STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Constant c Productions and Amblin Television in association with Warner Bros. Television, NBC and probably a slew of other people have prior claim. Anyone you don't recognize comes from my imagination.
RATINGS DISCLAIMER: Sex = a same sex relationship but otherwise PG, Violence = PG, Language = PG.
CONTINUITY DISCLAIMER: To be precise canon up to Rampage and then alternative universe. This is a segment of the Thing-verse, a chronological list can be found at the site.
BLAME DISCLAIMER: Sharon Bowers. I didn’t even watch the damn show until she started writing it.
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“Oh my god.”
With a sense of awe and terror I enter Kerry’s house. Twenty-four hours ago I had left it and her in the usual state. Which meant the house spotless and tidy and Kerry dozing back to sleep. I barely recognize the place now.
Boxes line the living room walls that are now devoid of all pictures and prints. Each box is labelled with it’s own bright yellow post it note taped on to it. I glance at the first box labelled office. Then the second labelled “extra” room.
“Organized. Methodical. Focused,” I mutter.
“Actually, I think the term I was looking for was anal,” Matt says with a grin.
“Dude,” agrees his partner in crime Josh.
“I swear it’s like you two stepped of the screen of a Kevin Smith movie.”
“I think those are for you,” Matt says, pointing to a small stack of manila envelopes. The top one is labelled “Kim. #1”. I pick it up, glancing at the next labelled “Matt/Josh #1”.
“Here,” I say, handing it to Matt and opening mine. I pull out a small sheaf of papers. Times New Roman Size 24, quadruple spaced. Her subtle way of suggesting I get that eye exam I’ve been putting off. I start to read the papers vaguely aware of the sound of Matt ripping open his envelope.
“Kim. I think I have all the small items that are to go to the shelter in the living room. The larger items are labelled. I packed up the office but the boys will have to move the desks and filing cabinets into the basement apartment.”
Mentally I groan. We’d discussed all this. Three times.
“Now, stop rolling your eyes and moaning. I know we discussed this three times already but an action plan is always a good idea. That way if you have to leave you can leave the boys this note. Most of this note. The first part anyway.
“I packed up the bedroom and living room so that it would be easier to get around without worrying about bumping into things. All of the pictures are in the front closet. Clear out the downstairs apartment into the van for the shelter. Move the desk and filing cabinets into the basement; we can worry about furnishing it as a double office when everything’s settled. After you’ve cleared out the office furniture move my bedroom set into the old office/guest/whatever room. Take the van and pick up the things from your place for the shelter. There are wardrobe boxes in the kitchen for your clothes so you can pack up your things without folding or ironing or anything. I *think* I got enough but I’m not sure. It would probably be most efficient if you did the packing while the boys dropped off the shelter.
“After dropping your discards off at the shelter pick up your remaining furniture and bring it here. Then put the boxes back into the appropriate rooms. Luka and John have agreed to cover me so, barring a major disaster, I’m yours for the weekend and we can take our time unpacking the boxes Saturday afternoon and Sunday. However, it is absolutely vital that you unpack box ‘Bathroom #1’ and ‘Bedroom #1’ before I get home as I plan on taking a leisurely bath followed with making love with you until you can’t see straight. No pun intended. Love, Kerry.
“PS, If my calculations are correct I now have proof that you need reading glasses as well as a lasting memento of your blush. K. ”
Frowning I glanced through the pages and then up. At the video camera Josh is holding.
“We are under instructions of your lady love,” Matt said, holding up a note, “to document this day and thereby plead extenuating circumstances, asylum and claim refugee status and, for good measure, diplomatic and journalistic immunity. I think I will forgo the insanity plea, though.”
“Dude. You looked like you were playing trombone with the papers.”
“And the colour of your cheeks suits you admirably.”
I look at the note again. This time I notice that the font size very gradually decreases all the way down to regular newspaper print and then back up again. Son of a gun.
“Son of a gun.”
I open envelope Kim #2. I find a small appointment reminder card from Kerry’s optometrist. I flip it over. “May I come with you to pick out the glasses? K”
“Son of a gun.”
“So you’ve said and we both appreciate the decorum and self restraint you’ve shown as doubtless you wish to say something much, much stronger and emphatic that would likely embarrass my poor semi-virgin ears and fuel Josh’s prurient dreams for years to come.”
I open envelope Kim #3. Out falls a key ring. The fob is gold with the psychiatric caduceus engraved on one side and two entwined Ks on the other. There’s also a Polaroid of a dozen red roses in a crystal vase. I flip it over. “I wanted you to have them right away but they wouldn’t fit into the envelope. K”
“Son of a…”
“…gun,” chorus the boys.
“Indeed. Let’s get going. I have a hot date tonight.”
I hear the key in the door and I whip it open, startling Kerry. Before she can say anything or do anything I’m pulling her into the house and me. I rescue the bouquet of roses and put them on the hall table and then hear consecutive thuds as binder, laptop and crutch start hitting the floor as I kick the door shut. Dimly I hear the jangle as the keys bounce against the door.
“No, pretty sure this is just kissing.”
Hands on her hips I guide her closer to the door and somehow manage to open it and retrieve the keys. All blind because she’s got her hands so tangled in my hair that I can’t see anything but her. I kick the door shut again.
“Kim,” she finally says, pulling my head away after ten eternal minutes.
I take a breath to steady myself and pull away enough to focus on her. “Kerry.”
“Not that I don’t appreciate it but why the pounce?”
“You’re home.” Two words and I can see her startled look at the intensity. “You are home. Home. Home. You are home and I am here, at home, and it’s the same home and you’re home.”
She smiles which I feel but don’t see as I’m ducking down again, catching the smile and drawing it in to me and I kiss her again with no intention of stopping anytime this millennium.
“I take it you’re happy to see me,” she finally manages when breathing becomes an issue.
“You have no idea. The thought of you coming home, to our home, is unbelievable. I mean I’ve never felt this…” words fail but her smile lets me know that I’m getting my meaning across. “Damn, no wonder the heterosexuals want to keep this for themselves. I just want to carry you over the threshold and take you to bed and make babies right now.”
She laughs. “Little problem there you know. Or did you get your medical degree from a Cracker Jack box.”
“I’ll have you know that I had to save ten Fruit Loop box tops to get my degree. It was my psychiatric certification that came as the Cracker Jack prize.”
She laughs and I capture that because kissing laughs is better than kissing smiles. I remember her note from this morning, about making love with me until I can’t see straight, and realize that she’s accomplished it with us both fully clothed and standing. Random thoughts flicker through my short-circuiting brain. Like how Kerry usually uses the term make love with rather than make love to. Like how the act of signing my name a few million times on more legal and financial documents than I thought existed makes me feel freer than the most casual arrangements in any of my previous relationships. How the feeling of belonging to this woman makes me feel alive. How I’ve been a bloody stupid git to fear it. How I’ve been spending too much time around Elizabeth Corday-Greene if words like bloody and git have entered my mental vocabulary. How incongruous it is to be thinking of another woman, even in terms of vocabulary, when I have Kerry right here, in my arms. And then it just becomes very hard to actually think and concentrate on kissing at the same time.
“Kim. Can’t. Stand.”
I am such a stud. But before I get feeling too cocky she sags slightly against me and sucks in air.
“Oh, babe. I’m sorry. You want a bath? Lie down? Bedroom? Couch?”
“S’okay,” she says. “A hot bath sounds lovely. Did you get a chance to unpack the boxes?”
“Oh, yeah. All the boxes labelled bathroom are done and bedroom up to box five. I also have my clothes put away.” I slip my arm around her shoulders as she wraps one around my waist so that I support her as she leans against me. The stairs and halls of Kerry’s, of our home, are wide enough for us to easily walk two abreast like this and are much wider than at my old house. Doubtless something Kerry took into consideration.
“You are familiar with the term ‘nesting’, right?”
I laugh. “You mean the frenzy of housecleaning and preparation that women go through before they give birth?”
She’s grinning back up at me. “That’s the one. Anything you want to tell me?”
I sigh melodramatically and allow her to lead me to the bed. “Nope. Not pregnant. But if this is how it feels you can keep me barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen for the rest of my life.”
“Kitchen is not where I had in mind.”
“Bath?” I manage before I find myself lying beside her and loosing all power of speech.
The admittance area is quiet, the only activity being Frank handing off the shift to Randi. My shift is also over so I decide to save myself two elevator trips and just finish the paperwork on the counter while I wait for Kerry. I look up at the sound of running feet, concerned until I see that it is merely Malucci.
“Dr. Legaspi, hi, how are you?” he says, sliding to a stop. Not bothering to wait for a reply he turns to Randi. “Randi that question, you know?”
“The one you’ve been asking every time you see me? The one you phone me at home about?”
“Yeah, yeah. You got answer yet? It’s important,” he says, thunking down the automotive section of the Trib.
“Jeez, Dave, get a life.”
“I’m trying to,” Malacci says, “but I need a car. Preferably a royal blue Beemer convertible.”
Randi stares at him. “No, I don’t have your answer. Tell you what Dave, why don’t you find out yourself.” She waves in my general direction. “Dave, horse’s mouth. Dr. Legaspi, horse’s ass.”
Introductions finished Randi returns to filing her nails and snapping her bubble gum while Frank shuffles papers. I wonder what the question is to keep Frank here one second past his shift.
“Ummm. Yes. Never mind,” Dave says, a look of cunning crossing his face. “Listen, Dr. Legs. You and the Chief are sha… I mean, living together right?”
We’d discussed this. We figured everyone in the hospital probably knew due to the amount of address and benefit change forms we filled out but Dave was the first person to actually come out and ask. So I follow the official Weaver/Legaspi policy which is don’t tell but answer honestly.
“Yes we are, Dave. Why?”
“Oh, well, you see as a member of the ER social committee I like to keep track of significant dates for the staff and their, um, significant others. And as you and the chief aren’t, like, having a wedding or anything I was just wondering what date I should give you both a card on. You know, diversity. Equal rights. Happy anniversary. Like maybe the day you two got together.”
“You mean when we met?”
“Nooooo, got together.”
I put on my mulling and thoughtful look that I use to buy time with patients. Over Dave’s right shoulder I can see Frank with the ‘I don’t want to look at the car crash but I must’ look and Randi amusedly waiting for the nuclear meltdown. Over Dave’s left shoulder I see Kerry coming out of the lounge.
“You mean first date?”
“Nooooo, got together.”
I’m feeling somewhat like the Monty Python ‘Is your wife a goer’ skit but I understand. He means sex.
“I don’t understand, Dave.”
“You know, got together. You and Dr. Weaver. Together.”
Kerry gives a small nod and Frank and Randi freeze. Dave is seemingly unaware of Kerry’s presence.
“Oh. Together. Um, couple of months ago. I can’t remember the exact date but it was the one Luka covered for her. I’m sure Randi can look it up.”
I know the exact date. Hell, I know the time down to the second and it’s burned onto my soul but no way I’m making this too easy on the boy.
“Umm, thanks. Umm, one more question?”
Randi and Frank wince. Kerry grins. Not a pleasant grin. Actually, it’s a pretty damn scary grin. The kind of grin that makes me very glad that Kerry’s on my side. But then, come to think of it she always has been. Well, one spectacular exception but no one’s perfect.
“Sure Dave, what is it?” I ask, getting back onto track.
“Well, as a member of the ER health and wellness committee I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of the dangers of strenuous activity and ensure that you two, umm, you know, ate and slept and stuff. I mean, while you were together.”
The boy has brass.
Kerry nods so I smile. “Yes, Dave. We ate and slept too.”
“Anything else? I mean, watch TV, go to the movies, you know?”
I pretend to think it over. Kerry gives another nod so I finally answer. “Nope, just ate, slept and stuff.”
“Yahooo! I got the weekend! I got the duration! I got the down payment…”
It’s about this time that Kerry makes her presence know.
“You have what, Dr. Malucci?”
“Chief!” Actually, I think he was saying chief but it came out as a squeak.
“You have what, Dr. Malucci?” Kerry repeats, pronouncing each word as if talking to a slow child.
“I have a very sizeable donation to the Horizons Community Services,” Dave mumbles.
“That’s a good cause, doctor. And thank you for volunteering to chair the new social committee and the new health and wellness committee. I’m sure you’ll bring the same enthusiasm to that as to your other extracurricular activities. And I’m sure you’ll find the organizational skills of the support staff a valuable asset for the committee.”
Frank and Randi pale slightly but nod.
“Yes, Chief,” the trio chorus.
“This your newspaper, Malucci?” Kerry asks, picking up the automotive section.
“Yeah, but I don’t think I’ll be needing it anytime soon, Chief.”
“Thanks,” Kerry says, taking the newspaper and looking at the back briefly before looking back at me. “You ready to go?”
“Goodnight people. See you tomorrow.”
“Night, Chief,” the trio chorus.
“So, Kim, what you say about a new car? BMW is having a promotion and I hear that their royal blue convertibles are babe magnets.
Behind me I swear I can hear Dave crying.
“You have a babe, Weaver,” I say.
She opens her mouth to say something but instead pauses and shakes her head. “Let’s go home.”
“What do you think, Kim?” Christie asks and I realize, from the looks of the others that I have, once again, zoned out completely.
“Sorry. My mind is a million miles away.”
“More like three blocks,” Kate corrects.
“At Cook County Hospital,” Bev continues.
“Dwelling in an obsessive and unhealthy manner on a certain red headed doctor,” Christie concludes.
“Neither obsessive or unhealthy,” I protest but a bit of honesty pokes me. “Okay, but not unhealthy.”
“Why doesn’t she join us then? Spare us the pining Kim?” Bev asks.
“She has a lot of trouble getting away at a set time. Lunch for her is usually on the run.”
“Besides,” Kate says, glancing at Christie, “I think Kerry would rather have a root canal without the anaesthesia then socialize with Christie.”
“Or you,” Christie countered.
“Nonsense.” They stared at me, clearly doubting my sanity. “Okay, but do you blame her?”
“Damn, I’m sorry I was in Atlanta and missed it. Did you two give her the routine?”
“Yeah, and she ran like a puppy,” Christie grins.
“Okay, people,” I begin.
“Ouch,” Bev winced.
“Tail between her legs,” Kate continues.
“Couldn’t get her coat on fast enough.”
All three stare at me. Or rather the snapped wine glass in my hand. Shit.
“Uh, Kim,” Kate begins. Bev looks like she wants to be back in Atlanta but its Christie that I’m concentrating on.
“C’mon, Kate, it’s our turn to pay,” Bev says and the two of them flee.
“You hurt her,” I say when they’re gone.
“You went along with it.”
“It was wrong. I was wrong.”
She leans forward, catching my eyes and staring into my face for several seconds. “You had to know if she would run.”
“By forcing her run? She wasn’t some hostile witness, Christie.”
She pauses and then nods abruptly. “I thought it was a good idea. I thought it was my privilege.”
The funny thing is she’s right. It is her privilege. Or, rather, it was.
“Guess it is true. The bigger they are the harder they fall.”
“And how far did I fall, Christie?”
“All the way.”
Another 1.25 day, another .75 dollars thanks to my gender and deciding to work in the semi-public sector. I lock my office door and head to the elevator with a bit of a bounce. Kerry was off at noon and that meant supper. Candles, wine, chaffing dish, the works.
I pass by Foster’s office, wave him a goodnight and get about three steps before what I saw hit me. I stop and briefly consider my options. Except really, I don’t have any so I pull out my cell and phone home.
“Hey, it’s me. Can I bring someone home?”
“Are you trying to seduce them?”
“Not particularly. They’re not my type and besides, I’m rather smitten with a red head.”
“Okay, then I’ll switch the tall candles for a centre piece and the sparkling wine for that Reisling.”
“Thanks, Ker. I owe you.”
“Yes. You do.”
She’s joking. I know she’s joking. I head back to Foster’s office. I think she’s joking.
Guess we won’t be using the chaffing dish.
“Hey Foster, can I interest you in a home cooked meal at our place?”
One of the greatest things I’ve discovered from Kerry since we started living together is the chaffing dish. This wondrous invention is designed to keep the food warm without drying it out. Like those things at Sunday buffets only better. So if Kerry has cooked some special meal but we get distracted the food won’t get cold or rubbery. Kerry has about six of them.
I stare at the largest one that is sitting on the buffet and sigh internally.
“Thank you Kerry, Kim. The food was wonderful and the company delightful.”
“You sound like you’re trying to escape, Foster.”
“Well, Kerry, I know this was spur of the moment and I can tell this was supposed to be a special dinner. I don’t want to intrude further.”
Guess maybe my mooning over the chaffing dish wasn’t as subtle as I thought.
“Nonsense, Foster, Kerry cooks like this every day. It was either invite you to share or an hour at the gym.”
“Desert? Coffee or sherry?”
Foster looks like he’s about to argue but gives in. “Coffee would be great.”
“And desert,” Kerry says firmly. “Why don’t we have it in the living room? Kim, do you mind giving me a hand?”
In the kitchen Kerry heads straight for the coffee monster machine while I go for the fridge. The tray is already set up with cups and sugar bowl to which I add the cream and desert.
“Hm-mmm? Oh, I knew you wouldn’t ask lightly. Can you bring the tray?”
“Yeah. But in a second.”
I wait very patiently for her to set down the coffee urn, lacing my fingers behind my back to resist temptation, and lean down. “Thank you,” I repeat softly before I kiss her softly.
“You’re a healer, Kim. That doesn’t stop when you walk out the hospital doors.”
I nod, wrapped in déjà vu. I pick up the tray and follow her to the living room.
Foster seems lost in thought, looking at Kerry’s photo wall. It was one of changes we’d made, removing a couple of prints for the downstairs office and replacing them with photos of our youth, family and friends.
“What was it like, growing up in Africa?”
Kerry set down the urn. “I don’t know. It was how I grew up and I don’t have any comparison.”
“And you never wanted to go back?”
“I’ve been for visits. And I did an extended residency rotation there with Doctors Without Borders. But it’s not my life anymore.”
“You don’t look like your parents.”
“Genetics are a funny thing, Dr. Foster. Cream? Sugar?”
Foster may be slow but not stupid. “Sorry,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I scored A+ on annoying and probing questions 101. Black, please.”
“No problem,” Kerry said, handing Foster a desert and coffee. “They’re normal questions but deflecting them is second nature to me. There were a lot of long visits to the States and I did most of my secondary and college education here. Those are my adopted parents who passed away a few years ago.”
“Your life in a nutshell?”
“Indeed, Dr. Foster. Your turn?”
The expression returned, the one that had caught my attention and made me offer the invitation.
“Another time perhaps, Kerry?” He asks with false brightness. Kerry simply nods.
“Are you going anywhere for Thanksgiving, Foster?” she asks.
“Nope. Low man on the totem pole so I’ll be either working or on call.”
She barely glances at me. “Then have it here with us.”
Kerry has an interesting ceiling. All swirls of thick paint that lead the eye from one pattern to another. Which is strange because Kerry is a burrower when falling asleep while I lay on my back. So either the ceiling was like that when she bought the house or she had some premonition about me. I haven’t asked because I don’t want the fantasy crushed by the mundane.
I feel the bed dip as she sits on the side.
“I’m lying here with my eyes open, Ker.”
“Hm-mmm, I guess I mean, are you staying awake?”
“I’m trying to decide about putting a mirror up there.”
There is a frozen silence.
“A mirror. I could get Malucci and Carter to help me install it.”
“I don’t think so,” she says, amusement colouring her voice.
“Or Kate and Christie.”
“I really don’t think so,” she says and the tone starts to turn icy.
“C’mere you,” I say, flipping the blanket up and allowing her to crawl in and onto me. I rub my cheek against her flannel-clad shoulder and slip by hands under her top.
“I read a book that described this.”
“Described what?” she asks, one hand burrowing under the small of my back while the other tucks under my shoulder.
“That this is like sleeping in the shade.”
There’s a rumbly chuckle. “Or like sleeping in the sun.”
“A-ha, that’s what the book said,” I smile and hug her tight. “I was such a Star Trek freak. Read all the books.”
“No wonder you seemed so at home when we got those convention centre casualties last year.”
“Ha. Fifteen years earlier and I’d have been an attendee.”
“You upset with me?”
“About Thanksgiving?” It’s either that or the mirror.
“Yeah. I didn’t ask.”
“I’m sure I could have psychically let you know if I objected.”
“You’re a telepath?”
“Hardly. Wish I was.”
“Be handy in your line of work.”
“Damn, Kerry, it’d be handy in my personal life.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I were telepathic I wouldn’t have to ask how attached you are to the idea of wearing this shirt.”
“Not tied to the idea at all right now.”
“Good,” I say, peeling off the flannel nightshirt and tucking it carefully under Kerry’s pillow so she can find it if she wakes up cold. “And I’m not upset. I don’t think Foster finds the winter easy.”
“You were joking ‘bout the mirror, right?” Kerry asks but things get involved so I’m saved an answer.
“Okay, worst professor?”
“Professor Addison had a penchant for grading term papers by throwing them up the stairwell,” I offer.
“He had a theory that the heavier ones would land on lower steps and they’d get an A.”
“You’re serious,” Foster said.
“Yeap. We took to writing them in large font, quad-tripled spacing with blank pages to protect the diagrams. Of which, I add, there were copious amounts. Some where even relevant.”
Kerry leans back, makes a show of looking at her wine glass and then lets us have it with both barrels. “Dr. Dudley-Smythe, Gross Anatomy class. In between lecture points he’d sing Gilbert and Sullivan duets with himself. Nothing like a little ditty from Mikado to brighten up slicing into cadavers.”
“I don’t think I can beat that,” Foster said, horrified awe in his voice.
“Beats Addison,” I allow.
“Right, then this Thanksgiving I give thanks for Saint Louis University being such a low status school that the teachers actually have to be sane, amen.”
We laugh and raise our glasses to salute Foster’s alma mater.
“Thanks again for inviting me.”
“Sorry it wasn’t a traditional turkey dinner, Foster.”
“Not a problem. We, um, we weren’t very traditional about it at our house when I was growing up.”
I glance at Kerry who ignores me and pours Foster some more wine. “How so,” she asks.
“Mother wasn’t a traditional house wife.”
I notice the past tense. “When did she pass away, Foster?” I ask.
“I’ve had too much to drink,” he said, looking at his glass. “And it’s a depressing story not suitable for a day of thanks giving shared with friends.”
Kerry reaches across the table, hand grasping Foster’s wrist in comfort. Maybe I should be worried about my status as the touchy-feely, sensitive one of the family.
“Bullshit,” Kerry says.
Then again, maybe my title is secure. Foster begins to laugh and Kerry to smile.
“Ah, what Kerry means is that you should be thankful of friends and let them be good friends by sharing your troubles and pain.”
“That’s what I said,” Kerry protests, “Except I was succinct.”
“Not much to tell. Military brat whose father was more concerned about his career than his family. And if the family didn’t conform to the ideal then you just get out a big old hammer.”
I guess my face looked as shocked as Kerry’s.
“Metaphoric hammer,” Foster clarifies and then sighs. “My mother attempted suicide seven times that I know about. Each time it was hushed up and the base doctor would subscribe some new meds. It was a case of the good old boys covering for each other.”
I remember my first meeting with Foster and the scars. “Who didn’t show up for breakfast Foster?” I had always assumed some high school Romeo and Juliet but now I wasn’t sure.
“Jamie, my brother. He was 19, home from Colorado Springs for the holidays and upstairs packing to head back to the Academy. I went up to tell him breakfast was ready and found him. Dad was away. Mom just nodded and started wiping the table. I called the base police and ambulance. Mom just kept wiping the table while they took Jamie away. The base doctor and the chaplain came and she just kept wiping the table until they took her away too and so I found my Dad’s old survival knife and did it right.”
Kerry looks a bit shell shocked. She hasn’t let go of his wrist and I can see her thumb making little circles on his arm. The silence continues until Foster returns to the present.
“Wow. Sorry. But I have to say it fast.”
“Where was your father?” I ask.
“He was in the Middle East looking to bomb someone. Early nineties.”
“And your mom?”
“Hospitalized,” he says and then grins. Not a happy grin. “I’m the walking, talking example of insanity running in the family.”
“Galloping is more like it.”
“That was really lame, Kerry.”
“Lame is appropriate in my case, Foster.”
“Have you two finished bonding or shall I give you some more time?”
I shake my head. Mental health and disability jokes. It can’t get any worse.
“Call me a taxi, I want to go home now.”
“Foster, you’re a taxi,” Kerry says, standing and heading for the kitchen phone. Apparently it can get worse.
“Thank you,” Foster says when we’re alone. “Winter is hard for me.”
“Yeah, it can be hard on a lot of us. You know where to find us, both or one of us, if you need to talk.”
He smiles the first genuine smile I’ve seen from him since the snow fell.
“Okay,” I ask patiently, “What about these?”
“Kerry, we’ve been at this for half an hour.”
“Okay,” I ask patiently, “What about these?”
I’ve seen that look on her face before.
“Hello,” I call out to the technician. “We’re taking these.”
“And so, anyway, we’re roaring up the Interstate…”
Eyes wide I quietly shut the front door.
“And Kimmie’s bitchin about her latest girlfriend about to become ex…”
“Have some more wine.”
“Thanks. Who is, to put it politely, clingy…”
“Like a giant, human bloodsucking vampire leech…”
“Uh, right. Great mental picture there.”
“Thanks. Anyway. The tape player starts the album over. First song? Possession.”
It was my worst nightmare. Kerry and Christie bonding over wine and Kim stories.
“So Kimmie screams about it being the, and I quote, the fucking soundtrack of her life…”
Boneless I slide down the wall, arms wrapping around my legs and my head resting on my knees in despair.
“She hits the eject button, grabs the tape…”
Oh god, the whole story.
“Flips it into the back seat…”
“But the sun roof is open…”
“And it goes flying out and smashes – kablooey!- right onto the windshield of a State Trooper.”
“Oh, God. What happened then?”
“They pulled her over. She flirted shamelessly with the guy cop even though she was wearing a ‘Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!’ T-shirt. So not only did she get out of a ticket by his partner slipped Kim her phone number. They went out once or twice but nothing ever came of it.”
In the foyer I picture them both taking a sip of their wine. Christie lost in the college memories and Kerry processing this new information.
“So, the eight copies?” Kerry finally prompts.
“Oh. Those. Nothing really.”
I groan. Trust Christie to finally have some discretion when it’s too late.
“Go on,” Kerry encourages.
“Well. We, the people in the car, we took to giving her a copy whenever she met the new girlfriend. Sort of a reminder of…” she trails off searching her mind for tact.
“The dangers of sunroofs?”
“And how girlfriends are fleeting? How the gang is always there for her? How the next girlfriend is just around the corner?”
“Yeah, sunroofs,” Christie says after a pause.
“Did the gang get her one for me?”
“I gave her one a couple of days after we all had dinner.”
“But I bought it the afternoon I met you at the hospital.”
“So, how about those Cubs?”
“It’s alright, Christie. I’m not angry at that.”
“Because you were right.”
The silence stretches long enough for me to open and slam the front door.
“Hey, Ker, I’m home.”
“I’m in here with Christie.”
“Christie’s here?” I ask, stepping into the living room. An Oscar winning job I must say.
“Yeah, just stopped by to drop this off and we got to talking.”
“Not about me I hope?”
“What else do Kerry and I have in common?”
Kerry shrugs. “We both liked the Riesling.”
“True enough. I gotta run,” Christie says, handing me a flat square of wrapped CD. “You might already have a copy.”
“Christie,” I say, voice dropping low and, I have to admit, threatening.
“Yell at me after you open it and open it after I’m gone. Which is now.”
“Let me walk you out,” Kerry says. I can hear them, voices quiet, and then the door shutting and the clicks as Kerry locks up for the night.
“How much did you hear?”
“Hmm? Oh, everything from roaring up the Interstate.”
“You going to open that?”
“I’m afraid to. See, if I open it and it’s that damn album I’m going to have to seriously hurt one of my oldest friends.”
Sighing I open the package to reveal an unlabeled CD-ROM. Trust it to a lawyer to disregard copyright laws. A small slip of paper is stuck in the crystal. I unfold the first fold.
“What does it say?”
“Play track ten and then read the rest.”
“Betcha she’s a barrel of laughs at April Fools,” Kerry says, taking the disc and heading to the CD player. A slight pause as she adjusts the volume and track. Immediately the room is filled with the sound of piano and soft trumpet.’
“Oh God.” I sink to the couch, holding the CD case like a miniature clipboard. I’m half aware of Kerry coming to sit beside me, listening to the song and glancing occasionally at me. I wonder at her confused look until I feel the splash of tears on my hands and realize I’m crying.
The song ends and Kerry presses the stop button on the remote. Wordlessly I open the note and hold it so that we can both read it.
“Legs. Don’t fuck it up this time. C.”
“She said the same thing to me at the door. Except it was phrased as a death threat.”
I laugh, half way between humour and a sob. “Listen to the rest of it with me?” I ask, turning sideways on the couch and patting the cushion between my legs. She presses the play button and we shift and snuggle until she’s lying on me, head tucked under my chin, in a compressed version of how we usually fall asleep. Silently we listen to the entire album and hold each other into the silence that follows it, waiting for me to speak.
“I love you.”
“I know. You okay?”
“I guess I should explain.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Yeah, I do.” But I cuddle a bit longer while I try to find the words. “I can’t explain.”
“You don’t have to,” she repeats.
“We were drinking through a bottle of tequila. Bad break up. I think it was after they gave me that album for the third time. Anyway, this album was playing and I told Christie that this is what love should be.”
“What do you mean?”
“It should be dichotomy. Light and serious. Fun and sad. Freedom and commitment.”
“I can see that in the album. Well, the song about the vampire is giving me a few thematic problems.”
“I must love what I destroy and destroy the thing I love,” I quote. “I loved your strength and I destroyed us.”
I’ve never lied to myself. We both made mistakes and mine were just as hurtful, maybe more so because I should have known better for so many reasons. Usually she’s the one that dwells on that time and I’m the one who brushes it aside. So I’m not surprised when she repeats my own words to me.
“Shh, it’s okay. That’s the past.”
Words that aren’t as comforting as they should be because, God forgive me, sometimes I feel like I’m lying when I say them to her.
“Kim, believe me. I will never forgive myself fully for how I acted and how it hurt you.” She cups my face in her hands, thumbs brushing aside the tears. “But I forgave you everything the moment it happened, the moment I knew I loved you, the moment you were born. You are my life and I love you.”
I try to talk but hiccup and sniff instead. I try again.
“Even if I burned your omelette pan to cook bacon?”
“Don’t push it, Legaspi.”
This time it’s a hiccup and a laugh as I pull her close, breathing in the combination of scents that tell my brain that this is Kerry and feeling by body finally relax.
“Anyway, she told me when it stopped being the soundtrack of my life she’d find me a new one.”
“Thank goodness she didn’t pick Jagged Little Pill.”
I start to laugh again and Kerry joins in.
Christie was one of the main reasons I moved to Chicago and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain to Kerry exactly what Christie means to me. About the freedom of college and finding someone to put to action vague feelings. The mutual support as we encouraged each other when it was time to come out to our families. The shared pain over her rejection and the bittersweet joy when mine were accepting. Countless bottles of wine and tequila as we dissected another failed romance. The sure knowledge that our friendship was stronger than any other relationship that we had or could have. And how I know knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’d throw it all away for Kerry.
And, remembering the look in Christie’s eyes that Tuesday, I realized she knew it. All the way.
“I love you, too, Kim.”
“Listen to this: It had not been her intention at first. It had not been her intention ever. And it was not her intention now, but it was her desire to be here or anywhere with Ann, a desire all her intentions denied.”
“It felt familiar to me. The feeling…”
“It sounds nice,” I repeat. “What’s it from?”
She gives me that look which is terribly sexy when aimed at anyone but me.
“Deserts of the Heart,” she finally says.
“Desert Hearts,” I correct.
“No,” she drawls. “The book is Deserts of the Hearts. The movie is Desert Hearts.”
“Oh. I saw the movie. A couple of times.”
“Really? I suppose that’s where you learned you guerrilla kiss seduction technique?”
“You saying I kiss like a gorilla?”
She regards me over the rims of her glasses. “If the lips fit, Legapsi.”
“Pick your battles, Weaver,” I say and then start to blush as I realize whom I’m quoting.
“Oh, I do. And I always win.” She looks down at the book. “So I suppose I was lucky not to have you showing up naked in my bed?”
“That depends on your definition of lucky, Kerry,” I say. “I see you saw the movie as well then?”
“Hm-mmm, what did you call it? Chapter 2, researching your emerging sexuality through reading online erotica. That and renting out Blockbuster’s alternative section. But that didn’t last.”
“When the talking heads mentioned it in Go Fish I decided that I wasn’t going to follow the stereotype for a while. That and the fact that it was raising more questions than it answered.”
“So why the book now?”
“Actually again. And I don’t know. It feels applicable.”
Well of course if did. A story about an older divorced woman gradually becoming aware because of the unapologetic younger lesbian pursuing her. Except that I didn’t pursue Kerry. Okay, I pursued.
“We’re not characters in some book or movie,” I say.
“”You acted like it sometimes,” she says thoughtfully. “We both did.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, the little misunderstandings. The big ones. You declaring your intentions. All hell breaking loose that made me look to you for…”
She trails off, suddenly all introspective and quiet that just isn’t allowed.
“So, I kiss like a gorilla?”
She regards me seriously, head cocked to the side. “No. You’re a little better.”
“A little better!” I protest. “A little!” I dredge my memory for the passage from a book written before I was born and read before I made it out of my teens. Guess it was time to read it again.
“So, have you ever been an assistant dean?”
A deliciously blank look followed by the dawning realization that she’d been had.
“Sorry I’m late,” I say, sliding into my spot and picking up the menu.
“Wasn’t sure you’d be here,” Christie says, putting words to what Kate and Bev were obviously thinking.
“Yeah, well. If it wasn’t for the fact that you three are the best friends I have and that I love you dearly I wouldn’t.”
“Except Christie but I’ll put up with her for Kate’s sake.”
I get a bread roll in the face for that.
Ice broken we get into some serious trashing. I know what Kerry calls this; the Tuesday Afternoon Gossip Club. I wonder what she’s up to. Probably torturing some poor resident before they all take off for the holidays. She can walk that fine line of being firm enough to scare them into being good doctors without terrifying them out of the profession altogether. Its some kind of sixth sense that…
“Earth to Kim, come in Commander Kim.”
“We were saying that you should ask Kerry to join us.”
“I said,” Christie says, pronouncing each word distinctly, “that you should ask Kerry to join us. When she can, that is.”
“When did you come to that decision?”
“We were talking about it before you arrived.”
“What did you two talk about before I got home, Christie?”
Bev jumps to her feet. “Kate, let’s check out the salad bar.” And the two flee like the cowards they are.
“The time you really got home or the fake time you got home?”
Damn, another Oscar winning performance wasted.
“How Kerry and the gang had a lot in common and it was stupid to act as if you were some bone between two hungry dogs.”
“Kerry said that?”
“No, I said that and she just agreed.”
Damn. Some psychiatrist I am when the two people I’m supposed to know the best can surprise me like this.
“What did you say to her when you left?”
“That if she hurt you again I’d kill her.”
I know how Kerry would have answered her but I doubt Christie would be impressed. Probably just consider it hyperbole.
“She told me that if she did she wouldn’t survive it.”
Pegged that one.
“And I believed her.”
Missed that one.
“Why?” I ask before I can stop myself.
“Because when we were talking earlier she said that you needed us. Even if she didn’t like us or know us she knew that we were important. And that she didn’t want to deny you that.”
“So, you going to keep that roll?”
“Yeah, finder’s keepers.”
“Kim, could you get that? Kerry and I are up to elbows in raw chicken.”
I set the pile of cutlery down and head to the front door of Foster’s apartment. I’m not sure who I was expecting but a middle-aged man in the uniform of an Air Force full colonel was not on the short list. And, from his startled expression, I wasn’t even on his long list.
“Is this the apartment of Dr. William Foster?”
“Yes,” I say. I open the door a bit more and he steps in. “Foster, it’s for you.”
Foster appears wiping his hands on a towel, his expression blank.
“Kim, could you give Kerry a hand in the kitchen?”
I nod and head to the kitchen.
“Sir. I wasn’t expecting you,” I hear Foster say before the kitchen door shuts and the conversation is cut off. I quickly find my spot and settle down for my favourite pre-dinner pastime, Kerry watching.
Even in a strange kitchen she seems at home. Which isn’t strange because Kerry seems at ease everywhere. She moves with a grace and calm and I wish that we were in our kitchen and not Foster’s so I could show her exactly how much of an effect she has on me.
Okay, second favourite pastime.
“That’s why I’m not a surgeon.”
“You’re not afraid of blood.”
“Texture,” I clarify with a slight shudder. “Have you ever touched raw liver?”
“Well, it was necessary last Wednesday…”
“Not people liver!”
“…when we had it for dinner.”
“You fed me liver?”
“Don’t ask questions that you don’t want to know the answer to, Kim.”
My ally arrives back in the kitchen. “Foster, Kerry fed me liver!”
“You knocked up, Legaspi?” No sympathy from that quarter. Bypassing the wine he heads with criminal intent to the fridge where he opens a can of pop and then pours it and a couple of fingers of rum into a tumbler. Saluting the fridge he downs the drink.
“Foster, was that a can of Cherry Coke?”
“Yes, Kerry, it was.”
“Do you always drink rum and Cherry Coke?”
“Only when I’m out of black cherry soda. We can’t all be connoisseurs of 40 year old Scotch neat.”
“Bad news, Foster?”
“Hm-mmm? No. Just a visit from the Colonel.”
“You weren’t expecting him?”
“One never expects a visit from the Colonel, Kerry.”
“Your father?” I ask.
“Yeah, Colonel William Mitchell Foster Senior, United States Air Force.”
“You must look like your mother,” I say, mentally comparing the Colonel’s dark looks to Foster’s fairer features.
“Ha! I’m sure the Colonel would be the first to say that the nut didn’t fall far from that particular tree.”
“So, Dr. Weaver,” I ask, “Any problems with Dr. Foster in emergency?”
I hate evaluation meetings.
“None. Dr. Foster has been handling non-trauma cases for the last two months unsupervised. In any other specialization but psych I’d be suggesting getting your trauma clearance.”
I hate evaluations meetings even when they’re with my favourite people. I tap my pen against my nose and startle myself when it hits my glasses. Some day I will get use to them.
“Dr. Foster? What do you think?” I ask.
“I’d like to do at least one rotation as an observer if nothing else. Give me a better feel for the whole process. If Dr. Weaver thinks I can play with the big boys…”
“I concur. Dr. Weaver, can we get a rotation as observer after Dr. Foster’s next rotation in…” I glance down at Foster’s schedule… “neurology?”
“I think we can work that. If we don’t scare him off maybe we can work towards that clearance. We can always use an extra set of hands down there.”
“Okay, excellent. Two weeks in neuro, two weeks in the emergency department and I get to do another evaluation in a month. You okay with this, Dr. Foster? We won’t be seeing to much of you up here.”
“Absence. Heart fonder and all that.”
“Okay then, let’s sign this puppy off and blow this Popsicle stand.”
I flip around my clipboard for Kerry and Foster to sign of the report when my intercom goes off.
“Dr. Legaspi, there’s a uniformed gentleman to see Dr. Foster.”
Foster acquires a grim look while Kerry finds something fascinating about the corner of my desk.
“Did he give a name?” I ask.
“Umm, no. He said it was classified as need to know and if he told me he’d have to kill me,” she says, her voice taking on the ultra calming tone of someone use to dealing with the delusional. “I really think you or Dr. Foster should see his nice uniform.”
Foster’s expression has taken an amazing left turn from grim to an ear to ear grin. He points down and mouths the word ‘here’.
“Bring him to my office.”
Foster has a Cheshire Cat grin that only gets bigger when his guest arrives, a man as fair as Foster is dark dressed in Air Force blues. I glance at the silvery bar on his lapel and the nametag on his breastplate. He catches my sudden grin and shakes his head in resignation so I have mercy on him.
“Kim, Kerry this is Richard Barclay, my fellow Air Force brat that wasn’t able to escape and took the thankless job of being my father’s aide de camp. Rich, Doctor Kim Legaspi who is my supervisor during my residency and Dr. Kerry Weaver who is Chief of Emergency Medicine and goddess of the ER.”
“Well, glad I took the time to stop by then. Foster has the most incredible talent for finding beautiful women.”
Kerry is blushing and I’m grinning as Foster turns bright red.
“If only I my luck was as good. And, unfortunately they’re both taken so you can turn off the charm.”
Foster nods but doesn’t enlighten him further so I keep quiet. No need to upset anyone’s comfort level.
“So, what brings you here? Dad getting you to check out that I’m a doctor and not a patient?”
“No. He doesn’t know I’m here and he’d have my head if he did. But it is about the Colonel. Look, Will, can I talk to you in private? My flight leaves in a couple of hours and I don’t have much time.”
“These are my friends. You can talk in front of them.”
Barclay pauses and then nods. “Something came up during your dad’s last physical.”
“Oooh, they found a heart?”
“No. They found ALS, Will.”
I find him on the roof. Figures. The roof is like the Hollywood and Vine of County, stand here long enough and the whole world will walk by you.
“I’m not going to jump.”
“Didn’t think you were.”
I stand beside him staring down at the doll like people below.
“It’s strange, you know. I’ve hated that man for as long as I can remember. His career and the constant moving made my youth a living hell. He ignored my mother and now she’s in a mental hospital. He tried to force my brother into his mould and now he’s dead. I tried to kill myself just so he’d come home and take care of things because that’s what dads do. I’ve hated him, Kim.”
I nod, stepping closer and he finally turns to me.
“And now he’s been diagnosed with probably the most horrible disease a man like that can have. It’s going to destroy his body and leave his mind intact. It’s going to trap him. And now…”
“Kim. I still hate him. God help me I’m glad he’s sick.”
“So how is he?”
“Confused. Guilty. In the TV movies he’d find it in his heart to forgive his father and build a relationship in the little time they have left. In real life he’s almost pleased that the man is going to suffer.”
“So much hate.”
“So much fear,” I correct. “His father is the last of his family. That hatred doesn’t change that.”
She nods and picks up her briefcase. “You have a good day off.”
“You have a good day at work.”
She grins a crooked little grin. “Don’t wear yourself out on the secret project.”
“Don’t worry about me, little lady,” I say, opening the door and kissing her goodbye. “Pacing is everything.”
“Hey, didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Wake me. Know. Home safe.”
I feel her lips brush lightly against my forehead. “I’m home safe, Kim.”
“How was your day off?”
“Good,” I mumble, fairly sure that it wasn’t a legitimate answer.
“Good,” I mumble again, lacing my fingers into hers and pulling her down and into bed so that I can sleep for real. She laughs softly, wiggling out of her remaining clothes and pulling the blanket up.
“I’m home. Go back to sleep, Kim.”
The small stool in the en suite bathroom isn’t very comfortable. I shift on the makeshift cushion that I’d fashioned from a couple of bath towels and continue my wait.
Fortunately it wasn’t long.
First the mound of pillow and covers shifts slightly and an arm emerges, the advance scout checking out the lay of the land. It stretches out, into the spot where I normally slept and felt around a bit, pauses and then feels around some more.
The blankets shift some more and a shock of tousled red hair appears. Slowly she turns from her side to her back, corkscrewing the blankets down and finally starting to awake. She lay on her back, eyes still closed, and would soon, I knew, stretch…
And she stretches.
…and then she’ll give a small yawn…
And she yawns.
…and then she’ll open her eyes…
And her eyes open.
She looks up at her new and improved bedroom ceiling.
…and now we’re in pretty much uncharted territory…
…but that’s where the fun is.