Title: A Real Loss 1/1 Author's name: Lin
E-mail: email@example.com Category: KW, JB Rating: NC-17. FF slash. Spoilers: Set in Season 3, between 18 ("Tribes") airing in April, and 22 ("One More for the Road"), aired in May. Summary: Kerry plus Jeanie plus massage equals - oh, add it up yourself. Complete: 1/1 Other: I got to wondering why there was no Jeanie/Kerry slash, considering that their friendship was ideal retrospective continuity for Kerry going officially gay in S7.
The characters and setting of ER are the property of NBC, Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and Constant C Television.
A Real Loss
Sandalwood. Used to be my favourite scent. So rich, so sensual. Dab some on a pulse point and you're walking around in a cloud of sensuousness for the rest of the day. Now every time I think of it - memories, memories.
No, a memory. One complete, indelible memory. Like the ones you have of perfect blue days in your childhood. Yeah, it's that specific. I only have to close my eyes and there it is before me, an exact and unfailing reconstruction of that afternoon we were together round her place when
It's the perfect memory I wish to hell would go away.
And the day had started so well. I was even starting to feel good about myself again, y'know? They say things don't happen to you, they happen for you. That can't be true. Because if she was my friend like she said, how come she betrayed me?
Snap of a latex glove. Never used to notice the sound. Part of the job. Must do it fifty times a day, myself. Hear it maybe a couple of hundred more. Now it cracks me in half. On a bad day, that is. On a good day and yeah, I do have some, now it's almost back to background noise. Almost.
I still can't believe she asked me to do it. I still can't believe I did it. I still can't believe it was real.
But it was.
That's the problem.
So there they both were, two women sitting on in an indigo and crimson kelim on a sustainable teak floor. One of them's sprawled on cushions as though she were an odalisque, and the other's sitting cross-legged. It's a weekday afternoon one February just above the 41st parallel, and a howling wind nicely chilled by the lake is ripping through the cringing city. That's why they're sipping hot chocolate before a wood fire banked up by a practised hand. Soon they'll be so hot where they are that they'll have to move further away, but for now, for them, it's perfect.
They're just noticing the screaming wind as the last bars of Cosi Fan Tutte fade down into silence and contemplation. Foolish lovers, trust, mistrust, sexual awakening, betrayal, bitter knowledge. All over a dare, a kiss. And music so wise and perfect it broke your heart as it cleansed your soul.
"You'd have liked Boheme. I should have invited you."
"Boheme was a date. You were on a date with Greg."
"I know, I was there, remember? Just not on a date with Greg at Boheme."
"Would have been romantic."
"Yeah. It's so sexy ..."
"They're starving to death!"
"And pre-consumptive. And about to be evicted. And ..."
"You just surrender to the music, let it carry you away, far away from here, and you can forget all the cares you brought with you into the theatre, and you float away in somebody else's dream and you still have your heart broken."
"Because it's not a real opera if you don't cry."
"I should have taken you to Boheme, Kerry."
"On a date?"
"Oh, you got problems with that?"
"Er, ah, course not."
"Can I ask you something?"
"If Greg Fischer's such an eligible man ... how come you never grabbed him for yourself?"
"You don't like them smart, handsome and rich?"
"He just doesn't do anything for me."
"You could have nailed him yourself, you know."
"Yeah, you could have."
"Don't tell me you'renot interested."
"C'mon Kerry, you're not dead yet."
"Still alive. Just not interested."
"Alive and not interested? Check your pulse again, girl."
"Really. I'm just not ... interested."
"I am. Really interested ..."
"Oh. Great. I mean that's great Jeanie I'm really pleased it's worked out for you that's great yeah."
"But. He wants us to start having sex."
"Wanting to have sex is a "but"?"
"A big but."
"You told me things were going well."
"I mean, they are. They are. I told you."
"You told me you'd done a few things, yeah."
"But not the whole way. Well ... we still haven't. Not in all this time. And now he thinks we should start having sex, a lot."
"What do you think?"
"What do I think. I think ... I want to, it's just ... I'm scared, Kerry. Really scared. Really scared."
Her friend silently watched Jeanie study the pattern in the carpet. Kerry wondered when she was going to get out of her depth. Anytime soon, if she knew her luck, and the signs of impending distress. She dreaded the possibility she'd disappoint her friend. Jeanie was the one person she never wanted to let down. Kerry knew she had no idea what to say. So she said nothing, and waited, nervously. When Jeanie lifted her head, she couldn't look Kerry in the eyes. Faux-bright smile, forced light tone.
"It's lots of things, really. I don't want to run the risk of exposing him to HIV if he's not the love of my life. He's a good man. He doesn't deserve that kind of risk. Nobody does, not even Al, and I never thought I'd say that about him after our marriage. Greg really doesn't deserve it, not after his partner died. I know the risks even with proper procedures, I've researched them, trust me. But sleeping with him ... it's such a big step for me, now. I remember when I used to be scared I wouldn't like it, when I was younger. A lot younger. Now ... I'm scared I'll like it too much. No: I'm scared I'll like it at all. How can you not be afraid of that? I'm scared I'll start to connect with him, I'll start to feel those things I thought had given up on me, and that I'll take this risk, I'll take this risk for him and me and us - and then it'll all fall apart anyway. Because I won't feel anything. Not a damn thing. Do you know what I mean?"
"Yes." Almost inaudible.
"I'm not sure ... I'm not sure I can even bear to be touched."
Kerry shifted across, cautiously, to put her arm round Jeanie, who was back staring at the carpet while tears rolled down her face. Kerry wasn't sure if this was the best course of action in the circumstances, but she hugged her friend carefully until she stopped crying.
"It's easy with you Kerry. It's just so damn easy with you. I'm not scared with you. When you put your arm round me, I know it doesn't matter."
Kerry bit her lip while she hugged her friend, but finally had to pull away. It was her leg. Crouching on a hard floor at an awkward angle. It was her leg.
"Don't let go, Kerry. Please."
"I'm not .. it's just a bit ... y'know ... for me. Let's go back to the cushions."
"If I could just - reconnect. Just ... somehow. Anyhow. Just find out if I can. Just go back to that place where I was before all this happened, when I was happy in my skin. Find someone who could take me there."
"You don't mean Greg."
"I don't mean Greg. I mean - if your friends won't go there with you, who will?"
"You know I will."
She has some sandalwood oil with her. Had she planned this all along? Yet I just can't say no. Yeah, why not? There's no disguising the pain in her eyes, even though she can hardly look at me. I can't betray her. She's my friend.
She turns her back on me to take off her shirt, then her bra - she slips her pants down, then her ... her underwear. and it's this modesty which really brings it home to me, that warns me that what we're going to do isn't some neutral medical procedure. What we're going to do carries some sexual - some sensual - charge, whichever way you cut it.
She must really trust me.
"Maybe you should take your pants off, you don't want to get oil all over them."
"It's just an old pair of jeans "
"Not that old Kerry?"
"Fine, I'm fine."
She's blushing. Whatever for? The number of naked women she sees we see in our job. She can be such a geek sometimes.
I'm blushing. What the hell for? The number of naked women I see we see in our job. Yeah, but I've never had a naked woman on my living room floor before, not one that I'm going to kneel astride and run my hands all over, and I mean ALL over
Oh god. She wants me to get naked too. Oh dear god almighty.
Kerry watched Jeanie roll over onto her front on the cushions, and rest her face on her folded arms. Jeanie's eyelids were shut and Kerry was secretly glad, because for some reason she didn't care to examine too closely, she wasn't sure she could have looked Jeanie in the eyes.
Kerry needed to take control. Of the situation, that is. Decision time: start at the neck and shoulders and work down, or begin working the back straight away? While she worked it out, she stalled for time, pouring oil into her palm to warm it before putting the bottle near to hand. She had to make a decision. Starting with the neck and working down had a pleasing sense of order to it. Only that meant she would have to kneel astride Jeanie, because she knew she couldn't work at an angle for long. Astride Jeanie. That was going to be ... awkward. Especially now she had a small puddle of oil in one palm. She couldn't put it off any longer, or Jeanie might think she was having second thoughts. Here goes, she urged herself, and braced herself with the oil-free hand, while she clumsily swung her weak leg over Jeanie, just below her ass, without spilling too much oil, and definitely without steadying herself with a hand - there.
"Sorry, Jeanie, oh gosh I'm sorry."
"Hey Kerry, relax. You can warm it just as well now it's on my back."
Relax. Did anyone ever relax on command?
"You relax yourself, Jeanie. You're the one getting the massage."
Apparently Jeanie could.
So Kerry placed her hands on her friend's back, and began to work the spilled oil into the skin. So much for starting on her neck. That plan didn't last long. The oil warmed up, made her hands glide over Jeanie's back, gave off a growing scent.
Kerry focussed very hard on what she was doing. It would have been useful, she thought helplessly, if Jeanie had thought to buy Massage for Dummies when she got the oil. There was probably some system to this she didn't know, and if she was going to help Jeanie, she ought to do this properly. How hard do you press? How hard can you press? Do you start gently and work up, or is it gentle all the time? How fast did you go? She started to experiment with increasing the pressure, and realised she could just ask, instead.
She was about to say, "Harder?", when she caught herself. Wrong associations. Not going there.
Relieved, satisfied, she focussed on systematically covering Jeanie's back. A small part of her brain started chanting: Trapezius, Deltoid ,Teres Minor, Teres Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Glu- ; Scapula, head of humerus, spine of scapula, vertebrae thoracic and lumbar, ribs; Trapezius, Deltoid, Teres Minor, Teres Major, Latissimus Dorsi; Scapula, head of humerus, spine of scapula, vertebrae thoracic and lumbar, ribs ... A mantra of comfort.
The last time Kerry had touched a naked body like this, for so long, and so close, it had been a man's. Quite some time ago now; and she had no regrets, in fact she hadn't thought or dreamed of him for months. Or any of them. She really had lost interest.
She started to appreciate the differences between male and female anatomy, trying to analyse through touch alone the distinctions in the way muscles lay over different bone structure, the smaller size, the smoother skin.
Mmmm. Oh yeah.
She found that she had established a rhythm: press, glide with pressure, back, move a quarter of an inch, repeat. Every twenty-third time, apply another - warmed - drop of oil.
Kerry eventually admitted that Jeanie had a point about the jeans, they were constricting if you knelt in them a long time, but maybe next time.
Pins and needles flared up her leg. She ignored them, was surprised nothing much worse had happened before now. Use cushions next time, she reminded herself. All the same, she'd have to move.
"Jeanie? Going to do your legs now, k?"
This time she rested both her palms on her friend's ass to help her manoeuvre back over to Jeanie's right side. Jeanie sighed, half-stretched, moved her ankles slightly further apart to make it easier for Kerry to massage her legs. Kerry concentrated very hard on not touching the inside of Jeanie's thighs.
She's really enjoying this, I might have done this right after all. If I told her how different this was from touching a man, I'm not sure she'd believe me.
If any of the men I've been with saw me now, I'm not sure they'd believe it.
Who am I kidding. Of course they would. Standard guy fantasy, two women. And given who I've been thinking about, if only to notice the differences, and where my thoughts have been drifting off to -
Why don't I just ring up my ex-husband stone cold after four years and tell him I've just re-enacted one of his favourite fantasies with another man as a fantasy participant. Let him guess which one it was. And he better not think it's the fantasy with the candle wax and the handcuffs, and doorstep me with the video camera, again.
Does it feel different for her? Does it feel different if it's a man or a woman touching you?
Hey, if she was a man - or if I was a man ...
We wouldn't be doing this.
She was pretty stiff to start off with, I could feel her hands and arms were rigid. Once she got going she relaxed. And then I relaxed. And that seemed to relax her more.
So glad I asked her. It was starting to work alright. I just had to close my eyes, and imagine - well, it doesn't matter who, does it? Reggie, Greg, Peter, all the guys in turn. Or together, every now and then. Plenty of good memories - and some hot fantasies starting to smoke. All through Kerry.
Jeanie sighed and rolled over onto her back, one arm crooked to shield her eyes, just as Kerry was starting to worry what you did next in a massage when you'd done all the parts of the body available to you that it was socially acceptable to touch.
She was unprepared for the surprise, of Jeanie ceasing to lie still but responsive. Of the grace and ease of her ordinary movements.
And for the sight. Not so much her friend's naked body - the other side of her naked body - her breasts and her - just like mine, Kerry reminded herself, grimly - but the languor, the abandonment.
She grinned. Caught off guard, tired, more than a bit stiff, but elated and - and -
Disconcerted to be faced by a naked woman when she was in the mood for sex.
In which she could have sworn she'd lost interest.
"But I've done your back. And your legs."
"But I've finished."
Jeanie seized her wrist. "No you haven't."
Even after she started to guide my hand, it took a few seconds for me to catch on. How pathetic is that?
And that was after I'd realised I might not be a sexual zombie any more.
Just what I didn't need.
She can be so dense sometimes. I had to get hold of her wrist and she stared at me like I had four noses or something. I thought I was going to have to say it out loud, and I nearly did but then I looked at her. Like she was going to freak out or something. I know she's uptight ...
But I was really ready, really in the mood, and so close and I hadn't felt like this for a long time. She had to have known this was an option, exactly how dense can one very smart woman be?
Jeanie guided Kerry's right hand, placed it on her inner thigh, then pulled it ever up slightly, before letting go. Then she lifted herself up on one arm. She cupped her free hand round the back of Kerry's head. Didn't pull her close, just let her hand rest there, reassuringly.
Kerry broke eye contact, dropped her gaze, which fell on two perfect breasts with erect nipples. She shut her eyes like it was the only way to keep them in her head.
A slight caress at the back of her neck. Unspoken question. Two deep breaths. Decision. K, barely audible answer.
She thought I was reluctant, uptight, scared. I had no idea what I was. I knew I hadn't felt like this for a long time. I know she hadn't either. That was the whole point, wasn't it? I was supposed to be helping her out. It wasn't about me at all, supposedly, it was about her. So why was I reacting ? like this? Way too strong for some one who wasn't interested any more.
"There's gloves in my purse."
Kerry dug out the latex gloves Jeanie kept in the purse, just in case, what with her HIV status. Strange how digging in another woman's purse is almost more intimate than touching her, or making ... touching her. Despite concentrating, she nearly fumbled putting the gloves on, and ended up snapping them like a surgical intern failing to impress a OR nurse he half-fancied. Kerry was uneasily aware that she was stalling for time. What was she supposed to do next? Was Jeanie expecting her to say something, ask something? How hard could this be?
Do I have to BUY this woman a clue?
Kerry was desperate to retain control. Of what, or whom, she wasn't asking. Keep it matter of fact. Deep breath. Matter of fact.
Smile. "No. Don't think I need it. Do you?"
Do I need lube? Sweet Jesus, is she serious? Oh. She means, do I think she needs lube. Ohhh.
You're on your own now, Kerry.
Jeanie had placed Kerry's hand on the inside of her thigh, so that was where Kerry started. First Kerry moved her hand lightly up the inside of Jeanie's thighs, up her right leg, brush over her hair, down her left leg, then back. Up, using the back of her hand. Down, using her fingertips, with a hint of fingernails. For quite a long time.
Until she got the nerve to move in closer, deeper, edge her hand along the crease where Jeanie's thighs met her outer labia, moving along the edge of Jeanie's dark curling hair. Then underneath, to caress Jeanie's ass. Then back, along the underside of Jeanie's legs, this time using the palm of her hand, gently lifting so her friend bent her knees and raised her legs.
The trust - the openness - disarmed and enchanted Kerry. All the same, she was horribly afraid she was being clumsy, groping. She'd always hated that herself. How was she going to know what Jeanie liked?
She glanced up at Jeanie's face, this time not flinching as her gaze took in the curve of her friend's breasts and her nipples, now erect. But her friend's eyes were closed, and Kerry could tell she was far away.
So Kerry fell back on what she knew she liked, and what men had done that pleased her.
This is terrible. It's so difficult - how am I supposed to know what to do? It can't be working.
I have never felt so ridiculous in my life. It's preposterous. How did I let myself get cornered into this? It's unbelievable. I can't imagine myself doing this with - with Carol. With Maggie Doyle. With Susan Lewis. No, I definitely can't imagine myself doing this with Susan Lewis. I can't imagine myself ...
With Susan Lewis.
No. No way.
Me and Susan.
No. No. NO.
That is so wrong.
I'd rather do Doug Ross.
I'd do Doug Ross?
Feels so right, so easy. A rhythm that picked up from where we left off with the massage. Variations in touch - palm, fingertips, fingernails, even the back of her hand - just waking my whole body up again. Just the right amount of pressure. And speed. Oh yeah.
How did she get this good? Maybe she's had more guys than she ever let on, or maybe she's been experimenting while she's been on her own.
This is nearly damn perfect. She's not rushing me. Oh yeah. Oh. Oh I could get used to being touched like this . Ohhh - get used to - being turned on again.
Don't say a word to me Kerry, not a word, I want to lose myself in this ... oh yeah.
I'm so glad it's you.
A guy would have been good to go by the time I'm getting started.
It's not so bad when you get used to it.
Maybe I should ask her what next. What she wants, where she wants me to touch her. What am I going to do if she wants me to -? I don't think I could. Not even Jeanie. I don't think I could.
I can't just guess. I could get it wrong. But she's away. Somewhere else. Maybe with someone else. I can't break her focus.
Guess, it is then.
Of course this isn't sex. Not real sex. It's ...
A bad romance novel, is what is it. My bad romance novel. Yeah, now with secret extra porno chapters.
Oh this isn't difficult, this isn't difficult at all. Exploring. Revelation. Glide, push, tease, press.
Yeah, it's working alright
And I wonder what happens if I do this -
Oh, that works.
I should try that myself.
I am not turned on. No. Honestly, I'm not. I've just been on my own too long.
Kerry stole looks at her friend. Arms over her head, arching back, rocking her hips. Getting close. Closer. Getting very close. Very. Close. Very. Close. Close. Closercloserclosercloser -
I did that?
I did that.
Blissed out, overwhelmed, Jeanie relaxed into aftershocks. Strong, delicious aftershocks. And -
And that's where it all went wrong. I can't believe she kissed me. Actually kissed me, like we were lovers. Like we'd shared something. Didn't she realise what our deal was here? What had I got myself into. What an unholy mess.
Because if I'd even suspected she was well, no way. Really. No way on this planet. Just because I'd asked her to help me out, she thought I was coming on to her or something?
And that's where it all went wrong. I pulled back from my trance, I leaned over and I I kissed her. Not a peck on the cheek, but no tongue, either. Just smoothed my other hand over back from her forehead to her nape, back up over her neck and cheek, lightly, and kissed her. On the lips, with mine, brushing against them, teasing them, gently, tenderly. I pulled back to smile at her and open up to her and that that was when I looked into her face, and her eyes.
There's no fixing this, is there?
I can't believe I did it. Why did I do it?
Yeah, alright, I do know.
I still can't believe it.
Weeks later, her ex-husband drops by to arrange dinner together. He's working nearby. Not in Florida. Not anymore. They're having dinner. Together. Like it's no big deal. Jeanie and Al. Her ex-husband. The one who started all this mess. Gave her HIV. So Greg's history.
She turns down lunch with me but has dinner with AL?
That was all for his benefit?
Have we got some catching up to do.
In the lounge I listen to her telling me about Al, how much she loves Al, how much she's always loved Al, and how my approval matters to her now she's seeing Al again. And while all this may be true, it's more than I want or need to know, and what she's really doing is dictating terms for the future, take it or leave it, on how things are going to be from now on between us.
Except there is no us.
And she's happy now for the first time in a long while.
I guess I felt bad about cutting her out of the loop about Greg, and Al, but it really was none of her business anyway, and that's before you factor in the need to discourage any weird ideas she might be getting.
Or had got.
So for a five long hard weeks snuck round each other at work, ensuring our shifts don't overlap, keeping busy when they do, and trying to put some distance between us and that afternoon, trying to deal.
In our own heads. We don't speak about it. Well. We didn't speak about it before, or during, so why afterwards?
It wasn't about words anyway.
It hasn't been easy. But weeks down the line, I can start to look back on it, and think, yeah, maybe this is another thing that didn't happen to me, it happened for me.
Because that afternoon - whatever else might have happened, or nearly happened and didn't, or happened and didn't happen, or doesn't count, or whatever she thought we were doing, or might be doing - that afternoon gave me back to myself. However hard that was for me to accept.
I've realised I'm not afraid of living my life any more. Now, I know what's important in my life, and what isn't. How I've been in love with Al since the first time I saw him, when I was sixteen years old. And knowing - really knowing - how he's been in love with me.
And Kerry - ?
It wasn't easy to accept what she gave me. But what matters to me now is that she understands what's happened between me and Al. She has to move on from whatever weird memories she's hung up on. I have to make her see that.
No. It wasn't easy.
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