Title: Solace
Author: suzotchka67@p...
Show/Pairing/Rating, etc.: ER, Kerry/Abby, R
Spoilers: General season 8 spoilers, definitely up through "A Simple Twist of Fate."

Summary: Where Abby really went after leaving the hospital the night she was assaulted by Brian Westlake. An AU/missing scene from "A Simple Twist of Fate."

Notes: 1) this is a follow-up to my "In the Kingdom of the Blind" (post #22297) and a prequel to my "This. Here. Now." (post #s 23493 & 23494) but it isn't necessary to have read either to understand this. In fact, if you haven't read "This. Here. Now" just go ahead and read this first, as it segues right into that one. Both other stories are archived at Jen's Inclement Weather site: http://usa.internations.net/hollywood/inclement/ Just look under author name: Susan (it's still up as of this post, but I think that may be the old URL) 2) To Erin Bree on the WWW list for her informal beta'ing and encouragement of this. And to Eeyore, for her more formal beta-read. 3) To everyone else who's asked for more of my Kerry/Abby fic: Thank You! I haven't forgotten them, I promise. It's just that 'real life' has been really hectic for the last six months or so. But Decisions 3 is partly finished, and I have an idea for at least one follow-up to "This. Here. Now." if only I can find time to work on them. :) 4) Okay to archive at Inclement Weather, ER Femslash, Aeris' site and anywhere else I might've already given permission. Anyone else interested in doing so, please ask first. 5) For Tamy, who's just lost a beloved animal and could probably use a little solace herself, right now. i'm saying prayers for you and Red D. {{hugs}}

Feedback: would be lovely, of course, and may be sent to suzotchka67@p... (the new address) or via whatever lists I post this to.

Disclaimers: The characters belong to Wells, et al., NBC, Warner Bros., Constant C, etc. I'm just borrowing them for a little non-profit fun.



Abby slipped into the lounge, feeling like an interloper despite the fact that she belonged there as much as any of the rest of them. Still, she somehow couldn't quite shake the feeling of wrongness. She shouldn't be here--not under these circumstances. She had the sudden urge to run, only she wasn't quite sure where to go. That was the only reason she'd agreed to go home with Susan Lewis--of all people--because she couldn't think of a better, rational-sounding alternative she could use to weasel out of it.

She had been oddly touched by Susan's offer, truth be told, but she barely knew the woman and she wasn't quite sure she liked her all that much. Part of it had something to do with Carter's rather abrupt turnaround, she realized. She knew she shouldn't blame the other woman for Carter's failings, but she did. A little. And, although she suspected they could become good friends eventually, she wasn't quite ready for that yet.

She sank down onto the couch and hunched over her knees. She'd been mere seconds from dropping her head into her hands before realizing what a painful mistake that would have been. She settled for slumping back against the cushion and resting her head on the back of it.

She tried to come up with alternatives: she didn't want to go home and she didn't want to be alone, but she didn't exactly want to spend the evening exchanging awkward looks and even more awkward conversation with a relative stranger. Carter wasn't an option. Neither was Luka, really, even if he hadn't already taken off somewhere.

The more she thought about it, the more an idea that would've seemed absolutely ridiculous a year ago--or even a couple of weeks ago--began to seem less and less so. She kept coming back to a pair of watery green eyes and a voice quavering with emotions she couldn't fathom at the time. And the now-famous kiss she saw that had answered some of her questions while raising still more. The kiss could have been almost anything, but everything else she had seen of the exchange between Weaver and that firefighter spoke of a goodbye, right down to the pained, defeated look she thought she'd glimpsed in Kerry's eyes before she forced herself to step away and allow her boss to retain what dignity she could.

Then she thought of the conversation she'd had with Kerry about Joyce Westlake that day--the look in her eyes that said, 'You may be wasting your time, but I understand why you need to try.'

By the time Susan Lewis poked her head into the lounge, Abby had replayed every nuance of that conversation in her head at least twice, and she made her decision.



"I'm off in forty-five minutes... Can you hang in there that long or should I just give you my keys and the directions so you can get out of here now?"

"Um, actually, Dr. Lewis..."

"Susan," the blonde corrected.

"Susan. There's actually another...um...friend," the word felt strange in her mouth, but it seemed right, somehow. "I can call. And... I really appreciate your offer, but..."

"Have you called this...friend already?"

"Um...not yet."

Lewis seemed to debate her next words. "Abby, I know this is awkward for you, but if this 'friend' is just another way to avoid accepting help... Well, I'd just feel better knowing you weren't alone tonight, and that you didn't go anywhere near your place..."

"Susan, the friend isn't an imaginary one, I promise. I just... I don't really feel like getting into it right now. There are some things I'd like to keep under the radar when it comes to the grapevine around here."

Again, Susan seemed to debate her next question. "If Luka asks...?"

"It's not that kind of friend. And if he asks, just tell him I'll check in with him tomorrow."

Susan nodded. "Okay. But promise me one thing: if your plans fall through for any reason, call me, okay? My offer's still open."


"And if there's anything else I can do..."

"Um, actually... if you could loan me a few bucks for the El?"

"Oh, sure." Susan stepped over to her locker to retrieve her purse and pull out a couple of bills. She then walked back and held them out to Abby.

"Here. Take a cab."

Abby stared at the bills as though she'd never seen such things before. Thirty dollars. She made a vague 'stop' gesture with her hand.

"I can't... That's too--"

"Abby," Susan cut her off. "You've had a rough night. Take it easy. It's on me. If you're worried about it just...buy me lunch sometime, or something."

Abby started to protest again, but she didn't think she'd win the argument so she just gave in and took the money.

"Okay. Thanks."

"You're welcome. Well, I should get back out there..."

"Okay. See you later."

Susan was halfway through the door when she turned back. She looked for a moment as if she might say something else, but then seemed to reconsider and just turned and kept going.

Abby breathed a sigh of relief--all the 'concern' was beginning to get to her. She walked out of the lounge and over to the Admit desk. She tried to be as inconspicuous as possible while rummaging behind the desk for the directory of ER and surgical staff phone numbers and addresses. Luckily for her Frank was otherwise occupied trying to hustle a homeless guy back outside into the cold from which he'd tried to seek relief. She quickly found the information she needed and slipped away before anyone was any the wiser.

Kerry's place was relatively close to the hospital and easily accessible via the El, but Abby decided to take the cab. It took most of the money Susan had given her, but the relative peace of the ride had been worth it, and she had enough left to take the El back to her place if she had to.

She stood on Kerry's front step, gathering her courage before ringing the bell.

The woman who came to the door looked pale, drawn, and a little unsteady on her feet.

"You look like hell." It was a pre-emptive strike.

She couldn't quite decide whether Kerry was more unnerved by her comment, or by her obvious injuries.

Kerry just looked at her dumbly for a moment, then shook it off and replied with a hint of sarcasm, "thanks. You, too." She stepped back and gestured for Abby to come in.

Kerry followed her into the living room, then moved around her to grab the blanket she'd apparently been wrapped in before being disturbed. She curled up on one end of the couch, wrapped the blanket around herself again and gestured for Abby to take up residence on the remaining expanse of cushions.

Abby did so, opting not for the opposite corner of the couch but a spot somewhere in the middle. She turned sideways, facing Kerry, one knee curled in front of her, the other hooked over an ankle and one arm across the back of the couch, stretching out toward Kerry.

Despite her posture, she couldn't quite look at the other woman and, having reached her destination, she was suddenly at a loss for what to do or say. Her eyes flitted around the room, not really seeing anything until they slid across Kerry's face again and she did a double take, studying the obvious signs of illness.

"Kerry, you really do look kinda bad. Have you taken anything?"

Kerry nodded, "The nausea is easing up now, actually, but I'm still a little dehydrated."

"You should be drinking water then. Or juice. How about juice? I should get you some--" she had been two seconds away from launching herself on this new- found mission, oblivious to the fact that Kerry was more than capable of taking care of herself and that she was Kerry's guest, rather than the reverse.

But the warm hand that slid over hers, gripping it lightly, stopped her cold. She slumped back into place on the couch and met Kerry's eyes, finding herself transfixed by them.

"Abby. Are you ever going to tell me what happened?" Kerry asked.

"Oh. That."

"Yeah. That. I'm assuming that whatever happened has something to do with why you came here tonight. And I'd guess it wasn't an accident, or you would have told me already."

"No. Nothing accidental about it." Her voice sounded bitter to her own ears, but she couldn't decide with whom she was angrier: Brian Westlake, or herself.

She stared into the distance at some point beyond Kerry's shoulder, willing the tears not to come.

"I spent the better part of my day convincing my neighbor, Joyce, to go to a shelter and helping her with the arrangements. And I got knocked on my ass for my trouble." Only after saying it did she risk meeting Kerry's eyes.

"Her husband." There was no judgment in Kerry's eyes and the sympathy shining from them was a welcome balm to her jangled nerves. Funny how sympathy could look and feel so different, depending upon the source. Coming from Susan Lewis it had been mildly annoying, but from Kerry it was...welcoming, comforting.

She nodded. "It was stupid. I was stupid," she growled. "Joyce was in the shelter by the time Brian caught up with me. She was safe. And the asshole comes to my door wanting to know where she was."

She shook her head and mumbled, more for her own benefit than Kerry's, "bad enough I let him in the first damn time. I should've known better when he came back. Just asking for--"

Kerry cut her off, "Abby. No one asks to be beaten. Not the Joyce Westlakes of the world, and--no matter what you did--not you, either. He's the one with the problem. All you can do is hope he'll get the help he needs now."

"Right now, I don't much give a damn what happens to him as long as he doesn't come near me."

Kerry's hand was still warm on hers and it anchored her somehow, keeping her from drifting away on a sea of bitterness.

"I can understand how you feel, but the sooner he gets the help he needs to change, the safer Joyce--or the next woman--will be."

Abby looked at Kerry--really looked at her. "Can you really be that optimistic? After all the stuff we see come through the ER on a daily basis?"

Kerry shrugged and half-smiled. "Let's just say that I want to believe. You do, too. You were optimistic enough about getting help for Joyce the other day."

Abby hmphed bitterly. "Yeah, well, that was before being knocked unconscious and having to endure a pelvic--"

Kerry's grip on her hand became almost painful and she looked up into Kerry's horror-filled eyes.

"Abby. He didn't...?" Kerry asked, unable to finish the thought.

Abby shook her head quickly, wanting to soothe away Kerry's fears. "No. No. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you..." Worry about me, she finished in her head. Kerry Weaver is worried about me. She turned that thought over and over in her mind for a moment, savoring it before continuing with her explanation.

"It was just a precaution, really. I passed out for...a while. But, no, it was just my face."

Only then did Kerry loosen her grip, though she still held Abby's hand loosely.

She nodded, "speaking of which, I should probably get you some ice for that." Then something else occurred to her and she asked, "have you eaten? Can I get you...anything?"

"Uhm...maybe some coffee?"

"Sure. Are you sure I can't get you something to eat, though? I couldn't face cooking tonight, but I could probably scrounge up some leftovers..."

"Um..." Abby thought it over for a minute. She wasn't really hungry, but she probably should try to eat something. "Maybe just some buttered toast? If you feel up to joining me?"

Kerry smiled. "I think I can manage that." She got up, "I'll just be a minute," and headed for the kitchen.

Abby sat there for all of thirty seconds before the relative silence began to get to her, propelling her off the couch and into the kitchen after Kerry. She said nothing, just leaned on her elbows against the center island and watched the other woman's movements. She tried not to stare, but she let her eyes follow Kerry, needing that small sense of connection. It was better than being alone with her thoughts.

The longer the silence stretched out between them, the more she began to worry about how much longer she could stretch out this visit before she had to leave, or break down and ask to stay.

Kerry set their plates on the island, one in front of Abby, one opposite her, and turned back to get their coffee. Abby fidgeted nervously and Kerry caught her eyeing the clock again when she came back with the coffee.

"Is there somewhere else you need to be, Abby?"

Here it comes, she thought. She tried to steel herself for the blow as she mumbled, "Um, no...notreally."

"Well. Best to stay where you are, then."

Abby's head shot up and she met Kerry's eyes, releasing the breath she hadn't been aware of holding.

"I'd offer you the basement, but since I haven't rented it out in awhile, it's become kind of a storage room. Not really fit for habitation. So, you can take my bed and I'll stay on the couch."

Abby shook her head, still not quite believing Kerry was asking her to stay. "Kerry... I can't take your bed."

"But you're going to," Kerry said in her best 'Chief' voice before softening it to finish with, "tonight. It's the least I can do for you, after the day you've had. And I've spent my share of nights on that couch, so it's no hardship, really."

"Kerry..." Abby choked out, suddenly staring down at her hands as they methodically tore her toast into small pieces and dropped them back onto the small plate.

Kerry didn't intrude on Abby's nervous silence--just let it play itself out.

When it had, Abby looked up and quietly said, "thank you."

Kerry didn't say anything, just nodded and reached over to pat Abby's hand lightly. When she tried to pull her hand back, Abby reached out to catch it in hers, holding it firmly.

"Kerry, I... I couldn't go home tonight. Dr. Lewis offered to let me crash at her place, but...the more I thought about it, the more I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to go. So, thank you. For, um...not sendingmeaway," she finished quickly.

Kerry went very, very still: shock, compassion, and a few other emotions registering on her face. The increased pressure on her hand was the only thing that let Abby know how much her words had affected Kerry. That, and the quaver in Kerry's voice as she replied, "anytime."

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes as they finished their coffee and picked at their food. They weren't uncomfortable, really, just unsure what to say to one another.

Abby finally broke the spell after taking one last bite and pushing her plate away. "I guess that's it. Sorry, I just wasn't really all that hungry."

Kerry mirrored Abby's movements. "Yeah. Me, either."

Abby winced as she straightened and pushed away from the counter. Kerry noticed immediately and asked, "what's wrong?"

Abby moved experimentally, testing the muscles in her back and shoulders. "Just a little stiff."

"And probably tired, too. Why don't I run you a hot bath to help with the soreness, and after that you can lie down, if you want?"

Abby started to protest, but the idea of a hot bath was more than a little tempting. "Okay. That sounds good, actually."

Kerry was already in motion. "Okay. I need to get some ice for that eye, too," she said as she hustled away into the depths of the house.

"Okay," Abby intoned to the now-empty room.

In moments, Abby heard the sound of water running. For lack of something better to do, she discarded the remains of their food and took their dishes to the sink. She had just started washing the first plate when Kerry returned.

"I can get those, Abby." She was already gathering ice for the ice pack, which she then held out for Abby.

Abby gingerly held it to her face, wincing at the pressure against the tender area.

"The tub's filling up. I hope you like it hot?"


"Do you want to borrow something to sleep in?"

"No," Abby replied, grabbing a corner of her scrub top for emphasis, "these will do. I'll have to go by my place tomorrow anyway to change, or at least pick up some clothes."

"Okay. Come on, the bathroom is this way." Kerry led her through the bedroom and to the open door of the bathroom. The tub was nearly full and she stepped over to turn off the faucet.

"Soap and shampoo are within easy reach. If you need anything else, just yell."

"Okay, thanks," Abby said as Kerry left, closing the door behind her.


Kerry took a moment to gather a pillow and a blanket for herself from the bedroom. She deposited them on the corner of the couch before heading back to the kitchen.

She busied herself with the dishes, still pondering the reality of a still somewhat forlorn-looking Abby Lockhart in her home. She could think of any number of candidates less likely to show up on her doorstep looking for... what? Understanding? Support? Comfort? Still, she'd been surprised that Abby had sought her out. Surprised, if not by the vulnerability in Abby's eyes, then by the trust in them. That was what got to her.

She still wasn't quite sure what it was that Abby wanted or needed from her, but she was determined to do everything she could do for the young woman. She would not violate Abby's trust in her.

The dishes didn't take long, but Kerry continued to putter around the kitchen. She resorted to cleaning out the refrigerator as a means of curbing her sudden restlessness. That gave her a few more dishes to wash.

Once those were done, she surveyed the kitchen, but couldn't think of anything else to do to kill time. As she headed back to the living room, it occurred to her that there might not be any extra towels in the bathroom for Abby. She grabbed a couple and knocked lightly on the bathroom door.

No answer.

She opened the door a crack, knocking a little harder.


Still no answer. Maybe she'd drifted off?

Kerry pushed the door open slightly and spoke a little louder, "Abby? Sorry to bother you, but I brought some extra towels..."

Still nothing. The silence was starting to worry her a little. She slipped into the bathroom, keeping her eyes trained on the vanity mirror and away from the tub itself. She placed the towels on a cabinet.

"Abby? Are you all right?"

When there was still no response, she ventured a glance toward the tub. Abby hadn't bothered pulling the curtain, so Kerry had an unobstructed view of her. She was hunched forward, arms wrapped around her bent knees, ice pack dangling from the fingers of one hand, eyes staring at nothing in particular.

This was definitely not good.

-------------Continued in Solace, part 2...