Chapter 21

AN: Home from my work trip, and this took a while to get back writing. Consequently Rockerlover suggested I work on something else and now I've got another Cordano story work on. Look for that soon. As usual I own nothing and some quotes are from season six, episode twelve.

There had been shouts, cheers, and even swearing when Robert and Elizabeth had finally left the kitchen a newly engaged couple. Champagne had been opened, desert brought out, and in general, a celebration took place. Robert had no doubts that his mother and Elizabeth's godparents were happy for her, but Mr. Corday seemed to be in shock more than anything. He had been warming up to Robert certainly, but nowhere near enough to handle an engagement announcement. One very late phone call was placed to London, where Isabelle Corday was still up and drinking with Andrew and friends. Needless to say, they were happy for any reason to continue on with their holiday festivities and pour more bubbly. An even more terrifying phone call had been placed to Gwen that lasted all of five seconds. Just long enough for Gwen to answer the phone and Robert to shout 'We're engaged' before hanging up. The phone got disconnected after that to prevent the horribly embarrassing phone calls that Robert knew Gwen would place in return.

Boxing day included celebrations with Max and Jo, who were equally ecstatic at the news. Jo was giddy at the prospect of going dress shopping, whilst making snide remarks that she would have to live vicariously through Elizabeth since Max seemed allergic to marriage. As enjoyable as it was to celebrate with friends and family, Robert was happy when Christmas festivities were over, and there was peace and quiet in the house again.

The return to work had been dreadful. With just days in between Christmas and New Year's, Robert had wished their holiday extended until January. Unfortunately, being Chief of Staff could not save Robert or Elizabeth from returning to work and face the masses. Nor did their positions in power protect them from the scrutiny of returning to work newly engaged. The gossip mill had started up shortly after their return, and a Christmas engagement was a bet that no one had thought to place. Shirley cackled for a good half hour when she heard the news, thrilled for the pair that they had not only gotten engaged but had managed to do so under the radar. The other end of the spectrum was Kerry Weaver, who had muttered 'God help us all' and promptly declared she wanted to be as far away as possible when their 'unholy union took place.' Robert managed to maneuver her into a week of night shifts when Jacey told him that remark.

As thrilling as it was to be engaged, Robert had been pleased when Elizabeth suggested staying in for New Year's Eve, the perfect time to reflect on how far they had come in a year and everything they wanted to accomplish going forward. The past Christmas had been disastrous. With Robert being despondent, there would never be a chance for even a friendship with Elizabeth, and Elizabeth feeling homesick whilst at the lowest point in her career. Yet somehow, several whiskeys over dinner at a gala had set them on a course to bring them together. The difference a year could make was astounding to both of them.

The initial glow of the engagement naturally dimmed, though, as the holidays passed and the trials and tribulations of work caught up to them, for Elizabeth, that meant that Dean Rollings reared his ugly head again. She arrived at work the week after New Year's to find Robert waiting on her, the Detective from the Rollings cases ensconced in his office wanting to speak to her. Another case had come up. Jenny Cardova had been missing for six weeks, and her abandoned car had Rollings prints all over it. They hadn't found the body yet.

"And you want me to ask him where it is." The disgusted tone in her voice left Robert and the Detective no room for doubt on where she stood with the matter.

"Lizzie, for better or worse, you've developed a relationship with him." A disbelieving look was sent Robert's way; Elizabeth was having none of it. She had told him once before she was done dealing with Rollings, and she was cross that he would bring this up. "Look, you talked him into telling you where the other body was; you talked him into having the surgery. This family needs your help."

Her face turned cold as she looked back at Robert, anger lacing into her voice. "He's a cold-blooded son of a bitch; I don't think he'll tell me." Robert just kept staring at her in his infuriating way. "I'll ask." She whipped around to face the Detective. "But I can tell you now it's hopeless."

The buzzer sounded as the security door opened to the jailward. An unfortunate part about working at a county hospital was that a jailward was a thing. Across the room was the vial miscreant Dean Rollings, Elizabeth's purpose in the depressing ward. Picking up his chart, she ignored the man in the bed as she persuaded his progress. She did not care about the man in the bed. She gave him the briefest acknowledgment of good morning. He was in pain from the recovery process, and he refused to talk to her, electing to shout 'get her out of here' until she rolled her eyes and left.

As much as Elizabeth hoped that that would be the last of Rollings, a page from Robert shot that particular hope down. Detective Cruson had been unable to persuade Rollings to spill his guts, and Elizabeth was not surprised as Robert told her this. Following him down the hall, she rolled her eyes; trying to reason with Rollings was madness. She shot Robert a glare when he suggested she try talking to Rollings again, reminding him that Rollings no longer wanted her as his doctor.

"Well, I think you should try to talk him out of that too."

"I don't want to ever talk to him again." They had reached the end of the hall, two double doors with visitor's waiting room stamped on them. She knew instantly who Robert had placed in the room. "The Cordovas."

Dean Rollings and the Cordovas were precisely who they ended up talking about with Dr. Whittaker that week. Elizabeth had resented her part in the whole affair and that she had essentially been ambushed by Robert outside the visitor's room. Was she glad that Rollings had eventually given up the location of the body? Certainly. Would she have rather been approached before Robert and the Detective brought the family in? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Whittaker sighed as he looked between two of his more stubborn patients. Or clients as Dr. Romano preferred. The news of the Corday-Romano engagement had not come as a surprise to Whittaker, considering how seriously they had been taking their sessions and working on their communication. The work issues that were brought up in the same session were clearly exasperating Elizabeth though, who had already called her fiancé out on the issue before. To that extent, the session was unproductive, with Elizabeth considering it to be a closed topic. When Whittaker tried to press on with the topic, Elizabeth changed it to an equally dangerous one. The location of the wedding.

"All I'm saying is, I haven't been back to London since I moved here. I've missed seeing my family and friends and frankly missed home."

"Chicago is your home Elizabeth. Our home." Robert bristled at the implication that gone could be somewhere without him. Somewhere thousands of miles away.

"Yes, Robert. Chicago is home now, but that doesn't change that part of what makes a place home, family, and friends, will always be across an ocean for me. I want to get married out of my father's house. I've got grandparents that can't fly, that I haven't seen. I don't think it's unreasonable to want to go back to my family that I am leaving behind, to get married." the discontented huff that Elizabeth let out spoke volumes. Robert knew that he had bungled the Dean Rollings issue and that Elizabeth wanted this as his penance. So be it. It was where they had met, after all.

The bigger and more imminent issue that Robert was concerned about was Isabelle Corday. Arriving at the beginning of February, Elizabeth's seemingly frosty mother was coming to stay with them. The closer they got to her arrival, the more apprehensive Elizabeth seemed to appear. Robert was feeling slightly out at having an extended house guest he'd never met before but also knew they would never hear the end of it if Mr. Corday had stayed and Mrs. Corday had not. Helena had very kindly told him what gin Isabelle drank, and Robert was prepared to have it well in stock for her.

Elizabeth was a wreck. It was a Monday morning, and even though there were clocks everywhere in the hospital, she kept looking at her watch as if she expected to see something different. Shirley did the kind thing and brought her a cup of tea, knowing full well that Madam Corday was arriving today. Shirley had requested the next few days off after all. She wasn't about to take one for the team after having to work Christmas Eve.

The University of Chicago had somehow gotten it in their heads to have Isabelle Corday come spend a few weeks giving lectures on some of her papers. And by gotten it in their heads, Robert suspected, based solely on stories about the woman, that Isabelle had rung them up informed hem that she would be coming and hey needed to book travel for her and set aside lecture halls.

For all of the self-importance that everyone implied Isabelle Corday had, Robert had to admit that the woman probably earned it. He was enjoying a break in between surgeries that was long enough for real food and had decided to read a few of Madam Corday's papers. Elizabeth most certainly did not get it all from her father. Robert fancied himself an intelligent man that had knowledge other hand surgery, and he found himself woefully unprepared to keep up with the science he was reading about. Sure he had taken physics at University, but this was at a very different level than he could easily comprehend. As fascinating as Robert thought it could be, all it did was make him worry that he was going to come off as an unintelligent American to his future mother in law.

Standing yet again in O'Hara international airport waiting on a parent to show, Elizabeth fidgeted with the ring on her left hand. There was absolutely no telling what sort of mood her mother would be in or if they'd manage to kill each other before her visit was over. Or worse, Robert might kill the both of them. She didn't have time to dwell on that, though, as the plane had stayed to deboard, and she began to look for the shock of curly red hair that would identify her mother.

"Mother!" The briefest hug followed before Isabelle handed off her values. Elizabeth rolled her eyes at the greeting.

"Let me look at you, darling." Madam Corday was already making demands, yet enough time had passed since Elizabeth had last seen her mother that she couldn't help but smile at the strong and domineering personality. "You look well, clearly having a man suits you."

"Must I have a man to look well?"

An eye roll was the response. "Of course not, but it helps. Now, can we please get my luggage and go somewhere else? Preferably a place that has gin, or have the Americans banned that with tobacco."

"Come on then, Robert's making dinner."

Elizabeth Said a silent prayer to Saint Lawrence of Rome that whatever Robert had prepared for dinner was ready as she opened the front door. Praying that it tasted good was not necessary when it came to Robert's cooking.

Instead of Robert meeting them at the door to the vestibule, Elizabeth could hear Gretel's excited barks, and she was thankful for the doored off entryway to keep the bouvier off them as they got in the front door. A quick warning to her mother about the dog's size and Elizabeth opened the door into the house, an excited Gretel greeting them with slobbery kisses.

"Robert, we're home. Gretel down." Elizabeth stepped into the hallway, pulling her mother's suitcase as Isabelle greeted Gretel.

"You'd think he would be at the door to help with this massive but beautiful dog of his."

Elizabeth turned to see her mother crouched down, giving Gretel a belly run of all things.

"Well, I was a little busy making the dinner and drinks, but if you'd rather wait for your martini?" Robert had walked up while they were distracted, a gin martini in hand for her mother, who instantly forgave him.

"Oh, thank God, I'm parched from that flight. So you're the rude American that's marrying my daughter?"

"No, I'm just the live in butler. Your daughter's fiancé is in the middle of a very important surgery saving a life." The quick response was delivered with such a serious tone that Isabelle cracked a smile.

"Touché."

Somehow Robert and Isabelle had just become tentative friends.

It was a short evening, with Isabelle feeling jet-lagged and needing to get off to the university the next morning, and Robert had deemed it over all success. Isabelle had several martinis that went a long way to keeping her in a good mood and the meal had been well received. The good mood extended to compliments from Isabelle, who had assumed that Robert was behind Elizabeth's decision to get a 'proper car'. Robert thought Isabelle's desire to get along with him was driven to a degree by her ex-husband's dislike of him. Frankly, he didn't care if it was the gin or the joy of irritating her ex, Robert was just thrilled to have one future in law on his side.

The next morning Robert had gotten up and was unsurprised to find Gretel gone and the light on in the kitchen. Neither Gretel or Mada- Mrs. Corday had notice him standing silently in the door way. For all of Elizabeth's tendencies to take after he father, Robert saw in the rather unguarded moment that it was her mother that she took many of her mannerisms from.

If Robert hadn't just left a sleeping Lizzie upstairs, he would not know the red curls poking over top the paper did not belong to his goddess. The woman sat before him commanded the same energy, same posture, held the paper, and even held her tea the same way as the woman upstairs. And when Mrs. Corday finally set the paper down, acknowledging his presence, Robert noticed the same delicate flick of an eyebrow, questioning him on why he was interrupting her morning ritual. Exactly like his Lizzie. It was unnerving, having spent the past several years thinking that Elizabeth was just the female version of Mr. Corday. As much as Elizabeth adored her father and tried to emulate him, it was this woman seated before him that commanded the room, that Robert glimpsed Elizabeth the most in.

The silence was broken by Gretel's wine for attention, she wanted breakfast of her own. Isabelle tossed her a biscuit and shrugged her shoulders at Robert.

"Her treats were easy to find, her breakfast not so much. Tell me, do you drink tea in the morning like a civilized person, or do you go straight for the hard stuff?"

"I'm sure Lizzie will appreciate the pot you've made, but its lost on me in the mornings."

The precoffee admiration Robert had briefly held for Mrs. Corday disappeared as he realized that he did not need two versions of his decidedly not a morning person Lizzie under his roof. Or grumpy Lizzie. Or hungry, Lizzie. Or tired Lizzie. Or sarcastic Lizzie. Lizzie was a handful whom he loved dearly, but she was a handful none the less. What was worse, the realization had finally dawned on Robert, that with an extended house guest there would be no loud sex with Lizzie.

He reached for the coffee. It was going to be a long visit.