Character(s) or Pairing: Ray/Neela
Prompt: #6 – Theory
Summary: Neela’s family add spokes to the wheel.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any recognisable characters, and they are used here without permission. ER belongs to Michael Crichton, John Wells, Amblin Entertainment, Warner Brothers and a bunch of other people all of whom are richer than me.
A/N: Post “21 Guns” – Season 12 finale.
A/N2: I’m spoiler free, so this doesn't take them into account
Beta: Ash, shadow_diva, thank you, hon!
“Radha,” she sighed, “don’t start that wheel stuff again. Honestly.”
“Neela. You know I’m right on this one. It’s so very much your life.”
Knowing exactly where this conversation was going, she settled onto the sofa and curled a woollen blanket around her, leaning her head back she jibed back.
“My life is not dictated by people who lived hundreds of years ago.”
This time Radha sighed down the line, “How I can be related to you, I don’t know.”
Neela countered, in time-honoured tradition, a grin heard in her voice, “–and how either of us can be related to Dad.”
“Exactly. But, seriously, Neela, do you want me to spell it out for you?”
“Go on then.” She grumbled, knowing if she didn’t she’d not hear the end of it.
A week later she was once again on the phone, and feeling as if she was transported across the ocean into her childhood home to be berated by her father for her latest wrong doing.
“Neela, you must listen to me, now more than ever.”
“No, Dad. You’ve got to let me live my own life.” It was by far easier to do this over the phone, even if it was somewhat cowardly.
“Yes, and see where that got you.”
She gasped, well; if it were to be anybody it would be her father that would say something like that.
“Oh, don’t you sigh at me like that. If you did as you were told you wouldn’t be in this sort of mess.”
Mess, that was what her life was to her father, never mind that she was a grieving widow, or going to be a surgical resident, or soon to be homeless – again. She was a mess and that was all there was to it.
“No. We are not to have this conversation again Neela. Now, your brother will need his tuition paid again soon-”
It was Neela’s first shift back in the ER. They hadn’t needed her on hand so soon after the funeral, even with the shooting. Luka was back on his feet relatively quickly, and Abby’s maternity leave plans had had to be put into action early, but there was no real change. It was also her last shift as an ER resident; her next shift – starting six hours after this one ended – would be in surgery.
“Neela, we need you in curtain three.”
“Be right there, Chuny.”
She half jogged across the ER, wondering what she was going to have to face. She hoped they hadn’t started her on something easy – just to ease her back into things. She pulled back the curtain, after a double take she thought, no, definitely not something easy.
The patient was a pre-teen girl with a nasty looking fracture, nasty enough that you could see the bone.
“Neela,” Luka said as he walked by. She turned, waiting for the obvious condolences that she was sick of already. “Try to be quick; there’s a trauma due in 5.”
She grinned as he winked and walked away. She was back, if only for a while.
As she sat on the bench waiting for the train to arrive, Neela thought back on her day. It had been odd to be back in the ER, with so many familiar faces, but some glaring omissions – Abby, Ray and Jerry. Jerry was still in ICU and Ray had apparently switched his shift with someone. Now, that was odd, why had he done that? Was he avoiding her? I know I didn’t return his calls, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood for them.
She shook her head and smiled a wry smile. Don’t be daft, there’s some perfectly obvious reason for him to change shifts; you’ve met enough of them to know that.
Things between her and Ray had been off even before Michael’s – before. It was why she’d moved back to Abby’s. And he’d tried to be there for her that day, that day when she’d gotten her surgical residency. She laughed to herself, all she’d done then was scream at him to go away, to leave her alone in her shock and misery and pain. And telling him you had nothing, only the hospital, and that probably didn’t help.
It wasn’t that she was ignoring that a huge part of her life was – gone. It was just that she was still herself, a practical woman. And being practical means moving on. Living my life.
Not that she was ready for anything – like that – just yet, but she still needed her r- her friend.
She lifted her head as the wind on the station changed, the train was arriving. Standing she sighed, trying to block all thoughts of Ray or Michael from her mind. She had to get back to Abby’s to let the fridge guy in before she got back to the ER, the surgical ward.
“Get a move on, Rasgotra.”
Neela sighed. She knew she wanted this, and to have it, she also had to deal with Albright. “Coming.”
“Now. This isn’t the ER, can’t dawdle up here.”
Neela rolled her eyes; one would assume that it being the emergency
room that speed would be of the essence. She was barely a step behind Albright. Maybe Morris had done something to piss her off, and as she wasn’t Morris she wasn’t about to mention that either.
“Good to have you on board. Take a look at the board, as it’s your first day I say we let you stand in on whichever you choose, that means helping with the pre and post op care too.”
After a glare from Albright he added, “Make sure to tell Dr. Albright your choice as she’s to be your immediate supervisor and she’ll bring you up to date straight away.”
Albright huffed impatiently as Neela turned to the board. "Make it quick. I have rounds in three minutes."
Halfway up the stairs to the station, she rammed into someone going in the opposite direction. “Oh! I’m so sorry.”
“No problem. Neela. Neela?”
She looked up. Ray?
“Ray. Good evening.”
“Uh, hi to you too. You okay, Roomie?”
She smiled her first smile since her shift had been taken over by Albright. “I guess so.”
Ray raised an eyebrow. “You guess so?”
“Yeah. I’m good.”
“Right. I’ll uh, I’ll see you soon then, got a,” he waved his arm in the direction of the hospital, “shift starting in ten.”
“Right. See you soon, Ray. Have a good shift.”
She started back up the stairs quickly, hearing the train pulling in. How was it that a two-minute conversation about nothing had her feeling better than she had done in, well, a long time?
The first time she met Ray across the trauma gurney as a surgical resident was an eye-opener. At first it felt like Abby’s story of how the nurses had originally treated her when she switched disciplines. Yet she soon realised that wasn’t the case. He’d given up. He wasn’t even trying to get her attention as a friend, or anything else, anymore. She certainly hadn’t understood where this was coming from, and it kept on coming for weeks, at least until she came upon Pratt and Ray having a conversation, if you could call it that. From the other side of a curtain she heard it all.
“It looks like it’s working.”
“Working? She looks even more miserable than she was already. How does that work for you?”
“No. That’s not going to work anymore. You know the last time I saw her smile?”
"No," Pratt retorted flatly.
“I bumped into her coming off the El a month ago. Just said hi and asked how she was. She smiled at me. When was the last time you saw her smile?”
“Exactly. I can’t do it anymore, Pratt. I won’t do it anymore. I don’t want to see her hurt. And this is hurting her more. Maybe she won’t ever be ready for anything more than this, but she’s still the best friend I’ve ever had – and I can’t see her like this anymore.”
“Fine. But if you screw this up, Barnett.”
“Don’t even, Pratt, don’t even.”
And with that, she had to move away quickly so as not to be caught by an angry Ray shoving the curtain aside and storming away. If she could have gotten away with it, without him finding out why or how she knew, she would have given Pratt a piece of her mind. Now she just had one more reason to react to Ray the way she wanted to.
Things picked up after that. Ray started talking to her again, slowly, so as not to overwhelm her. Smiling at her in the trauma room when she was on a consult. Saying hi passing her at the station. Then buying her coffee or offering her a donut from the box at admin. Things became normal again. If it could be described as that.
Three months on from the original conversation they’d had, the two sisters were on the phone again.
“Radha, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you were right.”
“I was?” she said amused, “About what, sister-mine?”
“You know what. The wheel theory.”
“Yes, that.” Neela laughed.
“Go on then, tell me how I was right.”
“The wheel of fortune theory, medieval in its origins, is where tragedy was perceived as a reversal of fortune, a fall from a high position. This view of tragedy derives from the medieval concept of fortune, which was personified as Dame Fortune, a blindfolded woman who turned a wheel at whim; men were stationed at various places on the wheel--the top of the wheel represented the best fortune, being under the wheel the worst fortune. However, the wheel could turn suddenly and the man on top could suddenly be under the wheel, without warning.”
“Neela,” her sister asked, laughing, “Are you quoting here?”
“Found it on a website somewhere, when I was looking for a more academic description than yours.”
“And what was wrong with my description? No. Don’t tell me. Just tell me how I’m so wonderfully right.”
Neela laughed again, for once not feeling guilty for that laughter, “Ok. Ok. The wheel goes round and round. My life fits it so well; I got married and Michael left. Then home got better, with Ray, and then I had to leave. I got the surgical residency and”, here she sobered, “Michael was killed.” Hurrying past her pain she added, “you were right, my life does follow that pattern.”
“I just-”, she sighed, stopping her thought.
“What? You just what?”
“The wheel keeps on going, right?”
“Ye-es.” Radha answered, waiting for Neela to come to the point.
“It makes me feel awful, but-“ she stopped, again.
“But-“ Radha prompted, knowing this was something her sister needed to say.
“I feel like I’m waiting for something good to happen, maybe not quite what Michael wanted me to do yet, but I need something good to happen. I need to stop waiting.”
***The wheel goes round and round, And some are up and some are on the down, And still the wheel goes round.
– Josephine Pollard.