Time: Post Season 8
Characters: Kerry Weaver and Jackie Benton Robbins
Rating: Hmm...tough one. What goes on goes on above the waist, so I’d say R.
All characters belong to their respective copyright owners, with the additional notation that Khandi Alexander is one of the most beautiful women on television.
It had been a busy, irritating shift in the ER, with too many people dying, and too many children crying and too many lives tranformed too suddenly, and one of those days when Kerry thought she might as well have been a plumber because their pay worked out better hourly, and informing customers that their sink needed to be replaced was a lot easier than telling them that Grandma had died.
Kerry made her way up to the El, keeping her eyes focused on her feet, knowing if she looked to see how many steps were left, she might have to sit down and stay there for the rest of the night.
She almost stumbled at the top, and jostled a woman. Kerry had already started to apologize when she realized she knew the woman: she was Jackie Robbins, Peter Benton’s sister.
“Dr. Weaver, are you all right?” Jackie asked. She took Kerry’s arm and led her to a bench. Kerry didn’t usually like to be helped, when someone grabbed her crutch arm, it threw her off balance. Kerry realized it had been months since she’d seen Peter’s sister; Jackie used to come by to pick up or drop off his son Reese, and Kerry would never forget the day her son was shot. She would always hear the agony in Jackie’s scream as Peter emerged from the treatment room, bloodsoaked, holding out his empty hands.
“How are you? How’s Reese? Peter? Cleo?” Kerry asked quickly. She tried to remember Jackie’s husband’s name. “And you, of course...” Kerry had always noticed that Jackie was a beautiful woman, but now her grief was etched into her face, giving her a gravity that suggested she no longer smiled much.
“I always meant to thank you for that note you sent me...” Jackie began.
“It wasn’t much...”Kerry interrupted. “No one can come up with anything really comforting at a time like that.”
“I couldn’t read the cards and letters at first,” Jackie told her, sighing. “But later, I did go through them, and I did find some comfort. I appreciate you keeping our family in your prayers.”
“Sometimes it’s the only thing you can do,” Kerry replied. “Funny thing to hear, I guess, coming from a doctor.”
“No, Peter’s a religious man,” Jackie said. “I know he prays before he operates on a patient, and says a word or two when he has to stop and let them go.”
“I miss him,” Kerry said, realizing just how much. She and Peter had never been easy with each other, but then neither of them were that type of person. She respected him, and sensed they were alike: closed in and proud, ambitious and hard to know. And Romano had taken target practice on them both.
“If you asked me five years ago if I thought Peter Benton would walk away from here, I would have laughed. Everyone knew Peter was going to be the Greatest Surgeon in the World. Now he comes home at night for dinner and puts his son to bed, and talks about signing him up for tee-ball!” Jackie shook her head and let out a mirthless laugh. “I love Reese almost as much as Peter does.” She closed her eyes briefly, and Kerry knew she was thinking of her lost boy.
The train came roaring into the station, and they got on together. Jackie pulled a picture of Reese out of her purse and Kerry’s heart melted; he was so much bigger than the last time she’d held him. She wished she could heft him again. As if reading her mind, Jackie prompted her.
“You should call them, get yourself invited for dinner, you can pretend it’s to visit with Peter and Cleo, but Reese will know you’re one of his fan club.” Kerry let out a laugh, and this time Jackie joined her.
“Do you have children, Dr. Weaver?” Jackie asked, and Kerry shook her head.
“So, why were you at County today?” she asked, hoping Jackie took the change of subject when it was offered.
“Oh, the annual breast-squeezing,” Jackie said with a grimace. “I swear it takes me 11 months of the year to work up the nerve to come back for the NEXT mammogram. If MEN had to get them, I bet they’d have a machine that wasn’t so cold and painful!”
“It really does hurt, doesn’t it?” Kerry agreed, abandoning the denial she’d usually use with a patient (“It’s just a little pinch...”). She’d started with a baseline mammogram when she turned 35, because she had no idea what her family medical history was. So far, they’d all been clean. She involuntarily glanced at Jackie’s chest, and observed that her breasts were well formed and filled out the light blouse she wore. Jackie caught Kerry checking her out, and raised her eyebrows. She didn’t look annoyed, just surprised.
“I have to take care of myself for the ones I still have,” Jackie told her. “You know, there was a time I didn’t care if I lived or died. But I am a mother still, and a wife, a sister, and an aunt. I had to remind myself of that.” Jackie had a daughter, too, Kerry knew.
“How did you do it?” Kerry asked.
“I have a good husband, he’s a real partner,” Jackie told her. “Walt doesn’t say much, but he knows a lot. He told me to get help, and I finally did. I found a group of parents who’d lost their children, and I talk with them. It helps. And sometimes I help someone else.”
“I’m glad you reached out,” Kerry said. “It really is hard, isn’t it?”
“Not as hard as holding it all in,” Jackie replied, looking at Kerry expectantly. “Well, I told you mine, are you going to tell me yours?”
Kerry was embarassed. She was never sure how close to be to people.
“I don’t know about having a partner,” Kerry said. “I’ve never really had one. And I feel like I’m starting over again at this late date. It’s confusing.”
“You mean because you’re a lesbian?” Jackie responded. The train screeched as it slowed.
“This is my stop,” Kerry announced.
“Is it really?” Jackie questioned. “Or do you just not like talking about yourself?”
“Um...yes to both,” Kerry confessed. “But if you have time, you can stop by and have a drink. Do you drink?” She knew Peter didn’t.
“I am not my brother, and I would enjoy a cocktail or two with you,” Jackie told her, taking her arm again as they rose to get off the train.
“Do you have any women friends?” Jackie continued in her abrupt manner as they worked their way through a bottle of red wine. “I mean, girls you aren’t sleeping with.”
Kerry was on her third glass, relaxed enough to stop flinching, and she thought about it before she answered.
“No, actually,” she confessed to Jackie. “If you mean people to call up and do things with, I’m afraid not.” She had colleagues who respected her, people who expressed their gratitude for her care, a few schoolmates she exchanged emails with...and that was about it. The friends of Kim’s she’d met at that excruciating dinner had scared her, as she wasn’t sure if she could be friends with an ex-lover. She hadn’t met many of Sandy’s friends, but she knew that the firefighter had a deep bond with the men and women in her squad, and was close to her family.
“Family and friends can be your lifeline,” Jackie said, eyes shut. A tear escaped from beneath one lid and she didn’t wipe it. “We love them so much, that if we lose them we don’t know how we will live, but we have the ones around us to show us. Remember that.” She seemed to be telling herself as much as Kerry.
“The last time I saw Mark Greene, he told me not to make my work my life,” Kerry said. She had known on a very deep level that it was true, but had no idea how to take the steps that added up to having a life of her own that wasn’t completely about her work.
“Take baby steps,” Jackie told her. “It can be as simple as saying to someone: you know, I don’t feel very happy today.”
“And what if they use it against you?” Kerry asked. She thought about that a lot. Showing weakness would always come back to haunt you.
“What did your mother teach you?” Jackie asked. “Mine told me to look for the best in people. She died a few years ago, but somehow I can always feel her with me.”
“I don’t know my birth mother,” Kerry confessed. “My parents were good to me. They took me in.”
“It takes more than feeding and clothing a child to bring it up,” Jackie said with authority. “A child needs to be told he’s loved.”
“My parents loved me,” Kerry clarified. “I don’t know if my mother loved me.”
“I’m sure she did,” Jacke said, seizing Kerry’s wrist. “I think it’s impossible for her not to, unless she’s dead, or so far gone for some reason that it’s better for the child to be somewhere else.”
“You’re very wise,” Kerry told her, wondering why tears were welling up in her own eyes.
“Hmm...some of it I got from my mother, some on my own. And a little from school. Peter’s not the only one with a degree in our family,” she asserted. Kerry thought that must be a sore point for her; she seemed to be a very proud woman.
“What I mean to say is that when you look down and see that little being at your breast, and feel him taking his nourishment from you, then you know he’s still a part of you, even though he’s not inside you anymore. And he always will be, and you’ll always be his mother.” Jackie’s tears flowed freely now, and Kerry wiped her own. Suddenly Jackie let out a laugh, and fished a tissue out of her purse.
“Are we a couple of crybabies?” she asked, but in a tender tone. “Give us a couple of drinks and we’re crying into our beer.”
“Merlot,” Kerry corrected, with a weak smile.
“Sometimes I remember their mouths at my nipple like it was yesterday,” Jackie said, sighing. “Some women don’t breastfeed, and they are just as close to their kids, but I couldn’t imagine not doing it.”
“It’s a physiological reaction that helps the woman’s body recover from the birth process,” Kerry said, heading for the medical side of things so as not to think about Jackie’s breasts.
“I think a woman’s breast is the most beautiful thing about her,” Jackie said.
“So do I,” said Kerry, smiling. She had loved spending hours at Kim’s nipples, finding them endlessly fascinating. Sandy usually pushed her head down a bit further, but didn’t mind some stimulation with her fingers while Kerry’s tongue was busy elsewhere.
“Walt loves them, too, but he’s never able to make them feel the way they did when my babies were there, the soft lips, the tongue, the sucking so hard it feels good, and your milk just flows. You feel like the mother of all things.” Kerry licked her own lips and inwardly condemned herself for showing her inappropriate feelings at an inappropriate moment.
Then Jackie began to unbutton her blouse. Kerry stopped breathing. Jackie unhooked her bra at the front, and Kerry almost moaned at the sight of her beautiful silky breasts, the nipples already puckering into dark rosebuds.
“Would you like to...” Jackie began.
“May I?” Kerry asked, not daring to believe what was being offered.
“Come drink from me, Kerry,” Jackie told her. “It’ll do us both good.”