The votive candles had flickered out long ago and by midnight all that was left were the half dozen candles on the picnic blanket. Kim lay on her side, propping her head with her hand, looking at Kerry in the warm glow. Kerry was reclined into a mass of pillows and had just drained her wine glass.
"So are you going to tell me how you pulled all this together from your wheelchair?" Kim asked.
Kerry gave her a smug look. "It's all about delegation, my dear. Finn and I did the cooking together: I was the supervisor and he was my hands. Then, Finn moved the furniture, put out the candles, set up the blanket and read me the wine labels in Rachel's wine rack so I could pick." She held her glass out for Kim to refill. "Estelle dropped off a few groceries on her way out of town for her weekend off and Roger brought the blueberry pie from his wife's bakery."
Kim shook her head. "Well it was very impressive. And delicious."
Kerry turned to read Kim's face. "Do you really think so?"
Kim nodded, her eyes locked on Kerry's. "It's lovely, Kerry. Thank you."
Kerry averted her gaze for a moment. "I wanted it to be special. I - I feel like an apology isn't enough for some of the things I said yesterday. For the things I've done."
Kim held up her hand. "Don't. It's over. We don't need to talk about - "
"But I do, Kim. I do need to talk about it."
Kim held her breath. "Talk about what exactly?" she asked quietly.
Kerry considered her wine glass closely. "About being a lesbian," she said. "I - I just need to talk about it. Is that okay?"
Kim nodded and smiled, those gentle blue eyes drawing Kerry in. "Well, since I'm currently the only lesbian you know, I guess it's okay."
Kerry took a long breath and when she let it out, it sounded ragged and uneven. "God, I don't even know where to start."
"How about when you first realized you might be gay?" Kim asked and Kerry suddenly knew why Kim must be so good at her job. Whatever she asked, there was something in the way she looked at you and waited that made you want to answer. That made you want to tell her everything so that she could make it all right.
"I realize now that I've always known. Or at least I've known for a very, very long time," she said. "I just didn't know what it was. I couldn't identify it as that. My whole life I'd felt different, you know, like I didn't fit in and I always thought it was other things, but now I think it was that."
"Fit in where?"
Kerry shook her head sadly. "Anywhere. In my family, my work, my school. I mean God, I was adopted, I was smart, I had a physical disability and a crutch ... for one reason or another, I just always felt like I was separate from everybody. Different. Even in my own family I felt that way."
She paused and sipped her wine. "All these years, trying everything I could think of to just be accepted. And I've never been able to because I still felt like something was wrong with me, like I was still different somehow." She turned to look at Kim and she smiled. "And now I finally know what it is."
"Some people say that when they first realize that they're gay, they have a sense that some empty space inside them has been filled," Kim said. "As if some part of you was missing and you've just found it. I think I felt like that."
Kerry thought about this and nodded. "Yeah, it is like that. And it makes me realize that I've been trying to scale the wrong ladders all the time, you know? Trying to fix the wrong thing."
"What about your sexual experiences?"
Kerry shrugged. "What about them? They haven't been very notable. I mean, I enjoy men. I like working with them more than women sometimes because they'll be straight with you and they don't hold grudges. And I've known some exceptional men, a few of whom I've had relationships with and slept with."
"And?" Kim prompted quietly.
"It was all right. Satisfying in a way, I suppose." She looked over at Kim and Kim saw the sparkle again. "It was absolutely nothing like when I was with you, though." She studied Kim's face, a budding smile on her lips. "That was ... that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I felt alive for the first time in my life."
Kim made herself study the blanket for a moment while she tried to pull on her clinical face again. "So what are your conclusions about all of this?"
"Well, obviously when I decided a few years ago that I had an unusually low sex drive, I was mistaken."
Kim chuckled. "Yeah, I'm in a position to speak to this topic and I wouldn't say your sex drive was low."
"It's not that my libido was lacking," Kerry said. "It was that I hadn't found the right way to express it. The right kind of person to express it with."
Kim reached over and took Kerry's hand. She squeezed it.
"So you're pretty sure you're a lesbian, huh?" Kim asked with a grin.
Kerry nodded and smiled. "The jury's in and it's unanimous."
"So now, you need to figure out how you're going to live out this part of yourself."
"And that's the hard part, isn't it?" Kerry said. "I've known lots of people who were gay but I never realized how hard it was to be gay in this society, in this time."
Kim raised an eyebrow. "Some people would say that this is the easiest time in history to be gay. Gay people enjoy more legal rights than ever, we're more accepted, gay characters are on television, we aren't living such closeted lives ..."
"And some of us are tied to fence rails and beaten to death," Kerry said sharply.
Kim nodded sadly.
"I understand prejudice, Kim. My whole life I've been judged and categorized by people the moment they see my crutch. I stop being a person with unlimited potential and I become a member of a category. They just drop me in the `crippled' box and move on." The ruby wine swirled in the bowl of the wineglass as she studied it. "In fact, that's been my stumbling block, I think. Because I've fought too damned hard and long to get out of one box only to get dumped into another. I don't want my sexual preference to be the central organizing principle of my identity."
"But it will influence things, Kerry. If you're going to actually let yourself explore this part of yourself, then there will be ripples. Even if you try to stay in the closet," Kim said.
"I know," Kerry said. "And that's why I realize that I really don't have a choice. I have to just come out and start living. Because the alternative is simply not an option for me."
Kim watched Kerry's face in the flickering glow of the candles. "What are you most afraid of, Ker?" she asked, softly.
Kerry stared at her wineglass. "Destroying my career, or derailing it anyway. Losing face with my staff. Being the butt of gossip and jokes, although, I suppose I'm already enjoying that honour." She looked off into the darkness and the wind whistled at the windows. "Coming out at an age when everyone else is settled and ending up alone." She turned and met Kim's gaze. "It's like it's a whole different world for me and I just don't know how I'm supposed to be. Am I supposed to adopt a different way of living? Go to bars? Am I supposed to become involved in all these causes and movements and things, because I really don't want to."
Kim grinned. "Oh, I see. So you're saying you'll play for the team, but you don't want to wear the uniform, is that it?"
Kerry propped herself up on one elbow. "You see, that's another one of those in jokes that I don't get - like that U-haul thing and that stupid toaster oven thing. What the hell is that supposed to mean anyway?"
Kim rolled onto her stomach, laughing, then extended an arm to grab Kerry's hand. "Oh, Ker, I'll explain all of those to you sometime, okay?"
Kerry nodded her reluctant agreement, then sipped her wine, but did not pull her hand away from Kim's grasp. Lightning lit the room and there was a blast of thunder above their heads.
Kerry squeezed Kim's hand. "That's nice," she said. Kim smiled at her and rubbed the back of her hand with her thumb. So soft.
"I know we need to talk about us, sometime," Kerry said.
"It doesn't have to be now," Kim said, her face nestled into the blanket.
Kerry raised her glass of wine and smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, but this may be the best time."
Kim said nothing, just lay there and watched.
"I acted like an ass, Kim. I have never been as ashamed of myself as those days in the spring when you nearly lost your job."
"It's ancient his- "
"No, Kim, let me say this. You were being attacked and I did nothing to help you. I was consumed with my own insecurities and fears and I can't imagine how that made you feel." Her eyes were jade green in the candlelight and Kim thought she could see the reflection of tears. "Even if you can find it in your heart to forgive me for what I did, I doubt I'll ever be able to forgive myself." Kerry turned away quickly and took a gulp of wine.
The storm raged outside while they were silent.
"I let you down, too, Kerry. I knew that this was all new to you, that you were struggling with it. But I was so busy feeling hurt and embarrassed and angry that it never occurred to me that you needed support yourself." She propped her head up on her elbow again, moving closer to Kerry, never letting go of her hand. "I'd been courting Romano's wrath since before we met. I knew what was coming. And maybe I let it drive a wedge between us because I was scared of what I was getting into with you. I think I was terrified, deep down, that you were going to get up one morning and say, `You know what? I think I like men better.'"
Kerry put her wine down and cupped Kim's face with one hand. "Oh, Kim, I would never do that."
Kim shrugged. "Well, I've had some less than satisfying times with `straight girls' and I think I just didn't want to get burned again. So I let this crumble around me and then conveniently got to blame it on you."
Kerry's eyes never left Kim's.
"A wise little person reminded me the other day that some things are worth waiting for," Kim said. She chuckled. "I had almost talked myself out of being in love with you, Kerry."
"Almost?" Kerry whispered.
Kim nodded. "Almost. But not quite."
Kerry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay. So we were both wrong and we both acted like idiots. What now?"
Kim shook her head. "I don't know." She squeezed Kerry's hand. "What do you want to happen next?"
Kerry felt the familiar draw into those soft blue eyes and knew what she wanted. She tugged on Kim's hand, pulling her closer. Kim's smile blossomed and she leaned in the rest of the way.
Kim's lips brushed softly against Kerry's and then Kerry's hands were on her, fingers tangled in her hair, gently, insistently holding her there. Kerry's mouth was warm and velvety and tasted faintly of expensive French wine. Kim felt the heat beginning to build in her belly and she moaned, a low mournful sound from deep in her throat. She reached down and brushed a tender hand across Kerry's hip and Kerry shuddered with need beneath her.
Kim pulled back far enough to see Kerry's flushed face.
"Are we going to do this?" Kim asked and she realized that she was out of breath. "I mean, should we? Do you want to?"
Kerry nodded. "Yes. To all three," she said and she pulled Kim back down to her and captured her mouth hungrily.
The sudden pounding at the front door shocked them both into stillness. They froze and listened.
"Kerry!! Kim!! It's me, open up! Hurry! Kerry!!"
"That's Finn," Kim said and sprang to her feet. An instant later she flung the door open and Finn was falling into her arms. His X-Men pajamas were soaked through, his feet were bare and his eyes wide with panic. Kim crouched down to look him in the eyes and he grabbed onto Kim's arms as if she were all that was keeping him from falling over.
"It's Gran!" he shrieked. "She's sick and Estelle is gone and she fell on the floor!"
"Who fell on the floor, your Gran?"
He nodded frantically, catching his breath. "Something's wrong with her and I don't know what to do and the phones wouldn't work and the power's off and she's laying there, Kim, come on, you've got to help her!" He nearly dragged Kim off her feet.
"All right," Kim said holding him by both shoulders to keep him in place. "Listen to me - I need you to get Kerry's crutches from the kitchen and then help her get up, all right? Can you do that?"
He nodded, his chest still heaving.
"All right, go on now," she said, releasing him.
"Kerry, I'll get your bag," Kim said, jogging to the bedroom. She pulled two blankets out of the linen closet, located Kerry's medical bag and grabbed her cell phone. By the time she returned, Kerry and Finn were at the door, contemplating the sheets of rain that were coming down.
"I can't go quickly on the crutches, Kim, especially in the gravel," Kerry said. "I need you to carry me to the car."
"Kerry, I - "
Kerry met her eyes and Kim stopped. "All right," Kim said and she handed the blankets and bag to Finn. She crouched down and gently scooped Kerry over her shoulder in a fireman's carry, then slowly stood up. "Are you okay?" Kim asked.
Kerry patted Kim's back. "I'm fine. Go, go!"
They rushed to the car.
Finn preceded them into the house, calling for his grandmother. The house was dark and still. "She's in the kitchen," he said as he ran through the foyer and off into the west wing of the house. Kim doggedly followed, rain dripping off her and the load on her shoulder. Two turns and they were in a huge, well-appointed kitchen. A couple of candles were burning on the counter and it afforded just enough light to make out Mrs. Ryan, prone, on the floor, her dressing gown splayed out around her.
"Gran? Gran?" Finn said. He was crouched beside her, shaking her shoulder gently. "Gran, I brought Kim and Kerry and they're going to help you, but you have to wake up." He opened his mouth to speak more, but choked on his tears.
Kim deposited Kerry on the floor beside Mrs. Ryan then grabbed Kerry's bag from Finn and opened it up. Kerry took a two-finger pulse at Mrs. Ryan's neck then turned to Kim. "Okay, get on your cell phone and see what kind of EMT support they have out here and tell them to get here now."
Kim nodded, whipped out her phone and walked out of the kitchen, pushing buttons.
"Okay, Finn," Kerry said, sliding herself around parallel to the old woman's body, "I need your help sweetheart, you're going to have to be my assistant, okay?"
Finn sniffled, wiped his nose on his pajama sleeve and nodded.
"All right, when I say go, I want you to roll your Gran towards me, okay? We're going to roll her over together." She indicated where she wanted the little boy to push. "Now be gentle, okay? One, two, three, go." Maureen Ryan lay in front of Kerry, her jaw slack, her skin an unhealthy gray. Kerry quickly covered her with one of the blankets Kim had brought, then she grabbed her stethoscope and started listening. "Finn, does your Gran have any medicine that she takes?"
"Do you know where she keeps it?"
He nodded again. "In the cupboard in the bathroom upstairs."
"Okay, I want you to go and get all of it and bring it to me, okay?"
He raced off into the darkness, his wet feet slapping against the ceramic tile floor.
Kim hurried back in. "There is an ambulance service out of Beaver Point and they're sending a van now. They said it's going to take at least twenty minutes."
Kerry rolled her eyes. "Take her blood pressure, would you?" She handed Kim her stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff, then grabbed a small spray tube, eased Mrs. Ryan's mouth open and sprayed under her tongue.
"Heart attack?" Kim said, as she inflated the cuff.
"It's likely," Kerry said, shining a small flashlight into the old woman's eyes. "Finn's gone to get her prescriptions. Maybe they'll tell us something."
Kim let the air out of the cuff slowly, then frowned. "She's hypotensive," she said.
Kerry grabbed the stethoscope back from Kim. "How long did they say they'd be?"
"Twenty minutes," Kim said, glancing at her watch. "Maybe eighteen by now."
Kerry listened carefully to the woman's heart, moving the stethoscope's diaphragm around and pausing every so often. Finn scurried back into the room, an armful of small and large prescription bottles clutched to his chest. He set them down beside Kim.
"Is she okay? Do you know what's wrong with her? Is she going to wake up soon?"
Kerry kept listening to Mrs. Ryan's heart for another moment, then she grabbed Finn's arm and pulled him beside her. "Your Gran is sick, Finn and you were very smart to come and get us. Now, I think she's had a heart attack - "
"Kerry," Kim said, two large amber bottles of medicine in her hands. "It's not her first heart attack."
Kerry nodded. "Give her another nitro spray, Kim."
Finn watched Kim while Kerry continued. "Right now, what's most important is that we get her to the hospital where they have machines and medicines that can help her. It's really, really important that the ambulance find this house quickly, okay? Now Kim's already phoned them and they're coming, but I'm going to need you to go stand at the end of the driveway, with a flashlight and watch for them. Can you do that, Finn?"
He nodded, glancing back and forth between his Gran and Kerry. Kerry took his hands in hers. "We're going to do everything we can to make her better, all right?"
"Okay," he said.
Kim got to her feet. "Come on Finn, we'll get some shoes on you. I think I have a raincoat and a flashlight in the trunk of the car. We'll get you set up out there." She reached out her hand and he quickly got to his feet and took it. They hurried out of the kitchen.
Kerry took the old woman's hand and felt for her pulse, counting off the beats in her head. And then Kerry lost the weak thudding. She repositioned her fingers, feeling for the pulse again. Nothing. Goddammit.
She flipped the stethoscope back on and listened intently, directly over Mrs. Ryan's heart.
Three minutes later, Kim hurried towards the dimly lit kitchen and stopped dead in the doorway. Kerry was struggling to kneel on one leg so that she could provide compressions to Mrs. Ryan's heart.
"Did she arrest?" Kim asked as she dropped to her knees and took over for Kerry.
"No," Kerry said, swinging her legs back out in front of her and catching her breath. "I think she's in V-fib - it's hard to be certain without a monitor, but I think there's just a flutter of heartbeat right now." She scooted around to put her ear close to Mrs. Ryan's mouth to listen to her breathing. "That would make sense, since hypotension indicates ventricular dysfunction due to ischemia. She's probably had a large infarct and I'd bet that it's her right ventricle."
Kim pushed rhythmically on the old lady's chest. "Is she going to make it?"
Kerry began inflating the blood pressure cuff again. "Not if we don't get her to a hospital soon."
Kim glanced at her watch as she continued forcing blood through Mrs. Ryan's body.
Another ten minutes before the EMT's. If they were lucky.
She squeezed her shoulder blades together to stretch out some tension and continued the compressions.
They heard Finn long before they saw him.
"Kerry!! They're here!! They're here!!" he hollered as he led the two EMT's and their gurney through the darkened hallways of the huge house.
Two men, young enough to look like high school seniors burst into the kitchen right behind Finn. They stopped and stared at the woman with the cast sitting on the floor with the unconscious woman.
"All right, I need her on a cardiac monitor, right now and get your defibrillator charged. Move!"
They did as she said.
"Are you a doctor?" one of them asked hopefully as he unfolded the monitor and untangled the leads. "I'm uh, Bill."
"Yeah, I'm a doctor. I work in an ER in Chicago," Kerry said. She glanced at the other young man, made sure he was moving quickly with the defib paddles, then grabbed the paramedic shears from her bag and started cutting a path through Mrs. Ryan's nightgown. She signaled for Kim to stop compressions while she and Bill slapped the leads onto the appropriate spots. They both turned to stare at the tiny monitor.
"She's in V-fib," Bill said.
Kerry didn't seem to hear him. "She needs a large bore IV, Bill, and I want her on 100% oxygen by mask. And give her a 50 mg bolus of Lidocaine as soon as you can."
Kim stood up and moved back to let the other nameless EMT move closer to Mrs. Ryan. Her neck and shoulders ached and she dug at the sore muscles with one hand as she watched Kerry and the two paramedics work on the old lady.
And then her eyes fell on Finn. He was opposite her, standing a step or two behind Kerry and his eyes were fastened on his unconscious grandmother.
Kim stepped around the equipment clutter and went to his side, then crouched down.
"Hey," she said. "Are you okay?"
His eyes never moved from the old woman on the floor and he said nothing.
Kim touched his shoulder and realized that he was drenched through and shivering in a thin pair of wet pajamas. She looked around for the other blanket she'd brought, and spotted it on the floor near Kerry's bag. She retrieved it, then sat down beside Finn, spread it across her legs and gently pulled him down. He sat on her lap and she wrapped the blanket and her arms around him.
"Charge it to 250 ... clear!" Kerry said and Mrs. Ryan's body was jolted off the floor for a moment. Kerry and the paramedics studied the monitor intensely. "Charge to 300," Kerry said and the whine of the defibrillator batteries filled the kitchen.
"What are they doing?" Finn asked Kim in a hushed voice.
"Your Gran's heart is beating in a funny rhythm. Kerry is giving it a shock of electricity to make it beat right again," Kim said.
He watched Kerry inject something into Gran's IV, then he turned to look at Kim. "Is she going to die?"
Kim hesitated. "Kerry is a really good doctor, Finn, and now that the paramedics are here we can take - "
"Kim," he said and it was one part rebuke, one part desperation. "Is she going to die?"
Kim pursed her lips. "We don't know for sure yet, Finn. Maybe."
He looked back at the scene unfolding in front of him and saw Kerry shock her with the paddles again. He turned and regarded Kim with those serious, sad eyes. "When you know for pretty sure, will you tell me, please?"
Kim searched his face for signs of what was going through his mind. "Okay, if you want us to."
He turned back towards his Gran and watched, a resigned look on his face.