the fine points."
"Then, for your summation, you really want to grab 'em. Cover all the bases one more time, then really drive your point home and wind it up with a big finish."
"And if I do all this correctly?"
"You'll get a standing ovation."
Elizabeth laughed louder, her spirits clearly improved. "This is the silliest metaphor I've ever heard," she declared, "but it actually makes some sense, I think. I'm supposed to be quite the orator, after all."
She lifted her face with a smile, and Maggie kissed her again.
"They say practice makes perfect," Elizabeth added in a more sultry tone, raising herself. "May I have another go?"
"Sure," Maggie said. Then, "Wait, you know what? Let's try a debate."
"A debate? How do we...ohhh." Her eyebrows arched as she took Maggie's meaning.
"Here, follow my lead." Maggie rearranged herself so that she and Elizabeth were lying side-by-side on the bed, inverted head-to-toe, and snuggled in between each other's thighs.
She allowed her lips to brush lightly against the other woman's labia, feeling an equally fleeting kiss against her own. She let the tip of her tongue glide over her lover's clitoris, and received a matching gesture, simultaneously. The electric shiver of delight made her moan softly into Elizabeth's groin, and she felt an identical vibration against her pelvis. They picked up the pace.
Elizabeth matched Maggie's every action, breath for breath, stroke for stroke. Maggie clasped Elizabeth's buttocks and the Englishwoman's fingers dug into her own in immediate response. For a moment, Maggie had the peculiar image of somehow making love to herself, like some exotic lesbian cloning experiment run amok.
It became clear to Maggie that Elizabeth's skills were growing in leaps and bounds, and she showed none of the same nervousness as before. As her tongue hit a particularly sensitive spot, Maggie responded with a sharp gasp. Rather than mimic her, though, Elizabeth forged ahead, taking the lead. Oho, so the pupil wants to outstrip the master, eh?
Maggie applied herself with renewed vigor, as though competing in a race. One in which neither competitor wanted to reach the finish line any too soon. They dueled deliciously, one taking control, then the other, each deriving intense pleasure in the process. Holy shit, I've created a monster, Maggie thought, just before losing the capacity to think clearly. A beautiful, maddeningly gifted monster...
The two women brought each other to virtually simultaneous orgasm - an event unprecedented in Maggie's experience - and then rolled apart, limbs unfolding like flower petals. They lay on their backs, their perspiration cooling.
Elizabeth laced her fingers through Maggie's, tracing her thumbnail across the American's palm. Following the love line. "Was, ah, was that any better?" she asked, a little hoarsely.
"I'll tell you...when I can catch my breath," Maggie gasped in reply. I may have been a terrible student in nursing school, she thought, but as a teacher, I rock!
"Am I really your first woman?" Maggie asked her later, leaning back against her.
"You certainly are," Elizabeth replied, hugging her from behind. "And well worth the wait, if I may say so."
"You may." She let her fingers trail in the sudsy water. Elizabeth's bathtub was a little snug for two people, but if they were cozy, it wasn't uncomfortable. Most of the bubbles had dissolved, but the water was still pleasantly warm, if no longer hot. "Does it come as a surprise that you enjoyed it so much?"
"Less than you might think, actually..."
"Well, gee, thanks a lot!"
"Oh, no, no, it's less of a surprise, I mean," Elizabeth hastened to assure her, "not that I enjoyed it less."
"Oh? Had a secret hankerin' for the fairer sex, have you?"
"Not as such. I've never thought of myself as particularly sapphic - though I've occasionally been called amazonian - but I've often had a rather interesting thought on the subject."
"Well, I once saw this episode of 'Star Trek'..."
"Oh my God, you're a closet Trekkie!"
"I am not!" Then, "Well, I will admit that I found Leonard Nimoy rather intriguing."
"Yeah, I got the same thing with Terry Farrell. Sorry, I distracted you. You saw this episode, and...?"
"Well, it seems that William Shatner somehow exchanged bodies with a woman, leading to some of his hammiest acting ever. And it struck me that, if a man and woman could somehow exchange bodies like that, and if they were suitably open to experimentation, I believe it would do wonders for their sex life. After all, they would each be in a position to provide the other with maximum pleasure, knowing what feels good from an insider's point of view."
"So you've imagined, what, putting on Peter Benton's body, and fucking yourself?"
"It does provide hours of fun for a fertile imagination, doesn't it?" Elizabeth let a palmful of water trickle over Maggie's back and arms. "Of course, it's an entirely hypothetical scenario, but I'd guessed that being with another member of the same gender might have a similar effect."
"'Cause you'd know the territory more intimately?"
"Precisely. For example..." She slipped her arms around Maggie's waist, the left hand cupping a breast, while the right one slithered between Maggie's legs. Her fingers probed gently, then entered knowledgeably. She kissed the side of Maggie's neck, biting gently.
"Mmmm, what are you...?" Maggie broke off her question as the answer became obvious. "Oh. Ohhhhh..." She raised her left leg onto the rim of the tub, allowing Elizabeth greater access, of which the Englishwoman took full and immediate advantage. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph..."
Whatever Elizabeth's hand was doing to her was indescribable, even to an experienced practitioner like Maggie. Those fingertips were hitting spots that she never even knew she had. Maggie's head fell back against Elizabeth's shoulder as she surrendered herself to her lover's attention.
Other women had brought her to climax manually, but not quite like this. It was like comparing the athleticism of a football player to that of a ballet dancer. Both involved strength and coordination, but where one was merely powerful and forthright, the other was amazingly graceful and beautiful. She'd never felt anything like this before.
"Ohh, God...Eliz...abeth...you..." Her words fell apart, the syllables unable to combine into recognizable patters, like atoms in a nuclear furnace. She gripped the sides of the tub, the involuntary convulsions of her body sending wavelets of soapy water sloshing. Suds trickled onto the tile of the bathroom floor.
The sensations of Elizabeth's hands, one between her thighs, the other kneading at her breast, combined with the warm, wet tongue in her ear, drove Maggie to a plateau unlike any she'd ever enjoyed before, and straight into her first out-of-body experience. For a brief moment, she was standing on her head amid some alien landscape on the far side of the galaxy...and then her soul flew back into her body.
Her spine dissolved, and she might have slipped under the water and drowned, if not for the woman supporting her head and gently kissing her face and neck. Maggie found her voice with great effort. "How...did you learn...to do that...?"
"Well," Elizabeth replied, "let's just say that, when one is alone in a strange country, with little time for dating and no recourse except masturbation...one quickly grows to appreciate having the hands of a surgeon."
"I take back everything I said about your profession," Maggie told her. "Thank you."
"No, Maggie, thank you." Elizabeth kissed her temple.
"For what?" she asked, unconsciously echoing Elizabeth's earlier question.
"For making me feel desirable again," the taller woman replied, holding her close. "I told you I don't blame Peter, but...he was slow to enter our relationship, and quick to abandon it. It's difficult not to take that as a reflection of one's personal attractiveness. Then, when you pursued me, as confusing as that initially was, I realized how wonderful it was to feel wanted by someone. It was something I hadn't felt in ages, Maggie, and I'm so grateful to you for it."
It was the sweetest thing anyone had said to Maggie in years, and it made her feel lower than rat droppings. The little voice didn't even have to say anything; she knew her conscience couldn't stomach the deception any more.
"Elizabeth..." she ventured.
"I...I haven't been trying to seduce you."
She couldn't see Elizabeth's expression, but she could hear the puzzlement in her voice. "You haven't? Then what on earth have you been doing?"
Oh boy. Here was the hard part.
"I was..." She had to clear her throat. "I've been trying to harass you."
The air seemed to chill, and even the water felt cooler.
"When you didn't back me up in the harassment suit against Romano, I thought you didn't take the whole issue seriously, and I...I was really angry, and I wanted to show you how it felt..."
"Get out." The words were flat and hard.
"Elizabeth, I'm sor--"
"Get out of the tub, Maggie."
Maggie stood, unable to turn and look Elizabeth in the eye, and stepped out of the bathtub. She picked up a towel and began drying herself off, trying to ignore the burning ache in her heart. I deserve this, she thought. I lied to her, used her, and she has every right to...
"Dry yourself quite thoroughly, please," Elizabeth said in the same flat tone. "I don't want my bedsheets soaked."
Maggie nodded, complying...then, "Bedsheets?"
"Yes. Once I'm out of the bath, we're going straight back to bed."
Maggie turned abruptly, sudden hope rising. She found Elizabeth looking at her with the faintest touch of a smile bordering her stern expression. "You...you're not angry with me?"
"Well, yes I am," the surgeon replied languidly, "but...I suppose you might convince me to forgive you...if you were to make an appropriately eloquent and impassioned...speech?" There was a flirtatious lilt on the final word.
Her smile growing along with her spirits, Maggie dropped to her knees beside the tub, threw her arms around Elizabeth's neck, and kissed her with all the love she could muster. Elizabeth returned the kiss unreservedly, caressing her face.
"Oh my God, you're incredible," Maggie said when they parted. "I'm such a jerk for harassing you like that..."
"Silly girl, you still don't understand, do you?" Elizabeth lay a finger over Maggie's lips.
"It's only harassment," Elizabeth said, "if the attention is unwelcome."
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