Spoilers: None for those who've seen Season 7
Timeline: Right after "Witch Hunt," S7E16
Disclaimer: All characters on ER are property of Warner Bros/Amblin/ConstantC. Song lyrics are copyright of Poe
Her heart sank into her stomach, the heaviness starting to pull the rest of her body down with it, as the thick steel doors of the elevator closed, trapping inside the only person for whom she had ever felt passionately. If not for the crutch, gripped tightly in emotional pain, she would have slumped, an empty shell, to the cold linoleum floor.
What have I done? she thought, still not quite understanding the magnitude of her actions. However, the feeling was too great to ignore. She's gone. I've lost her. Go back to your life ...what life? She had no life. There was work ... parties were with co-workers; friends consisted of colleagues, and weekends were merely an opportunity to catch up on paper work ... but, Kim ... mornings and weekends were spent in bed; spooning; candles glowing, illuminating the room in a gentle, dusky light that played over the shadowy figures moving slowly and deliberately under the wrappings; a haze that blanketed the low sound--the smooth moans and silky growls--in a kind of ether. The memories of those long hot nights and mind-blowing wake up calls flooded her memory. For a moment she forgot where she was; lost in the glorious moments that were reality merely hours before.
The sharp metallic ring of the elevator bell roused her from her reverie and she began to return, painfully, to reality as the shiny, silver door slowly grated open. For a moment she perked up thinking, perhaps, that Kim had thought about what she'd said and understood why this was so hard for her to proclaim in public. They would embrace and she would be able to apologize for her insensitive and unprofessional behavior and then she would insist on seeing Romano and speaking clearly and articulately on her lover's behalf in order to have the punishment revoked. But just as quickly as this fantasy appeared in her mind was it replaced by the red head's logic and immediately disregarded as pure illusion.
"Are you alright, Kerry? I thought you were leaving." Luka, having emerged from the elevator, shifted the chart he was holding, more out of uneasiness than out of discomfort. The older woman was clearly upset and it wasn't like her to show it so openly. As she looked up, the disbelief, pain, and guilt cast a dull finish over the usually fiery presence of her face. This lasted only momentarily as she regained her composure long enough to muster her game face and mutter some nonsense about a disagreement she had had with Romano over a patient.
"Oh," said Luka, "I thought I heard something about Dr. Legaspi being put on administrative leave ..."
Kerry froze ... did he know?
"Are you sure you're alright Kerry? I mean, I know ..." Quickly she stepped into the waiting elevator. Luka looked quizzically at her. Reassuringly she smiled and said she was fine. Knowing he wasn't going to get any further, at least not today, he relented with a friendly, Have a nice weekend. The elevator doors slammed shut.
The weekend. She fell against the back wall of the elevator for support. Trapped in the small space she suddenly felt very large and the compartment seemed to be closing in on her. She had this weekend off. She had plans with Kim. They were going to spend the entire weekend redecorating Kim's bedroom. Now that was gone. She was even beginning to miss those awful clowns that gave her nightmares from time to time. She knew that they would continue to haunt her sleep, but only because she had lost their owner. Now she'd have the whole weekend to analyze everything that had been said and done that day. Damn Shannon Wallace! Damn Romano! Damn everything! The pain in the center of her chest was rising into her throat while she watched the light count down the number of the floors as she descended to ground level. The lower the number, the higher the pain traveled until her eyes started to burn and she had to resort to deep breathing to stop the tears. Once she started, she knew she wouldn't be able to stop and she would be damned if she was going to let anyone see her cry. It was a weakness to her, and she had learned to control it.
The vertical movement stopped, and the doors slowly slid open. She took a deep breath and slowly headed into the lobby and more importantly started towards the exit. Once inside the seclusion of her car she would be safe, but the journey from here to there would be like running the gauntlet.
"Chief!" the young resident yelled as soon as he saw her.
"I'm off!" she called back dismissively as she continued towards the exit.
"But I need you to ..." he persisted, making to move out from behind the admittance desk to intercept her.
"I am off, Malucci! Find someone else to do it, or do it yourself!" she replied curtly, without looking up. At this he gave up, throwing his hands in the air and returning to his place behind the admit desk. Arriving at the door she pushed it open. It seemed heavier than usual today and the air that hit her as she exited the hospital felt colder and more bitter than it had earlier. Outside the ER, she paused and began fumbling around in her pockets for keys. Dipping her hand into her right coat pocket, she extracted a shiny silver key and looked at it in the palm of her hand. It was a key, but not exactly the one she was searching for; no, this was an apartment key. Tears began to well as she remembered the night she had been given the key. After she had told Kim that because of the train wreck, there was no way she'd be getting off on time. Kim had slipped the key into her hand:
I'll try to be quiet.
No, wake me.
It was simple. Nothing more than that. There were no expectations. Just the invitation to come home, after a very long day of taking care of many people, to someone who would take care of her. It wasn't something to which Kerry was accustomed. She took care of herself. She didn't mind it, she actually prided herself on her self-sufficiency, but it was nice to know that she had someone with whom she could entrust herself. Had Kim thought that too? Did she go into that meeting upset with my embarrassment, but trusting me to take care of her? Even if just to defend her as an administrator? The pain quickly rose and tears started to fall at the revelation. Kerry quickly returned the key to her pocket, extracted the correct key and thrust it into the locked automobile. Barely having slammed the door shut, she buried her face in her hands, crying hysterically. How could I have done this? I've always prided myself on the protection of my residents. I adhere to the rules; I try to understand the struggles that they go through ... How could I have failed this one individual on such a professional and personal level? Guilt ran rampant as she sat in the dim parking garage, finally allowing her emotions to take over.
It makes sense that is should hurt in this way
That my heart should break and
My hands should shake--as if to say:
Sure it don't matter except in the most important way. As if to say: Fly Away.
Kim slammed the heavy wooden door behind her and let out a guttural, primal scream. Sustaining the cry at utmost volume for several seconds before beginning to crumble and the howl beginning to mix with disarming sobbing. She was hurt and her empty heart ached with the absence of that which had been previously contained within it--Kerry. She had never felt betrayal like this before. In all the other relationships she had had she was the one who broke it up ... but not like this. Her relationships were over because nothing was left. It was a mutual feeling when things had ended previously which was why she still remained friends with many of her exes. This time ... this time she had really opened up. She had taken a chance on someone she barely knew and it seemed to be working. She really liked her. There was an undeniable connection and an electric chemistry between them. But none of that mattered now. Kerry obviously wasn't ready or didn't want to be.
Kim had long gotten over her own feelings of self-hatred and the paranoia that goes along with coming out both personally and professionally. She had figured this all out while she was a teenager. Sure, being gay wasn't easy in the early eighties, but she got through it pretty unscathed. She thanked some higher power every night that her parents had been free spirits and had supported her through everything. Her friends were rather liberal and while they couldn't quite understand why, they certainly did not ridicule or torment her for who she was. Her biggest problem was getting through medical school because the homophobic atmosphere she faced there was unlike anything she had previously experienced. But Kim was a survivor. She was out and she was proud of who she was because she had worked long and hard to become a respected psychiatrist.
The fact that Kerry was having trouble coming to terms with who she is and with their relationship was something that Kim could understand. It was something she didn't like, but it was understandable. Kerry had gone through most of her life seeing herself in one light and now all that had changed and she had to reevaluate who she was. What bothered Kim, what hurt her, was that Kerry could not come to her aid as a professional. This accusation could easily ruin her career. Romano was biased against her anyway, she was fully aware of that. He had been waiting for a reason to dismiss her. This was as good a reason as any. Administrative leave. That might only be the beginning. Romano could easily refuse to allow her to return to work on the grounds that she was a liability in future lawsuits of the same nature. It would be so easy for him to just let her go. Anger was starting to set in. The sobbing had subsided and now spastic blows to the floor and brief cries of anguished frustration accompanied her thoughts.
If Kerry could understand nothing else about her, she should have been able to understand the severity of the affair in a professional light, but she couldn't even come to her aid then. If Kerry couldn't support her in a personal way and couldn't support her professionally then there was nothing worth saving in the relationship. But the irrationality of her feelings tore her to pieces. She didn't want to give Kerry up. She knew that it would take time for Kerry to figure this out and for her to be comfortable with her; with them. It wasn't in her best interests to stay in the relationship, but she didn't want to lose her. Kim was dreading sleep that night because she knew that she would only dream of Kerry and when she woke up ... Kerry would be nowhere near her. Tears started to well in her eyes as she began thinking about this.
She felt hollow. She was torn as to what she should do. On the one hand she didn't want to go to Kerry and tell her everything was okay, because it most certainly was not. On the other hand, she didn't want to be without her anymore. One thing was perfectly clear though--her feelings for Kerry were complicated and would not be easy to get over. Kim sighed. Perhaps she would go running. Running always cleared her head. There was something about the wind and the simplicity of it that allowed her to center herself and sort through her problems. It wasn't dark yet, but the sun would be setting soon. Watching the sun set while running with the cool breeze would clear her mind and then she would be able to make some decisions.
Kim climbed the stairs to her room. She disrobed and headed for the shower. A long hot shower and a good long run along the river would be enough to settle her nerves.
It makes sense that it should feel this way That you silently fade and yet still remain: As if to say everything matters in such an invisible way As if to say--Fly Away
Kerry stood in her kitchen, the long bath had done her some good. She felt slightly less dirty and the warmth had helped to calm her. She had long since exhausted her ability to cry. She thought she might go into some kind of shock considering all the water and salt she must have lost from the tears. Now she was thinking of what she was going to do. She felt empty inside. Slowly, as if in a dream, she walked to the couch and sat down. Nothing seemed real any more. A few months ago she had known exactly who she was. She was a successful doctor. She was chief resident of the County ER. Then she had met Dr. Legaspi. She felt something. Something she'd never really felt before with anyone. She fell in love with her and when they made love something clicked. She had never connected with another person the way she had connected with Kim. She had started to rebuild her life. Trying to figure out how this new part of her factored in with everything else. She hadn't anticipated it conflicting or even mixing with her professional life, but it had and for that she was truly sorry.
Since Kim had left her standing alone outside of the elevator, Kerry had been thinking about why she hadn't said anything in Kim's defense. It wasn't like her to be so timid. She never ran from confrontation, however, she had never been confronted about anything regarding her personal life, in such a way, before. No one really knew anything about Kerry on a personal level. Except Kim. Kim was special and that's why she had been let in. If anyone knew that Kim was an integral part of Kerry's personal life ... then they might find out other things about her. She was scared that she might lose her position at the hospital, but she was terrified that people would delve into her personal life. That was an area where she controlled information very carefully and the loss of that control was what she really feared.
She had to find a way to tell Kim. She wanted to go to the house; hoping that Kim would let her in or, at the very least, give her an audience on the doorstep. But Kerry didn't think she could handle a face-to-face dialogue quite yet. The guilt was still unimaginable and she would never be able to say everything that she wanted to say as eloquently and as clearly as she would have liked. She knew that everything would come out all wrong and the meeting would be a disaster.
The house was beginning to darken and it seemed cold and almost deathly. Sitting on the couch in the dimming light was almost spooky. The fear of being alone was starting to sink in and she didn't like it at all. She needed to get out of the house. Staying here, alone, it was too much. Maybe she'd go out to dinner. She wasn't really hungry, but at least it'd be something to do. Kerry needed to occupy herself. If she let herself dwell too much then she'd never be able to recover. Quietly Kerry ascended the stairs to her bedroom and got dressed. Then she picked up her keys and, grabbing her laptop, she walked out the door, headed out into the night to find something to eat and collect her thoughts.
Kerry arrived at the restaurant almost by instinct. She hadn't anywhere in particular in mind, consciously, but she'd ended up at Doc's anyway. Maybe because of its close proximity to the hospital it was just second nature. Perhaps it was because the last time she was close to losing Kim she had fixed it here, in this place. She was hoping that she would enter and walk to a table and stumble upon Kim, just about to leave. No such luck tonight.
As if in a trance, Kerry placed the laptop down on the table and made herself comfortable in her booth. A waitress came and filled her coffee cup. She stared at the little computer while she waited to order--the screen-saver was hypnotic. It was like flying through space; stars shooting by you. You seemed to have everywhere to be and all the time to get there. It was soothing. Kerry put down her coffee cup and opened the Wordtm. Her face grew solemn as she opened a new document and began to type:
I'm intensely sorry, but that does not even begin to express my sincere remorse in regard to my atrocious behavior today ...
The sun was just dipping out of sight as Kim jogged slowly along the waterfront. She had been out of the house and in the cool air for an hour now. It was nice. Soothing. Up ahead she spotted a bench and decided to sit down. The sound of water breaking ever so gently on the rocks was lulling her. She felt much calmer, still hollow, but calmer. The storm was over, but the emotional wreckage that laid in its wake now had to be soothed.
Kim breathed deeply, taking in the coolness of the air and the quiet of the evening. Her heartbeat slowed to a placid, rhythmic beat. Her breathing became as such also. Everything seemed to be slowing down as the sun dropped below the horizon and dusk began to come into its final stages. It was getting late and she was getting hungry. She thought she might go out to dinner. Anything to keep her from cooking. Anything to keep her from going home.
Kim stood up and looked out across the water. The city lights gleamed off the surface. The wind blowing through her hair felt good as she looked out into the darkness that was growing and settling in around her. It's amazing, she thought as she started walking towards Doc's, how beautiful and serene the world can be when it feels like it's ending. After a moment she turned and started walking.
The doorbell jingled slightly as Kim entered the diner. It was warm and the friendly environment picked her up, just slightly. She was aware of the tragic irony of eating at this place. Every time she'd been here recently she'd almost lost Kerry. There was the time after Kerry blew her off that she had met her here and Kerry had asked her to stay. Then there was the disastrous dinner with Christy. The food was great, but something about this place made changes in their relationship. Still thinking about this, she absent-mindedly walked towards a table by the window, but stopped a few paces back when she saw who was sitting in the booth staring at her.
Both women were locked in each other's gaze. The sound in the room seemed to dim and disappear. Eyes locked only on one another and mind struggling to decided what to do, body like a dear in headlights. Both were hurting. Both wanted to run out the door. But something kept them there, unmoving. Both were afraid that the slightest activity would cause the other to flee. Both wished that the other would depart, but both secretly desiring that the other would not withdraw. The moment gained intensity. And at once both women opened their mouths to say something.
"You can seat yourself honey. There's a booth over there by the window." The waitress rudely interrupted and broke the moment, but both women had already been affected by it.
"You can have my table, I, um, should be going anyway ..." Kerry said. She started to gather up her things and asked her waitress to bring her check. Kim took a few steps closer to her and Kerry lowered her head. "I'm sorry. I didn't know that you'd be here. If I'd known, I would have stayed home." At this she raised her head again and looked into the taller woman's eyes. "I know you probably don't want to see me ... ever ... again ..." She hung her head, shamefully in front of the woman whom she loved the most, but injured the worst.
"No, I don't ..." Kim interrupted. She looked at Kerry's table. A plate of fries that had hardly been touched and a soda that had hardly been drunk remained on the fake wood table. Her laptop was open and it was obvious she had been writing a letter. Despite her anger and pain, Kim was intrigued. The hold this woman had on her was powerful. She looked up at Kerry who was paying her bill. "But I don't want you to leave either." She continued.
Kerry looked up sharply. She didn't know quite what to make of the other woman's statement. She didn't want to see her, but she didn't want her to leave. Her heart pined. She needed this person in her life, but she didn't want to push anything.
"I don't know Kerry. I don't know what this is. I don't know what I want. I'm hurt and ..." she looked around. "Can we sit?"
Bewildered, Kerry nodded and quickly took her seat. Kim hesitantly sat down across from her.
"I don't know what to make of you. I don't know what I want or should expect from you. You're right. I don't want to see you right now ... but I also don't want to see you walk out that door. I've always believed that things happen for a reason. You and I being here ... happening to cross paths here ..." Kim looked into Kerry's eyes. They were so clear and so beautiful. She had become lost in them some nights. Now they were glazed over with tears. "What is that?" She said, indicating the laptop.
Kerry was taken slightly off-guard. The absurdity of sitting across from Kim at this point in time, in this place, at this table still had her reeling. The question jarred her from her thoughts, as she now had to vocalize something. "It's, um ..." she didn't know what to say. If she said it was a letter then Kim would want to read it. If she read it, what would she say? Would she just get up and leave? Would she stay? If she said it was nothing, if she said it was work ... she'd look like she didn't care about Kim. That everything that had just happened was immaterial as she was now doing work. She was torn, but Kim's eyes pressed her for an answer. She raised an eyebrow in a demanding, Well?
"It's ... it's a letter."
She was staying. This emboldened Kerry and now she looked her in the eye.
"It's for you."
Now it was Kim's turn to be surprised. She had her suspicions, but she didn't think Kerry would admit to it.
"May I read it?"
"If you want to. It's about how I feel about you--about us. Things I wish I would have said. Things I wish I'd have done. How I'm sorry ..." Kerry's voice trailed off as she felt herself getting choked up. Kim nodded, reached across the table, turned the laptop around, and began to read.
Kerry waited quietly across the table from Kim. Her hands were folded demurely in her lap, but she looked about the diner nervously. She wasn't quite sure what to expect. Three hours ago she had abandoned this woman when she needed her most. Three hours ago this woman had left her standing, broken, at the elevator. Now she was sitting across the table from her, watching her read her innermost thoughts. Kerry felt vulnerable. It was a feeling she was becoming accustomed to in Kim's presence. She was never this open with anyone and before today that feeling had been wonderful. When she became vulnerable to Kim amazing things happened. Her mind began to wander back to those times. Kim's soft body lying close to her own, the warmth in her hands, the power of her movement. She felt like Kim was her missing piece. When they lied together at night they just fit together so perfectly. Their curves interlocked. It was an egregious experience.
Kim stared at the laptop screen reading. Words were spelled wrong. Sentences were left in fragments. Ideas meandered and looped and repeated themselves. This was not the logical, concise Kerry that she knew. This was the work of a woman searching for something, trying to express it as best she could. In the rough draft of this letter Kim saw Kerry as she really is, a woman who is full of immense beauty, but who hides behind a carefully constructed image of who she believed she should be.
From across the table Kerry looked at Kim. Her head was resting gently on her hand, her blond hair cascading over it, as she read what was written on the computer screen. Her eyebrows were furled slightly and her green eyes were bright and intense, but there was sadness to them. Kerry felt guilty having noticed that. She stared at this magnificently beautiful creature before her, and the pain started to rise in her throat again. She had hurt the most gentle, affectionate person that she knew. She looked down as tears, silently, began to stream down her face. When she looked back up a moment later, Kim was staring back at her. Her own cheeks stained with fresh tears. Kerry began to cry again and reached across the table to wipe the tears from Kim's face.
"Please don't cry. I can't stand to see you cry. This is all my fault, but I swear to you that I will find some way to make it right even if this is the last time I ever see you."
Kim placed her hand over Kerry's, holding it to her cheek. Slowly she slid their hands down, until Kim was holding Kerry's hand gingerly on the table.
"This is going to take time. What has been done, has been done and I'm willing to move on from that, but it's going to take time for me to trust you again. I thought that I knew you Kerry. I know that you're scared, but I thought that when it counted that you would be there for me, as I would have been there for you. I feel betrayed."
"I know and I'm sorry. I'm going to the hospital tomorrow to speak to Romano. He can't do this to you; it's illegal. You have to fight this Kim ... We have to fight this. I'll make sure it's taken care of ..."
"You'll go into work tomorrow?" Kim interrupted.
Kerry looked confused. Did Kim not want her to fight for her reinstatement?
"We had plans."
Kerry's eyes widened and began to sparkle. A great feeling of warmth surged in her chest and the smile that was starting to form in her eyes began to filter down towards her mouth.
"I didn't think you'd want to see or be with me at all ..."
"I do. But I don't. I'm so angry with you, but at the same time I want you to hold me and tell me it's all going to be all right. I don't think I can spend the night alone. I need you."
Kerry blushed and tears began to fall at this confession. She squeezed her lover's hand. A feeble smile spread across each woman's face. They knew it would be hard, but they knew that the feelings that they shared were much too strong to ignore or give up on.