THE THING IN THE BASEMENT
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 AA, 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.
FEEDBACK, COMMENTS AND FLAMES: Email at email@example.com
"Dj vu, dude."
"Dj vu doo, 'duh!"
"Oh God, why did we hire them?" I ask the sky.
"We're cute," said Matt.
"We're buff," added Josh.
"We're Democrats!" they chorus in obvious glee.
"You forgot cheap," Abby mutters, bouncing the cardboard box she is holding and trying to get it comfortable.
"Could we please remember the bed? The one halfway down the stairs. The one that weighs a frigging ton and is squishing me flat."
"Hey, Doctor Kerry, if you're done with the noisy blond Josh and I can see how much we can get on eBay---"
"This is so not funny, Kerry. Abby, stop laughing I'm stuck."
"Okay, Josh and Abby go through the house and help Kim from the bottom. Matt you help support the bed until they get there."
"What are you doing?"
"I'm just going to roll around on the front lawn in hysterical laughter."
"Well, that was certainly less traumatic then last time," Matt comments as he snags the last piece of pizza
"Dude," Josh adds, "And no real furniture and not as much clothes as last time."
"And a single bed, Miss Lockhart. I realize there was a bit of trouble getting the box springs down the stairs but when it comes to moving I much appreciate a single bed. Now, moving in Leg's bed was a challenge."
"Dude!" Josh yelps.
"Especially after that accident with that cardboard box," Matt continues. "Certainly made it hard to even look at the bed."
"What accident with what cardboard box," I ask, suspecting I'm going to regret it.
"The one marked sex toys that spilled all over the front lawn."
The spray of coke was a fine mist that covered the coffee table. "What!"
"Don't worry," Matt hastened to add, "we got it all back."
"That nice Mrs. Rodriguez helped."
"Course it was a son of a bitch to get that one, ummm, accessory away from the dog."
"You didn't mind the teeth mark, Doctor Kerry? Doctor Kerry?"
"Remember what they say about payback, Kerry?" Kim asks.
"Speechless and bright red. That'll be ten dollars," Matt informs her.
"Each," Josh added.
"Well worth it, boys."
"This was a good idea."
It's said in a dull monotone while she's lying flat on her back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Her clothes are smudged with dust, there's a new tear in her torn jeans and there's a line of pizza sauce under her left ear.
"You don't sound sure," I reply, gingerly climbing up onto the bed and straddling her just above the knees.
"It was a good idea," she says, lifting her head briefly to look at me before allowing it to fall with a thud against the pillow.
"For reasons other than the fact that it was your idea?"
She smiles and flexes her knees slightly so I lift a bit into the air. "Yes."
"Refresh my memory."
"We never have and therefore never will organize the basement from an apartment into an office."
"We don't want the house unoccupied as much as it currently is because of our weird shifts and your extended shifts."
"A medical student makes a great baby sitter."
"As you're not even pregnant that's putting the cart before the horse."
"And, even though her dead beat ex-husband married a conscious, she still needs a cheap place to stay."
"And lord knows you're cheap."
"Any other reasons?"
"She's one of the few people who can put up with you."
"I was going to tell you about the pizza smear but I think I'll just see if you go to work like that tomorrow."
Both hands fly to her face to search. "Gross! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Payback part one."
"Part one? Of how many?"
"I dunno," I say, putting a mock thoughtful look on my face. "Sex toys and Mrs. Rodriguez in the same sentence. Just try to put a payback total to that."
She grins and closes her eyes. "That was such a good one. They so had you going."
"Those two have no respect for either my years or my professional abilities."
"Probably because you were flashing me the first time they saw you."
"Valid point," I concede. "Dude."
"Oh, funny. You should be in the circus?"
"As a clown."
"Nope," she says. "Acrobat."
Runner's legs are strong and suddenly I'm falling forward to be caught against her chest.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Flying Weaver!"
I start laughing, which triggers giggles of her own.
"It was a good idea," I tell her when I can finally breathe.
At first I thought it was the music, louder than I normally like but a bit on the quiet side for a club.
Then I think it's the dancing that is distracting Kim who is being super attentive and refusing to dance even though she obviously wants to. But Christie and her newest amour are on the floor performing the closest thing to public sex that I ever want to see and Kim won't leave the table because it's our first night out of the house in three weeks.
But then I notice the slightly glazed look and followed Kim's eyes to what, or rather who, she's looking at.
"You know her?" I ask because the woman looked vaguely familiar. Late 20s, dark hair and dancing like no one was watching, sometimes part of a group of friends and sometimes alone.
"No, I don't think so," Kim answers, voice very distracted. I look at her sharply, worried that she's coming down with something. Her face is a bit flushed and I casually try to take her pulse. The fact that I'm successful without her noticing concerns me more than the elevated heart rate. I'm about to suggest we go home when it hits me. I shift my chair closer, bringing my mouth close to her ear, my breath tickling hair. "But you want to get to know her?" I ask putting everything I have into that Old Testament euphemism. Kim's breath catches and it's all the answer I need. "Ask her to dance," I order and Kim stiffens. "Its okay. Dance, love." She stares at me hard, as if to see if this is some test or dare but, because it isn't, she simply nods and heads for the floor. She catches the woman's eye, moves in and I watch as they have a brief conversation before their separate dances mix and join.
"Nice view?" Christie asks. I look around for the woman that has been attached to Christie's hip for the last three hours and Christie answers my unspoken question. "At the bar."
Both of us are trying to be nice to each other for Kim's sake so I nod and smile before turning back to watch Kim. "Very nice view." "Are you going home alone tonight, Kerry?" "Do you remember your date's name, Christie?" Neither of us is trying very hard, however. "I told you what Kimmie was like," Christie says with a thread of real compassion in her voice. I watch Kim and her nameless partner dance for a few minutes. Not as close as Christie and her flavour of the week but even across the large room I can see something happening between them. "That was when she was young," I counter. "And you think her ring around your finger means she's changed?" "Fuck off, Christie."
"Truth hurts, Kerry?"
"Christie, what are you trying to do?"
"I'm trying to get you so angry that you storm over there, chase off that woman and take Kim home so that she doesn't go off with her and you leave her and crush her leaving me to pick up the pieces again." I stare at her.
"It's too painful, seeing her hurt," Christie adds. I'm trying to form a response when the song ends. I watch as the two of them stand close, Kim's blond hair over laying the brown as she bends down to talk above the noise of the crowd.
"They're setting it up," Christie says, her voice almost dispassionate. "You're speaking from experience."
"Some excuse, like the hospital or a ride home because her friends want to stay and she has a headache."
Kim's hand disappears into the front pocket of her jeans and returns with her pager.
"I see we're going with a work related emergency." They part, one of those arm grips that slide down the arm and linger at the fingertips. As she approaches I see that Kim is smiling that bemused, distracted smile of her that makes me think of summer days. "Babe? I gotta phone in. Be right back." Christie is silent as we watch Kim walk toward the bank of pay phones and make a call.
"Probably phoning dial a prayer," Christie says. "What is it that's really bothering you Christie? The fact that she cheated on you or the fact that she doesn't cheat on me?" "Fuck off, Kerry."
"You know what, Christie. She's either going to come back and share the evening with you and whatiz her name and I'll be right. Or she's going to come back with some lame reason for bailing and I'm going home alone tonight. And you know what?"
She shakes her head, looking up over my shoulder. "It doesn't matter which."
"Hey," Kim says, hand on my shoulder as she sits beside me, hitching her chair up so that her arm can remain on my shoulders. "Do you have to go in?"
"Nope, just approved some med changes that Foster wanted to make for a patient. Monday is soon enough. Which what?"
"Nothing that matters," Christie says and we return to a frosty politeness that doesn't fool Kim. Everyone seems relieved when Christie's date suggests an early night.
After dropping off Christie and her friend the car ride home was largely silent, only the light summer rain and the soft strains of a classical piece.
"You're quiet," Kim finally says.
"I'm the mandated introvert of the relationship. I'm required to be taciturn and pensive three hours a month or I loose my card."
"Ah. Christie pissed you off again?"
I smile. "She makes retaining my card so easy."
"Is it safe to ask what it was about this time?"
I'm silent for a minute before speaking. "When you were young, in college say, would you have ditched your date and gone with that woman you danced with."
"I'm going to kill that so called friend of mine and chop up the pieces and hide them with Hoffa."
"That would be a yes?"
"That would be it's really a moot point Kerry because, first I'm not that immature college kid and, second I didn't. So don't map my past actions onto what I didn't do tonight."
"But..." I start but fall silent because she's radiating anger to a degree that talk is futile at the moment.
We pull into the drive and she leads the way into the house, tossing the keys onto the hall table so they bounce out of the small dish.
"It doesn't matter which," she quotes and I realize again that her training as a psychiatrist allows her to dredge up snippets of conversation and link them and spring them on her patients with deadly accuracy. "Which what?"
"Whether you were going home with the mystery dancer or with me."
Of all the expressions I expected to see on her face amusement was quite apiece down the list. "Do you want a drink? Wine, scotch, whatever?"
I feel a thread of unease. "Orange juice would be fine."
She grins. That John Travolta grin that after three years still makes me feel like I've never seen it the way it catches my breath "Why don't you pick out a CD while I grab the drinks then."
I nod and she's gone. It's not until I hear the fridge door open and close that I shake myself into action and head to the CD collection. I pick one almost by random, stick it into the tray and turn the volume down to conversational level. I drop the remote onto the coffee table and sit nervously on the couch.
She returns with the drinks, setting them down on the table before picking up my crutch and setting it on the floor in front of the couch.
I wait to see where she'll sit. Either on the couch beside me if it's going to be a serious talk or in the easy chair if it's going to be a terribly serious talk.
Instead she kneels in front of me, pushing my knees apart with her hip as she grabs the waistband of my jeans and pulls me into her.
"Now," she says. "I want to demonstrate something."
Her hands run lightly up my back to the base of my head and she pulls me forward until our lips touch in what the books would call a passionate kiss. She breaks it off abruptly.
"That was me kissing you while thinking about the woman I was dancing with."
As I try to decipher that she pulls me forward into another kiss. One that makes the previous one seem like a match in comparison to a forest fire. Effortlessly it builds until I sure that an ounce of pressure will put me over the edge when she backs off abruptly, causing me to whimper softly.
"That was me kissing you with all the love and respect and affection and desire I feel for you."
"Want to bring the orange juice upstairs?"
"No," she says, settling back on her heels. I draw a shaky breath.
"We're still talking, right?"
"Not at you. Christie on the other hand is going to die a slow and painful death involving much embarrassment and mortification. She is going to whine and beg for forgiveness for trying to plant any seed of doubt in your mind about me. I suspect in her own warped way she was trying to protect me," I nod, "but damn," and the grin is back, "she just doesn't know when to stop."
"But you're not upset with me?"
"Nope. You know better than to waste energy on a fight you can't win. Or on one you've already won."
"So you're saying I should save my energy?"
"More like redirect it."
"We've stopped talking now?"
There are days...
I hang up my coat, umbrella and kicked the briefcase into the far back corner of the closet. I'd have to finish the month ends tonight but for now, out of sight, out of mind.
There are days...
A clatter in the kitchen catches me attention.
"Kim," I call out, pushing through the swing door.
"No, me Abby."
She quirks a half smile, looking up from the box of rice she's reading. "Such enthusiasm."
"Sorry," leaning against the island and closing my eyes. "Long day."
"Ah. Kim called in saying she'd be about a half hour late and asked me to start dinner."
" Stir fry okay?"
"How about with fried ants?"
"I am paying attention, Abby."
I hear a scraping sound and open my eyes to see Abby pushing the small step stool towards me. "Bad day?"
"Understated yet still accurate."
"C'mere," she instructed, standing on the stool and opening her arms. "I'm not Stretch but the general idea is the same. C'mon," she says when I hesitate, "I don't bite."
Leaving the crutch behind I take the half step necessary and, feeling somewhat foolish, embrace Abby around her waist. Silently she returns the embrace, resting her cheek against my head.
It's not the same. It's not Kim. But it feels good.
"You're a good friend, Abby."
"I have my moments."
I'm wracking my brain, trying to come up with the last time someone held me in friendship and coming up blank when I feel another embrace.
"Hey, you okay?" Kim asks.
"Better and better."
"Why are you on a stool, Abby?"
"So I'm big like you."
"Ah. Amateur psychology. Gotta love it."
"It works," I protest as the three of us break apart.
Kim regards Abby, still standing on the foot stool, and shakes her head. "Maybe. But it's really weird so please get down."
"Weird?" Abby asks, rising so she's actually looking down at Kim.
"Make me, Short Stuff," Abby drawls just before Kim picks her up bodily in a modified fireman's carry. "Hey!"
"Stop wiggling. This is why firemen don't wear high heels."
Abby laughs harder, causing Kim to laugh causing me to smile. They exit the kitchen, leaving me alone to listen to their laughs and giggles.
There are day...
"Hey, Ker? Wanna blow the weekly restaurant budget on somewhere where we can eat with our fingers and tease Abby about her inferiority complex concerning her height?"
...that I would never change.
"How about this one?"
I looked at the file Kim had placed in front of me, glancing over the front page summary.
"No." I said, dumping him onto the No-Way pile after a quick look.
"Kim, the beauty of a veto is I don't have to explain."
"But Ker. He's a trumpet player. Played professionally with a symphony."
"Musical. Great lungs. Strong lips. Dexterous tongue. We owe these genetic gifts to our future son or daughter in law."
"You could give me a clue."
"Any one who potentially slept with anyone we work for is vetoed."
She stares at me. "Well, hell, Kerry, that's half the male population of Chicago."
"Abby, can you open the wine?"
After the first year we made a promise. Four nights a month we have a formal, sit down with each other dinner. Sometimes it works out to the last four nights in the month and sometimes we combine it with dinner with friends but so far we've kept the promise to each other.
"You sure I'm not intruding?"
"No, no intrusion," I say, pushing in the cart. At first glance the cart is an affectation but really, you try bringing in five courses with one hand.
"The more the merrier. And with you here we're more likely to finish the meal than enacting that scene from Bull Durham," Kim says, causing my face to heat.
"You actually watched a movie other than Tomb Raider?"
"They made movies before Tomb Raider," I say, "Just none after it. According to Kim anyway."
"Ha ha ha," Kim intones dryly as she takes the bottle from Abby and begins to pour a third glass.
"No!" We stare at her. "No, thanks. I'll just have juice."
I can almost see the visible effort Kim makes to simply nod and drop the subject. I'm impressed that she manages to make it through to desert. She motions for me to sit as she quickly clears the table, taking the dirty dishes to the kitchen and returning with the coffee tray.
Minus the liquor glasses and the bottle of Madeira.
"Kim, what happened to the bottle and the weeny little glasses?"
Kim pauses, frowning slightly at the tray as if only just noticing the absence. "Changed my mind?" she asked tentatively.
"I may occasionally come across like a cultureless nomad but I do know that after a nice, fancy dinner with three forks and candles that you can drink sherry or port with your coffee. Hell, the Carters do it after breakfast."
"You've had breakfast at John's?" Kim asks, latching onto the potential subject change like a life buoy.
Feeling like I'm at a tennis match I turn to look at Abby. Who is looking at Kim with cold calculation.
"It was after a very late shift and an even later AA meeting but John said habits are hard to break with servants."
Kim grins. "And the click you hear is the closet door closing behind you. Welcome out."
Abby laughs, an abrupt sound that's equal parts mirth and relief. "Yeah. I guess it's the same. This going to be a problem?"
"No," Kim says. And then looks at me.
"No," I answer and both are suddenly staring at me and I realize that both heard the hesitancy that was in my voice. "Maybe," I amend.
"Nearly eight years," Abby says, answering the unspoken, her tone almost defiant.
Kim pours out the coffee while Abby watches me and I wish that I could just make a snap decision. Just snap my fingers and have this not matter.
And then it doesn't. And I feel like an ass.
"Sorry, Abby. I'm an ass."
It's hard to tell who's more shocked.
"Not at all," Abby protests.
"Absolutely," Kim agrees and I don't press to find out if she's agreeing with Abby or myself. I think myself.
"The only thing that's changed is my perception. You're the same. There's no problem."
It's only when she relaxes that I realize how tense Abby had been. I feel worse than an ass.
"So, shall I get the sherry?" Abby asks.
"It won't bother you?"
She grins at Kim. "Hell, yes. But it bothers me more that you're punishing yourselves for my... um, problem. I'll get the glasses and bottle."
I turn and stare back at Kim. Who, after a few seconds just nods at me.
"It's really okay?" she asks.
I nod. "I realized that I couldn't judge her from keeping something secret that might harm her career. Likely would harm her career."
"Something like that. Sorry I overreacted."
"Sokay. If you accepted it quickly I'd have been concerned."
"Here you go. Big ol' bottle, eeny weeny glasses. Do you toast with this stuff?"
"Yes," I say firmly, holding up my glass. "To the end of closets."
I hear her long before I see her.
"...and if I don't see a fucking doctor now..."
I head toward the disturbance to see if I need to call security, a doctor or a tranquilizer gun.
"...and I mean a real doctor and not a candy assed intern and by now I mean... Hey! You!"
The screamer has spotted me and is pointing straight at me. She's taller than me but not by much, dressed in the uniform of a Chicago EMT but I don't recognize her. I do vaguely recognize the paramedic holding a pressure bandage to a fire fighter's upper arm.
"Do you work here? Are you a doctor?"
I nod reassuringly; apparently a white lab coat and stethoscope aren't enough proof. "I'm Dr. Weaver. I'm the Chief of Emergency Medicine here."
"You run this place?" There's a bit of amazement and no admiration in that question.
"Yes, I do."
"Well, you're doing a piss poor job, Weaver, if it takes ten minutes to get someone to see a fire fighter who's bleeding all over the floor."
A stunned hush falls over the emergency department; the only sound a frenzied whisper from the admit desk where Randi is doubtless making book on whether I'm going to spear her with my crutch or merely beat her to death with it.
The EMT stares back at me, waiting defiantly. And the most annoying thing is that she's right.
I push past her and give a quick glance at the nametags of the other two to refresh my memory. Polniaczek is the EMT and Lopez is with the CFD. Both have been in, usually beside the gurney but occasionally, like now, on it. "What happened to your arm, Sandy? Jo, can you release the pressure so I can see?"
"Their patient turned out to be the fire bug," Lopez said.
"So he pulled a knife," added Polniaczek, "when Mighty Mouse here confronted him."
"Not the smartest thing I've ever done," Lopez admitted. There's an exclamation of agreement from behind me that is only slightly profane.
I turn to the loud one. "Go to that desk and ask for a suture kit."
"I'm your lackey now?"
"We're busy and that's fastest."
She nods and heads over to Randi, returning in about a minute with a suture kit. I snip open Lopez's shirtsleeve, clean the wound and administer a local that all three wince at.
"Shallow, lots of blood but no muscle damage. Needless to say you're on light duty until this heals properly and needless to say I'll be emailing your supervisor to make sure the paperwork doesn't get lost." I swear I don't know which of Chicago's emergency response departments is more stubborn about working while wounded.
I affix a sterile bandage and gather up the remains of the kit for disposal.
"Yeah, you work a lot of shifts?" the noisy one asks. I glance at her nametag and feel a smile form as I read it. T. Sawyer.
"I do. Why?"
"Figuring the odds of running into you again."
"Near a hundred percent if you've pissed her off," Polniaczek says.
Sawyer looks honestly puzzled. "Did I do that?"
Polniaczek and Lopez are nodding their heads up and down but I just shake my head. "Not at all. You pointed out an area of concern that I need to review with the staff. I'm grateful."
Her eyes go wide. "I did piss you off."
"Yeah but I got over it."
"Good, good," she says. "Say, listen, can I ask you a personal question?"
I nod, distracted by Kim and Foster coming from the exam room behind Sawyer. I hold up a "just a second hand" to Sawyer.
"You on schedule today, Dr. Legaspi?"
"Leaving at five, Dr. Weaver. Be there or be square."
I watch a few seconds as they head to the elevator before turning back to Sawyer. "You have a question?"
"Nooooo," she drawls, looking over my shoulder at the elevator bank before turning her grin on me. "I mean, I did but I think I got the answer. And to my next question too. You have a good day, Doc. Sandy if you're finished goofin' off we can drop you at the station."
I open the front door, nearly clipping Abby with it.
"She's in the kitchen," Abby says, using the 'talking to a slow child' voice.
I take my jacket off, opening the closet to hang it up when it is taken from me.
"Go. Now. Kitchen."
I go to the kitchen.
At first I don't see what's got Abby upset. Then I notice the three bowls of sliced carrots. Then I notice music playing on the kitchen speakers. Then I notice the deadly emptiness of her face.
She looks up, summoning some mockery of a smile and I just know that whatever happened today was bad.
I take the knife from her hands and set it down before holding both in my free one. "Comfort or oblivion?"
Her eyes close briefly and when they open I see my answer.
"Come with me," I say, leading her from the kitchen. I'm vaguely aware of Abby right at the doorway, obviously listening and obviously in distress. I murmur something as we pass and she just nods and heads into the kitchen.
"She okay?" Abby asks when I return a couple of hours later. She's still in the kitchen, eating a sandwich at the counter with her medical text book propped up in front of her.
"No," I answer, as I get some ice water from the fridge. "Do you know what happened?"
"We, ah," I hesitate, feeling a fierce burning that can only mean an ear to ear blush, "We didn't talk much and she's sleeping now."
She nods. "I called the hospital and the psych ward would only suggest contacting Foster. He wasn't at work, wasn't at home. Caught him at Randi's. He didn't actually come to the phone but Randi told me arrived about the same time Kim got here and just started drinking. I phoned the hospital again, convinced deRaad's secretary I was you with a cold and got through to deRaad and browbeat him..."
"Told him if he didn't tell me over the phone he'd be telling you in his office in person. I had to use the fear of Weaver but I didn't think you'd mind." I smile weakly and she continues.
"They lost one. An eighteen year old they'd been seeing off and on since Foster arrived. Bipolar Two who stopped taking his meds and put his head on the tracks this morning."
I nod my head and close my eyes in sympathetic pain for Foster and Kim. "How are you?" I ask.
She looks puzzled. "Fine. Why?"
"I thought, you know, your mom and all."
"Oh. No. I stopped linking every manic depressive to her a long time ago. I phoned Randi and told her. I know I've likely blown a dozen hospital policies on patient privacy but..."
"No," I say. "I mean, yes, but we're all family."
She looks so taken aback that I smile, leaving the room before she can recover.
"Why the hell don't you two get married?" Kim asks in irritation, obviously not taking Foster and Randi's bickering with her usual grace. It's the first night they've been over since they lost the patient and things are still tense.
"Fear of commitment," Foster assures her solemnly.
"Foster's afraid of getting married?" I ask.
"No, Randi's afraid I should be committed," he answers lightly. "C'mon Kim, teach me how to make popcorn."
"Okay, first step is to actually remove the cellophane wrapper," Kim says, bad mood dissolving.
Randi is silent, leafing through the DVDs. I wait until they're both in the kitchen, using the time to try to decide if I should be butting in.
"It's not Foster's fear, is it?" I ask because obviously some part of me has decided to butt in.
She looks up at me sharply and then at the kitchen door. "Its scary."
I think about it. "Terrifying."
She turns back to the DVDs. "I mean, I look at him sometimes and he's watching me and..." she falls silent, shrugging in confusion.
"You see them looking at you with that expression and you wonder who the hell they're looking at because it certainly can't be you."
She laughs and grins over her shoulder at me before turning back to the DVDs. I have come to the conclusion that Randi only really feels comfortable around me if there's something, be it a counter or a project, between us.
"Something like that. You get use to it?"
"I haven't. I mean, it doesn't surprise me but I don't take it for granted."
She looks at me and then nods once before turning back to the DVDs.
"Kim, have you seen my crutch?"
"Under the couch?"
"I looked there."
"Abby," Kim calls out loudly. "Have you seen Fred?"
"Fred?" I ask, feeling slightly bewildered.
"Did you check under the couch?" Abby asks, as she comes into the living room, drying her hands.
"First, who is Fred and second, why do you both seem to assume the crutch is under the couch?"
"That's where you put it when you two have a make out session," Abby says distractedly, eyes scanning the room.
There's a three count as we both stare at her.
She looks up abruptly. "Ohmigawd, did you hear that explosion in the kitchen?"
Before we can answer she's gone.
"Make out session?"
"How did she know?"
"Why don't you ask her?"
"Right. You look for Fred, I'll talk to Abby."
"Fine. And then maybe one of you can tell me why you call my crutch Fred."
I locate Fr... the crutch. It is under the couch but pushed to the very back. I'm lying there, wondering not only how it got there, but how I'm to get me out, when I feel hands on my waist and a weight settle on my legs.
"Did you know that the duct work is such that Abby can hear the living room in her bedroom?"
"Oh, God. She heard us?"
"No, she heard Tomb Raider. You know that part you like, with the bungy cords? The aerial ballet?"
"Yes," I answer. Fairly confused.
"Well, you like it so much that you make me rewind it. Unless, that is, you're otherwise occupied."
"Well, that's better than the alternative."
"I think Abby knows we have sex, Kerry."
I feel a full face blush. Because I'm still lying on my stomach in front of the couch and her hands are doing things that are making her voice all distracted.
"Yes," I allow, "but she doesn't need to know exactly when."
"Did you find Fred yet?" asks Abby, entering the living room area just long enough to take us in. "My god, there goes that exploding thing."
Our laughter muffles the sound of the kitchen door shutting firmly. I feel Kim's hand pulling on my waist band and we manage to get both me and the crutch on our feet.
"Life could get complicated, now that there's a Thing in the Basement," I intone in my very best Vincent Price.
She hesitates. Then nods. "Actually, that's likely the least of our complications right now."
"There's the bun in the basket, too."
I stare at her dumbfounded. "What?"
"Bun in the basket. One in the oven. Rabbit died. Family way. Knocked up. Preg-oooffff."
We end up, somehow unharmed, on the floor with Fred safely out of the way under the couch.
"Oh my god. Look, I'll just go out for the evening and you two can just..."
"No!" Even Kim seems taken aback at the volume level of my voice. "Abby, want to go out? Dancing. Laughing. Celebrating?"
"What are we celebrating?" she asks suspiciously.
"We're having a baby."
"Technically incorrect but oooph."
"You're sure you don't want to celebrate here," she asks, and I can see the quotes around the word celebrate.
"No. I want to see Kim dance before she's all fat and awkward."
"Please?" I ask them both.
"I'll get the car."
At the club I push them to the dance floor and then look for a table. The place is semi-crowded, few free tables but lots of the big tables are only half full. I spot one with only one person and none of the tell-tales of the other seats being saved and head over.
I hesitate when I recognize the person but continue.
"Christie. These chairs saved?"
She looks up at me and shrugs. "Saint Francis of Assisi argued that animals have souls but I doubt he'd go so far as furniture."
I blink and wait.
"Sit down, Kerry. Where's Kimmie?"
I sit and point. "There. With Abby."
"The nameless dance partner from before?"
"No," I correct but now I see the resemblance between Abby and the woman Kim had been dancing with a couple of months ago. Which, I realize, was the last time I had seen Christie. "You haven't been around much lately."
"Ah. Actually, yeah I have. Kimmie is mad at me though so our orbits have not crossed."
"Still?" I ask in surprise. I knew Kim could hold a grudge but this was Christie.
"Umm, yeah. I really pissed her off," Christie says. "So maybe you shouldn't be sitting here or maybe I should take off."
I place a hand on her wrist to stop her. "No. Stay."
She looks at my hand, then looks up and nods. She looks as if she's about to say something when the waitress arrives to take our order. Automatically I order for the four of us and smile back at Christie who is shaking her head.
"Presumptuous of me?"
"It was the cherry coke. So not you. And three designated drivers?"
I laugh but don't explain and we sit in silence, listening to the music and watching the dancers. Okay, watching Kim.
"I'm thinking of leaving Chicago for awhile," Christie says abruptly.
"Sydney, London, Vancouver or Tokyo. The company wants to rotate some of us to the international offices. It would be a minimum six month gig."
I think that over. "Be hard on your family," I say.
She shoots me a hard look. "She never told you?"
"Told me what?"
She points at the dance floor. "There is my family." I smile and nod and realize she doesn't mean some kind of slang or homily as she glares at me.
"Since second year spring break. The plan was to drive to Kim's parents and visit and tell them about Kim then drive to Pittsburgh slowly and visit and tell my folks and then drive like a bat out of hell to get to the university for Monday's classes."
This is going to be a bad story. I can tell.
"So we tell Kim's folks and needless to say they're we don't understand but you're our daughter and we love you and obviously telling us was hard and Christie must be special for you to realize this all and blah blah blah."
This is going to be a very bad story.
"The drive to Pittsburgh was wonderful. My folks are nice to Kim and showed her all the baby pictures and father's day cards and me in a pink tutu for dance recital when I was eight and I say they'll be fine too and Kimmie's saying no..."
"But you did."
"And they kicked me out. Called her all sorts of hateful things. And she drove to a Denny's and made me sit there until 2am and then she drove back to the house and climbed the fence into the back yard. And I spend about half an hour wondering what she's doing and remembering that my dad keeps a loaded shotgun in the bedroom closet. And then she's back with a box full of my baby book and pictures and the stuffed toys from my bed..."
She pauses as the waitress delivers the drinks, stopped by the memories as much as the intrusion. She takes a drink, sips but her eyes are locked on Kim.
"I asked her how she snuck upstairs to get the toys without waking the house and she just shrugged. A couple of years later she finally told me she found most of the stuff in the garage garbage bin."
"No. And by now I don't know if I could talk to them if they did." She turns and faces me. "She is my family. Do you understand?" I nod. "But I forget it's a one way thing. And I go too far sometimes."
I find myself in the interesting position of sympathizing with Chrisite. It's not as disconcerting as I thought.
"You're her best friend and she loves you. She's just being stubborn."
"I know," she says and smiles at the dance floor. "That woman, you know her?"
"Abby? For a couple of years. She was a nurse at County and now she's going through med school." I wonder why I save the most pertinent information until last. "She's living in our downstairs apartment."
"Is she?" Christie says, mostly to herself. She opens her mouth to speak but closes it abruptly.
"Go on. Say it."
"I think I've just spent the last six months paying for opening my mouth when I shouldn't have."
"And I think we've all determined that you can't affect Kim and my relationship."
"True." Christie nods toward the two. "She's got a thing for Kim."
"Nope. I've been seeing it for about 10 years so, trust me, I'm an expert at spotting it."
"But Abby's not...":
"And trust me on this one, that really doesn't matter."
I grin suddenly. "No, it doesn't." I swirl the cherry coke to mix in more of the lemon slice and try it again. No, I really don't see why she drinks these things. "Can't blame her."
I feel my face freezing into what they call "The Look" behind my back. Christie actually pales.
"Don't." She nods. "You don't know Abby and I'm beginning to think you don't know Kim."
She sighs but nods. "No, I don't think I do anymore. She's changed. You've changed her."
"I didn't change..."
"Yeah. You did. Or she changed for you, same thing. Don't worry. I suspect your Kim is a lot better person than my Kimmy ever was. And I'm sure she'd commit break and enter for you too."
"Phoenix," Christie says, after a slight pause and I know I startle and she smiles. "Born again from the ashes, different yet recognizable. She's loved that myth since she was five."
"So, why are you all out on a work night?" Christie asks.
I feel my face nearly break as I grin. "Let me tell you."