AN: I own nothing
She was late. He had been there an hour and no sign of Lizzie. She wasn't coming. He had gotten his hopes up for nothing. Of course, she wasn't coming. When he heard that she was buying a Gala ticket, he was excited. With his mother going to New York for Christmas, he was going to be in Chicago alone. Buying a ticket made sense. And he could spend time with Her. Sure, Lizzie wasn't looking for his company in particular, but she didn't want to be alone either. And he wouldn't turn down a chance to spend time with her outside of work. But the party had started and she wasn't here. The table was boring without her. Mike Robson, an attending at Mercy was to his left. He was nice enough, but more absorbed in talking to his wife. Sheffield was to his right and droning on about his latest procedure when he stopped mid-sentence to stare at someone across the room.
It was her.
She was stunning. Of course, she was. Elizabeth had her hair up, the same style she wore at work. The same knot he always wanted to free from its restraints. But this time there was no professional lab coat covering a crisp button-down and skirt. This time she was clad in the most beautiful black dress. It sat off her shoulders and wrapped around her waist to a full skirt. She had to be wearing proper stockings with it. There was a hint of a black tone on her legs that ended in the delightfully enticing black heels. He couldn't look away as she looked around the room.
And then she saw him.
Her eyebrow went up as she walked across the room and it took everything in his power to not jump up and take her in his arms. Instead, he smirked and gave her his typical greeting.
"Lizzie, I was wondering if you were going to join me. You almost missed dinner. Still having Bambi I hope." Play it cool Romano.
"Yes, I'm famished after today. It's been a while since I've had venison and I hope it's fresh. I do love a good back-strap ."
Fresh? "Lizzie, you've had fresh venison?".
"Oh yes. My godfather is an avid hunter and we'd go once a year on a hunt in northern Scotland."
He eyed her warily and made a mental note not ask her about the venison. She is a woman who wields a scalp professionally after all.
"I guess that means you'll be the judge of how good our meal is then. I took your lead on the menu selection and you're just in time for the main course. You know, I didn't think you were going to make it." Romano needed to play it cool, no need to let her know how excited he was that she was here.
She laughed. It was a frustrated laugh, but a laugh none the less.
"I didn't know if I would make it either."
"What can I get you to drink ma'am?". Stupid waiter. All non-work moments with Lizzie were precious to him. And this idiot was interrupting.
"Lagavulin 16, neat. Make it a double." A serious drink. She had had a bad day.
"Sorry ma'am, we don't have Lagavulin."
Elizabeth looked at the waiter with pure contempt, clearly put off by having to come up with an alternative.
"Do you have Laphroig then? Anything from Islay?" Elizabeth gave a silent prayer to St. Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers and single women. A prayer or three couldn't go awry at the moment.
"Yes, we have Laphroig. I'll be back with that in a moment. Can I get refills for anyone else while I'm here?"
With the waiter taking drink orders, Elizabeth was able to get her first look at her dinner partner for the evening. Romano was to her left wearing a black suit she had never seen on him before, something too nice for work with its satin lapels and French cuffs peaking out. Damn the man's tailor, Romano always wore a suit well.
"Now that drinks are ordered, are you going to introduce me to your charming companion Romano?" Elizabeth turned to look at the man sitting to her right. He was looking at her a little too eagerly. A glance around the table told her that there was only one other woman present and judging by the rather large diamond on her left hand, married to her dinner companion. Fantastic. A glance towards Romano showed that he was none too thrilled with having to introduce her.
"Lizzie, this is David Sheffield. He works over at Rush. David, this is Elizabeth Corday." He smiled while giving the introductions, but it was tight and clearly showed his irritation. A very firm back off towards Sheffield, who merely raised an eyebrow in response.
"Corday is it? I just read a paper in the British Journal of Surgery by Charles Corday, any relation?" Any thought Elizabeth had of flirting with Sheffield went out the door at the mention of her father. The man's specialty was more than likely cardiothoracic, and while she loved her father dearly, Elizabeth knew first hand the level of vaingloriousness that ran rampant in that specialty.
"Mr. Corday is Lizzie's father, although they don't share a specialty. Tell me how is he doing, it's been a while since I last saw him?" Robert wanted to end the conversation with Sheffield quickly. They've been introduced and that was the end of his politeness where he was concerned. This evening was a rare opportunity to monopolize Elizabeth's attention and he sure as hell wasn't going to let anyone ruin it. Now if only he could turn the topic of conversation to something other than a man who actively hated him.
Elizabeth was looking at Romano again. A tilt of her head and a smirk on her face. She was going to enjoy this.
"My father is doing well. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to hear you're asking about him, what with his high opinion of you. Shall I pass on your regards?" Elizabeth watched him squirm at that remark. They both knew how much Charles Corday despised Romano. She frequently heard her father complain about the man and suspected that Romano's picture had made its way onto her father's dartboard at one time or another.
"So Lizzie, does Romano frequently answer for you?" She made a face at Sheffield addressing her as Lizzie. Better to correct him now than have someone else calling her by that god awful name.
"It's Elizabeth, and Dr. Romano does love the sound of his own voice." At that moment the waiter arrived with drinks for the table. Scotch had to be medicinal, with the way it eased her mind at just the first sip. Yes, that was going to be her professional opinion. A whisky a day keeps the doctor away. Even better if the doctor was Romano.
"So why does he call you Lizzie then?"
Romano was looking pleased. No one else called her Lizzie, and she always corrected anyone who tired. Anyone except him. His martini tasted like victory.
"Well when I met him in London, I just thought that with being American, Elizabeth was too many syllables for him." The look on his face was priceless. Choking on his martini, trying not to spit it out. She had to try very hard not to laugh as she asked "Are you alright Dr. Romano?" She could hear Sheffield laughing next to her. The couple across the table had started paying attention now.
"Well Lizzie", Romano took a slow sip of his drink before carefully placing it down. "If you thought Elizabeth was too many syllables for me to handle, then what made you follow me to America? I couldn't possibly be a competent surgeon if I can't manage a simple name."
They had the attention of everyone at the table now. Their normal back and forth sarcasm was out in the open, and the slight undertone of hostility was making the rest of the table uncomfortable. David Sheffield was looking back and forth between the two of them. A man clearly having second thoughts about his plans for the evening.
"Would anyone care for wine with their meal?" The waiter had returned and this time with help. A cart with carefully plated meals and several bottles of wine for the table. His timing had been impeccable. It saved Elizabeth the trouble of having to come up with an answer but didn't save her from the smug look Robert Romano was giving her. He was pleased with himself.
With wine poured and food served there was a natural lull in the conversation. Elizabeth reached for the glass of wine in front of her, this was definitely going to be a long night.
Romano watched her out the corner of his eye while they ate. She was clearly hungry and with her schedule probably hadn't eaten since breakfast. She had been working like a madwoman this year, a consequence of starting over with her internship. Everyone, including himself, had quietly been shocked that she was willing to sacrifice her pride and start over. Behind her back it was the talk of the hospital, that someone so far along in her training would be willing to go back to the beginning. The surgical training in the US was so different than the program in the UK, and she was already well into her specialty training back home. The fact that she would start over was a testament to her dedication to surgery and her desire to stay in the States. He rarely underestimated people, but he had underestimated her completely. Robert Romano had not envisioned a scenario in which a third-generation surgeon would ever willingly take a hit to their pride and ego like that. He thought she would take her father's offer to join his lucrative and well-respected practice. His Lizzie wouldn't do that though, and he hated how much he admired her for it.
He suspected that part of her motivation for starting over was a big fuck you directed at him. Considering that he was off at a head and neck conference when she was given her notice probably added to that. But she had earned his ire with the Kotlowitz incident and then his admiration by standing her ground on it.
He snuck another glance at her. She was on her second glass of wine and appeared to be savoring every bite of her meal. Perhaps she was sufficiently satiated to be tempted into conversation with him.
"So, what happened after I left that held you up so long?"
She looked over at him and shook her head with a slight chuckle.
"I had to rescue our patient from Kerry Weaver." Elizabeth took a large swing of wine at that comment.
"Oh really. " This could be interesting. What did Kerry Weaver do? Elizabeth looked at him and laughed.
"Oh, you'll never believe this. Mr. Gardner was having concerns about his operation and I suggested he see the fertility clinic as an option should he want children in the future. While up there he presented with symptoms of an M.I. and was taken down to the E.R. for evaluation, Weaver being the attending. Apparently, she recognized him. The entire time we're trying to rule out an M.I. she was hitting on him, just couldn't stop herself. Eventually, she ruled an anxiety attack, but at that point, she was more likely to trigger a second than help with the first. Weaver couldn't be bothered to ask a medically relevant question, and Mr. Gardener was squeezing my hand in desperation to get away from her. The sigh of relief that man let out when I finally got him out of trauma one was immense. " Elizabeth had a cheeky smile, taking another sip of wine as she finished her story.
"You're laughing at me."
He was and he couldn't help it. The image of Elizabeth having to pry a patient away from an obsessed Weaver was too much for him. He let the laughter take over him momentarily and missed the look she gave him, stunned at seeing him smile properly for the first time.
"I'm sorry, but I can't help myself. Tell me, did you leave Weaver alive for trying to molest a patient or did you take her down a peg or two?"
She was laughing at that. A full smile took over her face as she threw her head back into laughter.
"Unfortunately I was more focused on getting Mr. Gardner out of the ER in one piece than berating Kerry Weaver. He was very grateful to be delivered from her clutches, however."
"Don't tell me he professed his undying love for you after that, I could understand it but it would be a little much."
"Oh no," he could see her visibly hesitate, debating on whether on not to finish her sentence. She took another sip of wine and the alcohol won out. "He did come very close to asking me to dinner though. The poor man was terrified of what his life post-surgery would be and was looking at me as if to ask would I be his Florence Nightingale."
"Well if he was looking for company and red-headed doctors are his preference, you could have always sent him back to Weaver. " her laughter at that statement sounded like music to his ears. She was turning red from it and covering her face while shaking her head.
"I didn't have it in me to be that cruel. The poor man will have been through enough after tomorrow. " She was still smiling at him as she spoke, a very good sign. The wine and scotch were helping her relax and he was savoring every moment in her presence.
"She actually asked the man if it was his upcoming performance that caused the anxiety attack and all he could do was fake a laugh and then look at me in terror. I think he's just lucky she didn't realize he had been in the fertility clinic, she might have offered to ah, give him a hand if she had."
A look of horror crossed Romano's face at that. Kerry Weaver and anything related to sex were two things that did not go together.
"Well Lizzie, thanks for that disturbing visual, I'll probably have nightmares now." He reached for his drink, trying to wash away the thought with alcohol. Elizabeth was leaned back in her chair laughing at him now. Done with her meal and back to scotch, she was visibly relaxed. A far more pleasant visual than the one her story had painted. Romano wondered how far he could push his luck.
"I'm thrilled to see you took my dress preferences to heart, I didn't think you were listening. " Elizabeth glared at him for that. He knew damn well that she wasn't dressing for him, but that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate it.
"You're right, I wasn't listening. I had this picked out before I left my flat this morning." Another sip of her drink. This had to be her fourth, and they hadn't even served dessert yet. He wondered what her tolerance was considering what she was drinking.
"Well, none the less you look lovely in it." There was a hint of sincerity that his voice normally lacked and Elizabeth blushed ever so slightly at it. A quiet thank you was all he got out of her.
Romano turned the conversation towards far less dangerous, her taste for single malt. A topic that elicited a genuine smile and stories about time spent with her grandfather and godfather, both avid scotch drinkers. For her 18th birthday, they had taken her and her godbrother to Islay with the intent of drinking their way through the tiny island. Her grandfather, being chief of staff at the time, had dumped his workload on her father for the week and laughed at his son's displeasure at being cut out of Elizabeth's birthday plans. Romano couldn't help but laugh at the stories that followed, her grandparents had wanted a daughter and ended up with a son instead. So when Elizabeth came along, they took great joy in informing her father that he'd finally done something right.
Romano was pleased to have stumbled upon a topic that she was keen on. Getting Elizabeth to open up about her life was a delight, her love of her family apparent in her tales. Pity he had to put his foot in his mouth and ruin the mood.
"So what would your grandfather think of all this, you starting over from the beginning?"
Elizabeth fixed him with an icy glare. He regretted the question instantly. While she had never complained about the setback, it could not have been easy for her. Romano knew he could have never started over, preferring to go somewhere that allowed him to keep his pride intact. Asking what the Patriarch of her surgical family would think about having to start over after he had fired her was foolish. If Elizabeth's grandfather was anything like her father, then Romano knew what the answer would be.
Elizabeth sat there stewing on the question. A storm of emotions passed over her face as she downed the last of her scotch.
"Oh I don't know Robert," venom lacing his name as she said it, "he'd probably ask what all of us are wondering. Why did you fire me, knowing I wanted to stay in Chicago?"