"Your schedule is fucked up," I declare. She laughs silently--I can feel her ribcage shaking. "Why do you insist on working night shifts? You're chief, you've paid your dues."
"I like to set a good example. Besides, it gives me the whole day to spend with you."
I swipe at the back of her neck with my tongue. "I know, but I worry about you getting tired." It's only six in the morning, and already I'm thinking ahead to when she has to leave for an eight o'clock shift tonight.
"Don't worry about it, babe. I'll nap a little around five. I'll be fine."
I know I'll never convince her to quit nights. Our schedules don't always mesh, so on occasion she'll deliberately work a nightshift to spend time with me on a day off. She doesn't need to, but she honestly does want to set a good example. It's a noble gesture, and I think her co-workers don't realize that she does it for their benefit, as well as mine.
I hold her a little tighter around the middle, then slide my hand down to caress her hip. I expect the rain and dampness aren't making it easy on her, though I haven't seen her lean too heavily on her crutch lately. Maybe all those hot baths we've been taking are helping. "How are you feeling today?" I press a little harder, and she pushes her rear closer to me in response.
"It's not too bad. That feels good, though."
We're quiet for a few minutes, listening to the rain fall. Even in the chill I like to crack the window to hear it, and jack up the heat when it gets cold. It's not the most energy-conserving notion, but I love the sound of falling rain.
I'm still kneading her hip some time later when I hear a quiet "I love you, Kim."
The breath leaves me in a whoosh. She always surprises me with her devotion. "I love you, too," I reply. And I mean it.
She turns over in my embrace and looks into my eyes. This early morning face is my favorite Kerry. She looks so young and hopeful, like all of the bad things she's ever experienced are washed away. The troubles we went through to get to this place are left outside the room. Here we can be as honest and loving as we're meant to be.
Her voice is reverent, hushed. "I never thought I could be this happy."
I squeeze her a little and look back into her eyes. I say, "I always knew I could be this happy. It just took me a while to find the right person to make me happy."
I can't read her expression. "And you think that person is me?"
"Ye-es," I say slowly.
She looks relieved. "I think you're the right person for me, too."
I release a puff of air right into her face. Didn't know I was holding my breath. Oops. Apparently she's ignoring my morning breath because she just smiles and snuggles closer, burrowing her head into my neck. "Let's listen to the rain," she says. Her voice is so muffled I wonder how she can breathe.
After pulling her on top of me I go back to stroking her bad hip again, pressing the flesh there with a practiced hand. She's so small I can reach it easily even with her head tucked beneath my chin. I remember when we first made love I was awestruck at how tiny she was--she has the kind of personality that makes you believe she's seven feet tall. I feel like a giant next to her, but she doesn't seem to mind. She spends a lot of time extolling the virtues of my long legs. I suppose they come in handy when I'm not tripping over myself.
Mm, she's so soft and warm. I never want to leave this bed. This is good.
I love the rain.
"You are insane."
"What is wrong with eating while cooking?" I'm scrambling the eggs as the potatoes brown slowly on the other burner. Near the stove I've left some peeled blood oranges I found at the gourmet grocer, and she picks at one absently, all the while watching me.
"How can you eat those at this time of day? My stomach would revolt."
I am indignant. "No, it wouldn't. You'd love it. See, if I eat them now I don't have to focus on wanting to get to the good part if I've already had it before the regular stuff."
"Who eats dessert after breakfast? I reiterate, you are insane."
"I know why you don't want to try them."
"Because it's 8:00 in the morning."
"Because you know that once you try it you'll want chocolate covered pretzels for breakfast every day, and you don't want to give me the satisfaction of knowing I'm right."
"Aren't you always right about everything?"
"Of course. I'm glad to know I have you well trained." With that I look over at her, trying desperately to keep a straight face.
Her expression is comical; it combines disbelief with utter derision. "Trained?" She's about to rip into me, and I snort loudly, ready for the onslaught. Turning back to the stove, I realize I've dropped a pretzel right into the hot pan. Shit, now there's chocolate in the eggs. I grab what's left of the pretzel and throw it in the sink, hoping she didn't notice. I whip the melting chocolate into the mix quickly.
"I don't want that part." The little snot doesn't miss a trick. "Make sure the chocolate stays on your side."
"Eggs don't have sides. You won't even taste it." I guess the pretzel distraction saved my ass. I'll have to remember that.
"I will when I start bouncing off the walls."
"That's something I'd like to see." I glance over at her with a smirk, but she's just bitten into one of the oranges, and red juice is dripping down her chin. Oh, fuck. I quickly turn away as my stomach clenches and heat shoots through me. God, I hate that. The dumbest things turn me on about her, and watching a sticky substance drip down her chin is one of them. Seeing her tie her shoes, stoke a fire, sign a chart. I am a horndog. Have I always been this bad?
Now that she knows me so well, I think she recognizes the look on my face when it happens; God knows she's seen it enough. Maybe she was concentrating on the orange and didn't see me. I'll just keep cooking till the tingles go away.
A few seconds pass, and I think I'm in the clear. Then I feel a pair of hands pull up the back of my tee shirt and I start in surprise. Bare breasts press into my skin; shit, she took off her top. I don't think she missed that look after all. My knees give out and I have a flash in my mind of me sticking my hand into a hot pan of eggs while in the throes of passion. Think fast, Sam. I turn off the burners just in time since a hand shoves down the front of my pants and inside my underwear in two seconds flat. Awkwardly we stumble a foot to the right, away from hot surfaces, and in the back of my mind I hear the clatter of her crutch as it falls to the floor. She's leaning her weight on me and I can't seem to stop myself from falling over the counter and tilting my hips up. She takes the hint and a second hand steals down the back of my sweats, sliding inside me without effort. Jeez, I'm soaked. That didn't take much. I guess I can take comfort in the fact that I've been at a slow burn all morning. Yeah, right. I want her all the time, and she knows it.
We balance in every way, but occasionally I think she has the upper hand when it comes to sex. Not that she doesn't want me. Far from it. But she has extreme control, and sometimes I believe she enjoys the anticipation as much as the act itself. She's tortured me with dirty phone calls countless times. Those days I've come home barely to make it inside the front door when I've been tackled by a squirming red head. We've done some serious clothing damage in the foyer. I was sweeping the other day and found two different colored buttons next to the hall table. I'd been wondering where they went.
I must look a sight, banging my knees into the drawers, hands slipping and sliding on the smooth countertop. I know there are ridiculous sounds coming from my throat, but I'm focused too heavily on the hands doing delicious things to my nether regions to care. Ohh, she's licking my shoulder blade with a hot tongue. There's a hiss at my ear, followed by her low voice, taunting, "You still think I'm the one well trained?" That does it: the sultry sound of her, the heat inside and out, those hands urging me on. I can't get enough air. Just a little more, please, please, please...
I jerk as the wave hits me, and I smack my knee hard into a cabinet without even feeling it. I shout Kerry's name, or some form of it anyway. I imagine it came out a little garbled since my brain wasn't exactly engaged. I'm panting now, trying to catch my breath, and her hands are still down there, massaging. She's cooing into my back, peppering my skin with gentle kisses. Oh, if those ER folks could see what I see in her... Kindness, tenderness, and among other things, one hell of a libido.
I bless the day we met, even though she claims not to remember meeting me. She'd been awake for two days straight, and from what I heard from the nursing staff she was on the warpath. I heard her shouting down the hall from my location at a bedside in curtain three, and she hardly looked at me while checking a patient in the next bed. After finishing with the forgettable patient, I found her at the front desk and stuck a hand out to introduce myself. She glanced up, and I felt that shimmer of connection, almost a feeling of recognition. She looked so tired, but I know I was staring. She stumbled off when a trauma came in, but after seeing those ocean eyes for a split second I was hooked.
I turn in her arms, and she frees her hands from my sweats. I stroke my palms along her body, cupping her lovely breasts as I lean down for a kiss. Her tongue fills my mouth, and I respond languidly, reveling in the endorphin rush.
Kerry pulls away a bit, looking sheepishly at the floor. "I *was* well trained, you know. Taught by the best."
She's got to be kidding. That first night we spent together I nearly had a heart attack. I tip her head back up. "Please. You were a natural, remember? There was no training involved."
She nuzzles my cheek. My girl gives good cuddle, even if it's against the kitchen counter. "That was so nice," she sighs.
I choke out a laugh. "I think it was nicer for me, Scout." I lean in for another kiss. "It was wonderful."
She melts against me. "I love making love to you."
"I love making love to you too." I quirk an eyebrow. "In fact, I might try it right now."
I'm surprised when she halts my hands in their path. "I'm hungry. Later." She smiles slyly, and I know she's doing that anticipating thing again. I don't know what it is about delayed gratification that does it for her, but I'm not about to argue. The chocolate I ate earlier made my stomach think there was more food coming, and now it's yowling rather loudly.
"Okay. Let me warm this stuff up." She licks her fingers, winking at me. I giggle as I turn the burners back up to finish cooking. The eggs aren't going to be perfect today, but we'll live.
When lunchtime rolled around we swam a couple of blocks to the coffee shop for mochas. It was good to get out of the house even in this miserable weather. Kerry again made fun of my chocolate obsession when I asked for an extra helping of syrup in my coffee. We hung out for a while, chatted with some familiar faces, watched the rain pour. Then we trudged home, and I was thrilled to get out of the cold.
To counter the chill I talked her into sharing a bath. Foolishly, she fell for my devious secret plan to have her naked, wet, and at my mercy. As soon as she slid into the tub across from me I made it my mission to repay her for the bout of pre-breakfast nookie. I was successful, several times over. I'd gloat if I wasn't so content to rest comfortably in this little pocket of bliss we've created. At the moment she's recovering in my loose embrace, still trying to catch her breath as the water ripples around us.
I'm stroking her forehead while she relaxes against my chest, ruffling my fingers through her hair. She hasn't cut it for a while, and I think she's trying to decide what to do with it next. Whatever she wants is fine with me. Every other day she stands in front of the mirror and declares, "I'm chopping it all off. I had a pixie three years ago and it was fine. What do you think?"
I say, "Okay."
She says, "But what do you think I should do?"
I say, "Kerry, I like your hair short or long. Just don't do a Carol Brady shag, 'cause then we'd have to break up."
We've literally had the same conversation four times. Maybe she'll just keep growing her hair until she gets sick of repeating herself.
The red strands are damp against my chest, and her silky thighs rub against mine in the warm water.
"Ow." I've barely hit my knee on the side of the tub and it throbs incongruously at the impact.
She starts a bit at my exclamation. "What is it?"
I begin to lean forward slightly, but am hampered by the weight of her on my body. I point to my right leg, whining, "Something hurts. My knee."
She pulls herself up to take a closer look. "What did you do? There's a big knot here, and it's turning purple." She looks back at me accusingly. "How did you hurt yourself? You need to be more careful." She's irritated with me, as she always is when I reveal my clumsiness.
People see me and think: ooh, she's tall, willowy, graceful. I can be all of those things, but not all the time. Hell, not even most of the time. I trip frequently; on cracks in the sidewalk, on gravel in the road, over the heels of my own shoes. I'm grateful the ice and snow are finally gone--winters are especially difficult.
Every time I get a bruise, Kerry's protectiveness comes storming out. I was nervous when I first witnessed it. I couldn't figure out why she was so pissed off that I'd bruised my tailbone in a nasty spill in front of Magoos. It was mortifying, but the lone witness was Carter, so I only had to suffer a little. He's a kind soul, that one. When Kerry spotted the injury that night, she was furious, harping about how I had to pay more attention. I asked her, "Kerry, why are you so upset? It's just a bruise!"
She looked at me with the saddest eyes, concern lining her face. "I don't like it when you're in pain," she said in a tiny voice. "I worry about you."
I just swallowed down the lump in my throat, and said seriously, "I'll try to be more careful." I hugged her tightly to me, and a minute later she got some ice to help bring down the swelling. Since then I've tried to watch myself. But for the life of me I can't remember how I banged my knee so hard that it would swell up.
She's still peering at my leg, as if turning it in every direction will suddenly reveal how the knot came into being. "Have you fallen lately?"
I think back. "I don't think so."
"Somebody kick you in boxing class?"
"No, I'd remember that."
"Well, it looks pretty fresh. What did we do today?"
I'm scanning methodically through memories of the morning when it finally comes to me. So that's why I didn't remember. I didn't even feel it at the time. "Oh."
She looks at me. "What."
I bite my lip. "I knocked it against the kitchen counter."
"When?" Her brow furrows charmingly.
I pause for effect. "When you had your hands down my pants."
Her eyes widen. Aha! Success! She is blushing furiously. It happens much less often nowadays, but when we first met she'd turn red at the drop of a hat. If I can bring it on at this stage of the game I know I've done something right.
She is chagrined, but I am quick to reassure her. "Sweetheart, it was completely worth it." That comforts her to a point, but I know she feels badly. "It's nothing big. You know me. It'll be gone in a week."
She starts to stand up, saying, "I should get you some ice."
I pull her back into my arms quickly, sloshing water over the side of the tub. "It can wait. Another ten minutes isn't going to kill me." I flex my knee back and forth in the air, happy she's facing away from me. I grimace--it hurts quite a bit, but at least it still does what it's supposed to. "Look, it's fine. Holding you a little longer will make it feel better."
She's having none of it, but she relents anyway. "Bull." Her hands grasp my forearms under her breasts, and with a foot she tips the faucet on to add a trickle of hot water to warm us up. "Just a few more minutes."
I recline against the back of the tub. "Ok."
I wish we could find the time to do this every day.
We spent such a nice afternoon together, lounging around, doing as little as possible. After our bath, Kerry taped a bag of frozen peas around my sore knee. I convinced her the only way I'd sit still was if she sat with me to watch last week's West Wing. It was a good trade. Later, I did a bit of cleaning, she did some laundry, but other than that we were pretty lazy.
We have a remarkable ability to co-exist without stepping all over each other. She sort of accidentally moved in here some months ago. I know it's not the best way to go about it: we should have had some kind of conversation about cohabitating and commitment, but it happened so naturally I hardly noticed. She was over all the time, and when she wasn't there I was thinking of her, calling her, if only to hear her voice for a moment. She went away for a conference a few months ago, and I called that night after she got back to the hotel. Three hours later I woke up with the phone stuck to my face, and I could hear her breathing. I almost cried. Not for any real reason, but just because she hadn't hung up the phone either. It was a turning point for me, and I knew then that I was in it for the long haul.
I also knew when I discovered she likes her Indian food hot enough to melt steel. Tonight for dinner we split our typical delivery order of chicken tikka masala and vindaloo. For some reason I like to be in pain when it comes to the spice level of my Indian food, and though she doesn't have that masochistic edge, she sweats like a horse during the entire meal. Every time. This evening I offered to get out the blow dryer to deal with her damp hairline, a comment which she ignored by shoving another forkful of rice and potatoes into her mouth.
She's snoozing on the couch, a Caleb Carr novel lying open on her chest. During the day she's a light sleeper, so I left the book there instead of risking disturbing her. I'm relieved she zonked out without me pestering about it, since she has a long night ahead of her.
I'm watching JAWS for the eight hundredth time, and I lower the volume as Quinn meets his tragic end. I'm lying on the floor, a pillow under my head, scooted close to the TV so the sound doesn't disturb Kerry. I need to wake her in a few minutes anyway, since she's on in less than an hour.
Ah, no I don't. I hear her shifting around on the couch. I guess I didn't lower Quinn's screams enough.
"You're watching JAWS again?"
Her voice is sleepy. "What is it about that movie that you love so much?"
"It's a damn near perfect film."
"It shows a severed leg and people getting chomped in half."
"Well, that's the reality of getting eaten by a shark."
"Have you ever seen anyone get eaten by a shark?"
I shoot a glance back at her. "Yes. Just now, in this movie."
She narrows her eyes in the patented glare. "Did I make it clear to you this morning that you're insane?"
"Yep. I'm in the right profession, wouldn't you agree?"
Out of the corner of my eye I can see her shaking her head with a grin. She strolls off to the bedroom to put herself together for work, and I up the volume of the movie for the final confrontation.
Less than ten minutes later, Big Bad Bruce is blasted into a million pieces and Roy and Richard swim off into the sunset. It's a very satisfying resolution, and it remains as intense as it was the first time I saw it. As the credits roll I hear keys jingling around, and realize that's my cue.
She's standing near the back door, making sure she has her cell phone and pager. I grab her coat from the back closet and hold it up for her. Her face is pleased, and I melt at the smile she gives me. She slides into the coat and grabs me in a tight hug, her crutch dangling against the back of my leg. "I'm crazy about you, Sam."
Her voice is full of emotion, and I feel a need to lighten the mood before I mist up. How can something as simple as helping her into her coat turn us both into mushy idiots? "Well, that's lucky. I'm crazy about me, too." She digs her elbow into my side, and I laugh. I say, "Love you, Ker."
She kisses me. "Love you, too. I'll see you in the morning. Do you mind if I wake you?"
My eyebrow rises of its own volition. "You'd better."
She opens the door and heads out into the night, clutching her umbrella as she walks to the car. I wave as the engine turns over, and she waves back before backing out of the driveway. That's it: I'm officially domesticated. I pull my warm sweatshirt closer about myself and turn back to the kitchen. Glancing at the stove I blush for a minute, remembering our morning tryst. Oh, this was a good day, indeed.
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