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16 March 2011 @ 10:56 pm
I wrote something. Shock! Horror!  
OTHER WOMEN

A Nurse Jackie fan fiction

By Cappuccino Girl

Notes: Takes place after season two. Many thanks as ever to the delightful cheapmetaphor for her spiffy little beta.





SHE’D TAKEN THE FIRST FLIGHT she could get to Dulles, on standby like in her student days, and here she is, standing at the front door of Sarah’s Georgetown apartment building, wondering just how long she can string out staring at the doorbell before she actually has to push the buzzer to Apartment 4C. What the hell hit her in the middle of a shift that led her to the airport after work, she doesn’t particularly like to consider, but it’s clearly a combination of longing and betrayal and a few more negative emotions for good measure. She changed out of her dress in the loo of the business class lounge, settling for jeans and a cashmere jumper she found thrown in a shopping bag in the corner of her office. Makeup carefully wiped from her face and hair in a messy ponytail, she could almost pass for care-free. If it weren’t for the bags under her eyes.

She pushes the buzzer. “It’s me. Don’t really know what I’m doing. Let me in?” And Sarah does, and meets her at the top of the stairs.

It’s been three weeks since they last saw each other in New York and since then, the world has imploded and Sarah’s boxes have made their way from storage units around the country into her living room, where they still sit, half unpacked, just in case she can’t stomach the city and its politics after all.

“You ignored my calls,” Sarah says, standing in the hallway with nowhere to hide.
“And you’ve been fucking around.” And of course O’Hara is right. Again.
“Would it help if I said that you’re the only person I’ve slept with while sober since I left Israel?” Sarah offers.
“Perhaps.” O’Hara kisses Sarah’s forehead.
“Hang your coat up. I have beer.” And it might be just like old times.

After the way Jackie used her, Sarah’s betrayal seems trivial, something that everyone does, or at least everyone she knows except for herself. Some people can’t be monogamous, in the same way that some are incapable of being unfaithful, and sometimes those two personalities fall for each other and unless there’s compromise, it’s always going to be a disaster and O’Hara wishes she weren’t so accomplished in the train-wreck department.

O’Hara gazes out of the glass door onto the balcony. “I like your flat,” she says. “It’s sort of… homely.”
Sarah hands her a beer and a bottle opener. “You mean ‘settled’.”
“In a good way.”
“It’s better than still living in a hotel two years after moving out of your ex’s place.”
“At least I publicly advertise my commitment phobia, unlike some other people I know.”
“Subtle.”
“Cheers.” Their bottles clink.

It’s startling seeing Sarah amongst what O’Hara assumes must be her life. A huge photo collage beside the old rotary phone on the wall tell an alternative history of the past twenty years… a roof-top party in East Berlin, a tent full of squaddies in the desert, Sarah in a slutty black dress-- clearly trashed-- clutching her News Emmy. They’ve been together more than a dozen times over the years, in various hotel rooms in Paris and London and New York, and O’Hara’s probably seen her do her job hundreds of times on TV, but this is altogether different. This time there’s a Persian carpet on the living room floor, and the smell of garlic and tomatoes wafting over from the kitchen. Does Sarah hate returning to a place she’s already been? Does she believe that if she leaves her toothbrush behind that she didn’t really want to go? Did her father give her that glass lamp globe on her fifth birthday and spin it, singing, “there is a season, turn, turn.”?

“Do you think you’ll stay? Stay put, I mean,” O’Hara asks, taking a seat next to Sarah on the sofa.
“Does anyone these days?”
“I’m fairly certain Christianne Amanpour’s vacancy at CNN is still open.”
“Now there’s an idea, but no. Once you’ve found yourself evacuated on an emergency charter flight so many times that you can’t even remember, I’m pretty sure it’s time to move on.”
“Did you keep your bullet-proof reporter vest? Because I love that thing. It’s like you’re Scully from the X-Files,” O’Hara says with a childish grin.
“I’ve scored exclusive interviews with the Prime Ministers of actual countries and you’re obsessing over my vest?”
“I’m a doctor. I like seeing you in one piece.”
Sarah flashes her a smile, and just like that, O’Hara’s forgiven her for everything. Not because she’s a push-over, but because Sarah is impossibly beautiful, and how could she harbour resentment for someone who looks so beautiful on her arm?

O’Hara reaches over and takes Sarah’s hand, counts her bangles--Pakistan, Iran, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe-- little maps of the world around her wrist. Still counting, she tells Sarah the story of Jackie’s MRI, of school fees and addictions, of why she’s here… sort of, anyway. Recounting it, she begins to question whether it really happened. Perhaps she just dreamed it one night. Perhaps things can go back to the way they were, getting drunk on the floor in Jackie’s living room in the middle of a Saturday afternoon while her beautiful girls play Barbies.

“I think you really like her,” Sarah remarks.
“I did.”
It’s not a lie, and it’s not something she’s proud of. She’s always considered herself an excellent judge of character. Within five minutes, she can decide whether she likes someone or not. Not ‘fancies’ (she can tell that within ten seconds), but ‘trusts’. Initially, it was probably a coping mechanism she developed from moving countries so much as a small child, but it’s turned out to be rather practical in the long-term. It reduces baggage. She doesn’t trust many people and now Jackie’s turned into her prime example, and the smell of lasagne is suddenly making her faintly sick.

“But you thought you could be her other woman, didn’t you?”
O’Hara looks up, horrified. “Jackie? God no!”
“You’re saying that now with all conviction, but didn’t you secretly want it to be more than friendship before she used you to score drugs?” Sarah pushes. She knows she’s right. She’s always right and O’Hara hates it.
“I did not,” O’Hara protests, rummaging around in her bag for a cigarette if this is the way her evening’s going to go. “And, by the way, she did not just use me to get a prescription; there was a whole bloody false MRI and a bill from about seventeen different chemists.”
“Ok. So she’s resourceful, we know that. But she’s also cute and charming and I could see you two... you know?”
“Rubbish.”
“Keep on lying to yourself. It’s quite attractive on you,” Sarah says with a laugh and it takes every inch of self-control O’Hara has left in her not to find it utterly disarming.
“Cow.”
“You Brits really need to try more diverse animals out for insults. Cockroach, for example, or dung beetle.”
“Shut it,” O’Hara hisses, waving beer and cigarette around. “And who are you calling me ‘you Brits’ with your dual nationality and nine hundred stamps in your passport?”
“True. Your dad was a diplomat, I guess.”
“See? There’s even more going for me in the multicultural department than living in Manhattan.”
“I know, I know,” Sarah sighs, putting her hand on O’Hara’s knee.

They both stare up at the ceiling as the upstairs door slams shut, and the clatter of shoes sounds on the floor above. Here they sit on this old leather sofa, drinking beer in their expertly constructed limbo. Sarah’s temporarily chained herself to a news desk in an effort to curb her air miles and O’Hara seems to have run away to DC to deconstruct infidelity instead of facing the next chapter of the my-best-friend-is-a-junkie saga.

They find themselves smiling at each other.

“What?” Sarah asks, nudging O’Hara to move closer towards her.
“Do you remember that spring in Paris?” O’Hara wonders.
“That dinner party at your sister’s place...” There’s a wistful tone in Sarah’s voice for a moment, but she quickly recovers. “`I’ll never forget the look on her husband’s face when you said you’d already sort-of met me at Joel’s school after the bomb scare.”
“I’m fairly certain he still can’t get his head around the idea of making long-term friends when you’re on a weekend get-away.”
“See, that’s what happens to people when they stay put for too long. I’ve seen it happen again and again. My worst nightmare!” Sarah says, covering her face with her hands in mock horror. “So bad!”
“Hideous!” O’Hara joins in, jabbing Sarah lightly with her elbow. “Did you know she’s shagging her builder, well, ex-builder?”
“Pippa?! You’re kidding!”
O’Hara shakes her head emphatically. “Things are rather French in gay Paris these days.”
“Does Dominque know?”
“Nope. But Chloe walked in on her kissing the bloke the other week and now Pippa’s convinced her daughter will be in therapy for the rest of her life.” O’Hara shakes her head. “Such a disaster. If only she could make up her mind between one or the other. She’s been stringing this out for the best part of two years now.”
“I love people like that. They make my life seem so pedestrian,” Sarah says with a laugh.
“Let that be a lesson to you.”
Sarah just rolls her eyes. She’s nothing like that. Nothing at all, she hopes.

O’Hara’s mobile starts ringing, interrupting the gossip. She glances at the coffee table to look at the display and swiftly presses ‘decline’, before tossing it into her handbag on the floor.
Sarah looks at her with mild disapproval. “Not feeling sociable?”
“Jackie. I don’t--” O’Hara lets her eyebrows finish the sentence for her.

A muffled ring sounds from inside the bag.
Sarah goes to fish it out, mumbling an exasperated, “I’ll take it,” under her breath.
“Because that’s an adult thing to do? No. Just let it ring.”
The last thing O’Hara needs right now is for Sarah to tell Jackie what a total and utter cunt she’s been, simultaneously giving Jackie the satisfaction that she might be back together with her hotshot slag of a journalist.

Perhaps she should move. It’s not as if she has to give notice on a flat or a car to sell. She could find a job here in DC, or maybe Sydney. It’s warm and sunny there, and they have palm trees. She’d quite happily spend a year with Médecins Sans Frontières if it weren’t for the fear that she’d be slumming it the entire time, which is the magic point at which her altruism ends. Sydney… She gazes longingly at Sarah’s globe. She knows that Sarah will leave again, on the first flight headed to the heart of the next international crisis. The BBC Washington desk won’t last longer than she would last back in England.

Sarah squeezes O’Hara’s knee. “Dinner’s probably ready, if you’re hungry.”
O’Hara grins. “May I stay here for the weekend?” she asks tentatively.
“It’s Tuesday.”
“Well, my weekend.”
“But you haven’t got a change of clothes.”
“Well, how would I know if you haven’t even unpacked your boxes yet?”

The ease at which the pair of them could slip into playing house surprises them both. A relationship existing in the parallel universe of hotel rooms and long-distance phone calls has always instilled a sense of confidence in O’Hara. A swipe key is shared, a half unpacked suitcase tossed in a closet, an airplane ticket on the bedside table: a quick exit without the stigma of splitting the sheets before dawn. They’ve existed in this freewheeler’s universe for two years now, and they’re far from being ready to take the plunge.

Sarah waves a hand in the direction of the cluster of battered removal boxes. “After dinner?”
“Before bubble bath,” O’Hara says with a smirk. “Can we order in pudding?”
“Only if I can watch C-SPAN over breakfast tomorrow.”
Sarah stretches her hand out for O’Hara to shake on it, only to be grabbed by both elbows and kissed on the lips. It’s brief, but the intimacy catches them both by surprise.
“Dinner,” Sarah admonishes her, playfully pushing O’Hara in the right direction.

“Lasagne!” O”Hara sings. As Sarah watches her skipping toward the kitchen, she wishes desperately that she could commit to this domestic bliss that O’Hara would happily fashion for her. She’d bring her things over from New York, and find a similar consultant position at the university hospital. Sarah would buy an extra plane ticket if she had to go to London for a meeting, and force O’Hara to visit her relatives. They’d be‘that couple’ at their favourite local restaurant whom all the waiters would know by name, and O’Hara wouldn’t mind if Sarah borrowed half of her clothes without asking.

Sarah looks down at the clutch of empty beer bottles in her hands. No. She can’t. Not forever. But they have the weekend, and for now, that’s enough.

~* *~


It’s gone midnight when her taxi pulls up to the bar. There’s a faint glow visible through the windowpanes, but for all intents and purposes, it looks shut. She tips the driver three dollars and steps out into the cold spring rain. Pulling up the collar of her jacket, she peers through the faintly frosted windows before knocking loudly. She’s rewarded with the twist of a key and an opening door. Luck is clearly working in her favour tonight.

“I believe you have a bottle of scotch with my name on it,” she beams confidently, as if this is the sort of thing she does regularly outside closed bars in Queens.
“You know Jackie’s working nights this week, right?”
“And?” She says, gliding past him and heading straight for a stool by the bar. “So glad you’re still here! I had a vision for a moment of getting mugged while waiting half an hour for a taxi.”

The bar is a dump, but she doesn’t care. Her coat is soggy, and there’s enough booze in here to send her back to the emergency room in under ten minutes. She pulls phone and fags out from her bag and places them onto the bar next to a bowl of peanuts, which she proceeds to tip into the neighbouring one, reappropriating the bowl into an ashtray. Cigarette in one hand, she calls her voicemail, leaving the phone on the table and just pushing ‘7’ without listening to the messages.

The simple truth is that people don’t magically change. They don’t become worse or better, they merely adapt to whatever life throws at them. For goodness knows what reason, the bloke behind the bar came to her with the worst piece of paper either of them had ever seen. Perhaps he thought she was bright and she’d know what to do. Perhaps she was just the first number he found stuck to the fridge. She doesn’t want to read any more into it than that.

“I thought you always worked the same shifts as…” Kevin lets his question trail off, attempting to sound casual, but he’s clearly prodding. He pours her a double, and another for himself.

It’s gone midnight and he opened the bar for her. Jackie won’t be home for at least seven hours. She’ll be back at work in nine. They’ll stay here at the bar for a couple of hours. He’ll drink a glass or two, while she drinks her way down to the top of the black label. She’ll hand him a twenty and he’ll push it away out of politeness, like he always does. When she ungracefully topples off the bar stool, he’ll call her a cab without passing judgement that she’s drinking on a week night, because that’s what he knows his wife would do. The next morning, at precisely ten minutes past eight, her phone will ring and for once, it won’t be Jackie. Sarah will be on the other end in her very best been-up-all-night-shagging voice and tell her that the daffodils are in bloom, and O’Hara won’t even mind. Instead, she’ll laugh, because shagging and daffodils made somebody think of her enough to pick up the phone and call.

O’Hara clutches her glass between her well-manicured hands, and raises it in Kevin’s direction. “To ‘Once upon a time…’” she says with a nod, and they drink to fairytales everywhere, while Jackie’s photo stares ominously down from behind the bar.

~* fin.
 
 
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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
'Miss Goddess to You': team jacks & o'haramissfoxie on April 12th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
I love it. I love it when you write O'Hara. You get it perfect.
sidetracked on her way to nowhere: busycappuccinogirl on April 12th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
I love to write her. I imagine this will be an annual post-finale thing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )