The Gold Finch

AUTHOR: Kitchen_Sink5
CATEGORY: Cleo Finch
RATING: R - only for swearing
SPOILERS: Season 7, including "Rampage"
ARCHIVE: Please Ask First
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Okay guys, I know that I said no fanfic anymore, but I was stuck all alone, and terribly bored when the story came to me. Realizing that there are virtually no Cleo stories, I thought it my duty to write one. Plus, it's terribly short and took me under a half hour to write it. As for other stories, here's the deal: I'm finishing the series I write with LovelyLuka24, and also doing a list fanfic (if you wanna help - e-mail me), but then I'm done. If I'm lying about that, then I'll never watch ER again! Oh, and I fudge a few facts about Cleo, but just roll with it, okay?
SUMMARY: A journey into Cleo Finch's mind after she hears some life changing news.

"Your HIV test turned out to be negative, Dr. Finch."

Those were the words that changed my life. For better, though. If I had been positive, I wouldn't have known what to do. The whole ordeal had turned out to be practically liberating. Liberating, you ask? Yes - I'll repeat it for you - LIBERATING. I've been living my whole goddamn life like I lived all this time, waiting for the results....Cowering in worry, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. Holing myself up in my house, barely thinking of anything except my potential fate.

And why did I live my life like this? I was raised by an African-American man, and a Caucasian women in a town where you don't mix and match things like that. Mixed raced children are taboo, and you might as well be wearing the scarlet letter for all it matters. My parents never beat me, or verbally assaulted me. They were the very picture of what good parents should be, yet they made one error. Bringing me into a world, a town, where I would forever be known as the "oreo child". Cute. Real damn cute. It didn't matter that I was beautiful. It didn't matter that I was brilliant - It didn't matter that I was the valedictorian. No, no - What mattered was that I happened to have one black parent and one white parent. People just need to get over their shit and leave me alone about that. Finally they did, but the memories last. And it wasn't even like I was accepted exactly after that. Not that I wanted to be....."Oh Cleo, now that you're a doctor....". I had two words for them, and I quote: "Fuck you."

Okay, okay, maybe it was a bit harsh, but they totally deserved it. So I went to college and med school. But I played that game where you always stay cautious about the friends you make and the people you date. Even then I found my boyfriend screwing my best friend back in my dorm room....."Sorry Cleo, it's just that Amy and I happened to find each other here, and you haven't been around lately....". I had two words for them too. Bet you can guess what they are.

I decided on my speciality in medicine - pediatrics, because I had never had brothers and sisters, and I adored kids. I was good with kids. So, in my fourth year of med school I did a sub-internship in it, and then earned an internship after graduation. I graduated third in my class. Guess who were numbers one and two? My "friend" Amy, and my cheating jackass of an ex-boyfriend. Thanks fate - can you now turn the knife counterclockwise? Of course they were married (just keep twisting the knife, okay?). They moved to Los Angeles, and I came to Chicago.

Ah, Chicago. Along with it came County General, and along with that came Peter Benton. I still wonder why we even got together, Was it for love? I wanted to think so, but I knew I was sadly mistaken. He happened to be there, and happened to ask. Maybe I was afraid of being alone, Maybe I was desperate. Maybe I was sick of Malucci asking me out, and needed a real excuse. Whatever the reason was, Peter was standing next to me in the lounge when I received the phone call that morning. After I hung the phone up, he failed to say anything, to acknowledge that I had just received what was the most important phone call of my life.

"Well, that was the HIV testing place - My test is negative." I braced myself for one of his smiles.

"That's good." He said, as if I had told him the White Soxs won a game. The smile? Denied....

"Yeah Peter, that's swell." I said sarcastically.

"What's that suppose to mean?" He asked in an irritated tone.

"I have been waiting and waiting, sweating out this moment for a good long time, Peter. And now you treat it casually - like you have all along. Oh sure, Cleo, HIV's not a big thing, huh? I could have been a dead woman!"

"Cleo..." Peter broke in.

"I'm not finished yet. It's just not today - You haven't been there at all. I have always been there for you, always supported you. I put my damn life on hold for you! I watched your son, I tried to help you find a job - I housed some teenage delinquent who ruined my house! I did it all for you - Because I loved you! And what do I get when I need some comfort and support? A shrug of your shoulders and a 'That's good'" I shook my head furiously. "I'm sick of your shit Peter. We're through."

"Cleo, you're overreacting...."

"Fuck you." I interrupted him, smiling smugly. "Life is short Peter, and I've already wasted enough time on you. I need to live a little." I walked out, leaving him there - mouth open.

Hours later, my shift over, I stood in the ambulance bay, watching the cars go by. Funny how much your life could change in a day. Even though I was officially off duty, I stood there anyway - It wasn't exactly seizing the day, but I felt like standing there, okay? My thoughts, however, were interrupted by Dave.

"Hey Cleo, I heard you and Peter broke up - I'm sorry..." He said, stopping next to me.

"Correction - I broke up with him." I stated.

"Sorry again - Are you okay?" Dave corrected himself.

"Just fine - It's been a long day." I turned to face him.

"Would you like to go get a drink?" Dave asked innocently.

"Dave, I just broke up with Peter, okay?"

"Not like that, Cleo. Just in casual, friendly, not leading to hot-wild-sex with me kind of a way." He paused, almost thoughtfully. "Though I can assure you - the sex would be great."

That did it - I actually laughed. The answer 'no' was on the tip of my tongue when I bit it back.

"What the hell! Sure Dave, I could go for a drink." I answered.

So I headed to the bar with Malucci. What? Come on, a girl's got to live a little, okay?


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