DISCLAIMER: ER and its characters are the property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Susan P
"Fire Dr. Legaspi! What are you talking about, Robert?" Kerry struggled to keep her voice down--anxious to preserve Kim's privacy as much as possible.
"Kerry, this makes two recent incidents with Dr. Legaspi in this E.R. She's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Get rid of her."
"It's not my place, and you know it. Even if I wanted to--and I don't--I don't have the authority. Dr. DeRaad does, and Dr. Legaspi has his full support. And she has mine, as well. She's done nothing wrong. She was cleared of all charges in the Wallace case, and I believe she acted in the best interests of the patient in this case, as well."
"I don't care, Kerry. I don't want to take the chance that this hospital will be held accountable for her actions the next time she acts in what she thinks is the patient's best interests. Besides, I don't like her attitude."
There was something in the way he said it that made Kerry even more suspicious of Romano's motives. "Is that really what bothers you about her, Robert? Her attitude? Or, is it the fact that she's gay?"
Romano adopted that same smug expression he had when Kim had dared point out that 'gay' did not equal 'child molester' in that horrible meeting months ago. And something just finally snapped within her. Damn him. The hateful little prick. She was too tired, and too hurt, and too damned angry to put up with it any more.
She spoke as calmly as she could manage, but didn't bother trying to conceal her frustration, "Fine. When should I clear out my things?"
Romano leaned in, confusion and frustration evident in his features. "What? What are you talking about, Kerry?"
"What I'm saying, Doctor Romano," she spoke the title contemptuously. Her voice rose as she spoke, her anger overriding her fear, her sense of decorum, and her own desire for privacy, "is that, if you're going to start firing staff members for being gay, then you should start with me!"
The E.R. went deadly quiet--even the patients seemed to be holding their collective breath--and she felt the eyes of everyone at the nearby Admit desk on her. She took a breath, trying to steel herself against them all. "I let my own fears of exposure get in the way of what I should have done during your last little inquisition of Dr. Legaspi. I'm ashamed of my own cowardice back then. It cost me more than you can imagine. And I guess I learned my lesson, because I'll be damned if I'll help you do your dirty work this time!"
She took a deep breath after her outburst. Romano looked shocked but, for once, said nothing.
"So, should I go clean out my locker now, or will I have a few days to send out my resume and look for a position elsewhere?"
Romano remained silent, which was a kind of victory in itself. Kerry almost jumped when she felt a hand press against the small of her back. She glanced to her left to see Yosh Takata step up beside her. The young man said nothing, but spared her a glance and a warm smile before turning back to face Romano in mute challenge.
"I swing both ways. You wanna can me, too?" Randi's voice rang out in the silence. Both Kerry and Romano turned to find her staring at them, arms folded across her chest and reeking of Attitude.
Well, that explains a few things, Kerry thought, most particularly the mixture of iciness and strained sympathy she'd sensed from the young woman recently. But there was warmth in her eyes now, and Kerry half-expected Randi to wink at her.
"And I had a bit of a fling with my flat-mate my second year at University," Elizabeth Corday spoke in cool, clipped tones. "Should I start searching for another position as well, Robert?"
Again, both sets of eyes quickly sought out the source of the declaration.
Kerry looked first at Elizabeth, whose warm regard was a welcome change given their estrangement the past few months, and then at Romano, who was staring at Elizabeth looking as though he might implode.
To keep herself from laughing, she looked away, scanning the group of ER staff who had given up all pretense of doing actual work and had moved closer to them. Kerry was shocked to discover that most of them were arrayed around and behind her.
"Ah! Dr. Carter." Romano finally spoke up, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Do you actually need something, or are you planning to make your own true confession?"
At hearing John's name Kerry instinctively sought out what she hoped would be a friendly face. Carter made his way over to them, followed by Abby and Jing-Mei. John stepped up next to Kerry and placed an arm across her shoulders, smiling down at her a moment before turning back toward Romano. "Just call me 'Spartacus,' Dr. Romano."
Kerry let out the breath she hadn't been aware of holding and allowed herself to lean into Carter's embrace--just slightly.
Abby stepped closer, quirking an eyebrow at Carter's reference. "Ummm...yeah. Me, too."
"Spartacus?" Jing-Mei asked. Upon seeing the glares directed at her by Carter and Abby, as well as Weaver's half-grin, she tamped down on her curiosity and just shrugged. "I've had my share of fantasies..." She ignored her friends' and Dr. Weaver's raised eyebrows and stood her ground before the Chief of Staff.
Romano looked to the ceiling before lowering his head and running a hand over his bald pate.
When he looked up, he spoke with barely contained irritation. "Yes. Well. That was far too much information about all of you." He addressed the group, but his eyes were riveted to Kerry's as he spoke.
Then his eyes swept over the crowd again. "Get back to work, people. You do have an ER to run, you know."
No one moved, so Romano pointed at the diminutive redhead at the center of it all. "We'll discuss this later, Kerry," he shot off before stalking back toward the elevators.
"I expect we will," Kerry murmured. She felt strangely energized by her colleagues' show of support, but she was profoundly tired of having to deal with that little man. Chances were, even if he dropped the current matter, he'd make her pay for her insubordination in other ways. She wouldn't shy away from the fight, though. She couldn't let Kim down a second time, no matter what it cost her personally.
Once Romano was out of sight, Kerry slung her free arm around Carter's waist, hugging him tightly for a moment as she spoke softly, "Thank you, John."
Carter smiled down at her warmly, "Any time."
Kerry gave him one last squeeze before pulling away and turning to survey the doctors, nurses, and other ER staff who had gathered to witness the display. Kerry studied them as carefully as she dared. There were only a couple who seemed genuinely uncomfortable. On the whole, she sensed nothing but support for her and amusement at Romano's expense.
For perhaps the first time ever since joining the staff at County General, she truly felt like a part of this little family--welcomed, and cared for.
She'd existed on the fringes of this group for so long she wasn't quite sure how to react.
She knew she couldn't possibly express to them just how much their support meant to her--not just because it meant she wouldn't be doubly ostracized, but also because it might mean that they all cared for her more than she had ever realized.
She surveyed the crowd once more before speaking. "Thank you. All of you," her voice was rough with emotion.
It was as if her voice broke the spell they all seemed to be under and the various assembled staff immediately became both animated and vocal--murmuring words of support and not a few jokes at Romano's expense. Kerry, caught between embarrassment and tears of gratitude, could only withstand so much of their concentrated good will, however.
"All right, everyone. Dr. Romano was right about one thing. We do have an ER to run."
They seemed to take the hint, but only a few walked off without further comment. Many others came up to touch an arm or pat a shoulder and offer further support before heading back to their various duties.
Carter lingered, as did Randi and Elizabeth. Kerry addressed Corday first.
"Elizabeth. I can't believe you did that!"
"Yes. Well, I've been thinking it's time to let bygones be bygones. I may not have agreed with your decisions regarding Mark, but I finally realized that you did not act out of malice."
Kerry's relief was palpable, "Thank you for that. And for today."
"Not a problem. He's a blowhard, Kerry. He needs to be taken down a bit from time to time. Besides, it was worth it to see the look on his face." Corday smiled, remembering that look.
Kerry couldn't' help but smile, "It was, wasn't it?"
"Oh yes. All the same, perhaps I should stay away from the surgical floor as much as possible today. Anyone in need of a surgical consult down here?"
Kerry realized that she had completely lost track of what was happening in her own department. "You could check the board..." she replied, sheepishly.
"That I will." Elizabeth grasped Kerry's arm a moment. "Best of luck, Kerry. With Romano, and...other things."
Kerry leaned more heavily on her crutch as Elizabeth walked over to survey the Admit board. She was curious as to what Elizabeth had meant by that last comment, but she was too shaky to pursue the matter now.
Carter noticed and leaned in to reassure her. "Everything will work out, Dr. Weaver."
"With Romano, maybe..." but it was Kim she was worried about now.
"I bet things will work out for Dr. Legaspi, too. She has you on her side, after all."
Yeah, but does she want me on her side after everything that happened, Kerry wondered. It was hardly the time or place for a heart-to-heart with Carter, though, so she just told him, "Thanks again."
"You're welcome. And if you need anything..."
"I will." Kerry smiled at him.
"Well, I should get back to my head lac in 2."
As Carter walked off, Kerry looked over at Randi. "Somewhere Malucci's head is exploding."
"Already has, I think."
There was something about the way she'd said it that worried Kerry. "He heard?"
"Yeah. Turned about five shades of green and bolted for the lounge."
"Oh, no." That didn't sound good. Still, she couldn't resist asking, "Sorry you couldn't tell him yourself?"
"Nah. Watching Dr. Dave and Dr. Dick get nailed with one shot? It's been a good day," Randi smiled.
Kerry laughed. "Well, you had a lot to do with it, too. Thanks for jumping in like that."
The desk clerk just shrugged. "Most fun I've had all day."
Kerry looked off toward the lounge. "I should probably go talk to him."
"Yeah. He's probably suffered enough by now." Randi looked suddenly embarrassed. "Um. Go easy on him, okay? He kinda looks up to you."
Kerry had been more worried about how Malucci would react to her than the reverse. "You don't think I'm the one who should be worried?"
"Nah. He can be a jerk sometimes, but he's not all bad. It might bother him a little at first, but I think he'll get over it."
"Thanks, Randi." She was already moving toward the lounge when Randi called her back.
"Dr. Weaver... Um. Malucci wasn't the only one who overheard you telling Romano off."
Kerry's face fell. "Who?"
"Oh." She wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. "Did she...how did she look?"
"Kinda impressed, actually. She was standing around the corner. At least, until I left the Admit desk and came over here. But the next time I looked back, she was gone."
"She didn't...she wasn't upset, was she?"
"Not that I could tell. She definitely didn't seem upset with you, anyway."
"Good luck, Dr. Weaver."
"Him, too," Randi called over her shoulder as she went back to her duties.
Kerry made her way to the lounge. She pushed the door open slightly, taking a breath to calm herself, but she froze when she heard Malucci's voice.
"You mean the Chief is just figuring this all out? Wow. That must be tough at her age."
At my age! She was about to push her way into the room when Kim's voice stopped her cold.
"It's not easy at any age, Dave. It's a pretty big adjustment, actually." So, that's who he was talking to.
"Yeah, I'll bet. But... I mean, you spend all this time trying to figure out who you are and what you want outta life, right? And the Chief must've thought she'd figured most of that stuff out by now, and then--WHAM! I dunno. It just seems like it'd be hard to wake up one day and realize you didn't know yourself nearly as well as you thought. Especially for someone like her, y'know? She's always so in charge of everything."
"That's... That's actually very perceptive of you, Dr. Malucci." Kim sounded as surprised by Dave's insight as Kerry was. Kim also sounded as if he'd reminded her of something she'd forgotten.
"But, I really don't think Dr. Weaver would appreciate us discussing her private life."
It seemed as good a cue as any, and she was beginning to feel foolish standing in the hallway with her hand on the door. "Why not? Give it five more minutes, half the hospital will be doing just that," she grumbled as she stepped inside.
Kim looked stunned, and Malucci looked like a puppy caught chewing his master's favorite pair of shoes.
"Maybe I should..."
The two had spoken at once and had stumbled over their words as they realized it, turning to look dumbly at each other. It was almost funny, and Kerry fought down the near-hysterical laughter that threatened to break free from her throat. Too much. Too damn much to deal with in one day. She longed for the chance to hide away alone somewhere just long enough to try and process things and regain some semblance of control.
Kim seemed to regain her composure first. "Maybe I should leave you two alone to talk."
"No!" Dave sounded more than a little nervous. "I may need a witness," he mumbled to Kim.
He took a couple of steps forward. "Chief. Um, Dr. Weaver. I already apologized to Dr. Legaspi, and she was pretty cool about it. But... I...ah...I've said some...pretty stupid things...around you lately. And I, uh, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am about that. I really respect you. And I'll try real hard to watch my mouth from now on. I just hope you can, uh..." He made a vague back-and-forth gesture with his right hand. "I hope we'll be okay?"
Kim's eyes said 'ah, give the kid a break,' and Malucci did seem genuinely contrite... "Yeah, Dave. I think we will be." She couldn't resist adding, "Now, don't you have some..."
"...work to do. Yeah, Chief. I'll get right on that!" Glad to be let off the hook, he all but bounced out of the room.
Unbeknownst to the two women who were now staring openly at one another, Malucci caught Randi's eye after stepping out of the lounge. It wasn't hard; she'd been keeping an eye on the lounge anyway. He stepped closer to the Admit desk.
"Randi. Um, Weaver's in there with Dr. Legaspi. Maybe we should..."
"Make sure that no one disturbs them."
"I'll take care of it." She started rummaging around behind the desk. She pulled out two large cardboard signs, and flashed them at Malucci. One said 'Closed for Maintenance,' the other, "Meeting in Progress: Do Not Disturb.' "Which do you think?"
Randi looked them over again. She seemed about to choose the other, then decided to go with Dave's suggestion. She stepped around the Admit desk and headed toward the lounge, Malucci following. "So, how'd you figure it out?"
"What? Oh, those two?" At Randi's nod, he continued. "Well, I went in there kinda worried--thinking Weaver was gonna kill me, y'know? Legaspi was in there, and she talked to me about it. I wondered how she'd even know about Weaver... And then when Weaver came in... The way they looked at each other. Well, it made me remember something."
By that point, Randi had put the sign on the lounge door and turned back toward the Admit desk, Malucci still following. "Yeah. So much for your system, huh?" Randi smirked and folded her arms across her chest.
"Oh. You heard about that?" Dave had the decency to look sheepish.
"I hear about everything."
Malucci held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. So I can't always tell."
"Yeah," Randi relented. "Well," she nodded toward the lounge, "giving them privacy was a good idea. Thanks."
Malucci straightened and adjusted his scrub top, "Hey, even a Goombah can get it right sometimes, huh?" He stepped around the desk to pick his next patient. Randi's voice stopped him, though.
Malucci turned to face her. "What?"
Randi looked upset. "The other door to the lounge! Oh, man... Here," she thrust the other sign out to him, "put this over the window on the other door. We'll just have to hope that no one pays enough attention to compare notes on the signs."
"Will do, Randi." Malucci flipped the chart he was holding closed and slipped it under an arm before taking the sign and heading around the corner to put it up.
Back in the lounge, the two ex-lovers were still looking at each other, an uneasy silence hanging between them.
Suddenly too drained for even one more encounter, Kerry's legs threatened to desert her and she limped heavily toward the nearest thing, the couch.
"Kim... I... I don't think I..."
To her surprise, Kim quickly stepped up and helped her as she eased down onto the cushions.
"Easy. It's okay," Kim soothed as she sank to her knees in front of Kerry.
The gesture had been automatic: Kim reaching out to her and Kerry allowing the aid--their hearts and bodies falling easily into that once-familiar pattern. All too quickly, though, they realized the wrongness of it given their current situation. Kim let her hand drop from Kerry's arm, and seconds later Kerry felt the hand burning against her injured hip retreat. Not far, though. Kerry looked down to find it lying flat against the cushion.
A long moment passed between them as their eyes met.
"Kim, I... I'm not sure I have the energy for this right now."
"For what, Kerry?" Kim sounded wary.
Kerry knew she needed to be clear. There'd been enough miscommunication between them already. "We need to talk. I want to try and talk things through...if you're willing. But I'm just... Today... I..." Kerry made a vague gesture toward the door and the world beyond it, before she realized she had begun to babble and made a conscious effort to wind down. She wondered--not for the first time--whether there was something about Kim, specifically, or if it were just the disconcerting revelations about her sexuality that seemed to bring out the gawky teenager within that she had never quite managed to leave behind.
Kim seemed to understand her difficulty. "You took a big step today. It's a lot to deal with. Especially all at once. Most of us don't come out to whole groups of people at once, after all."
"Now I know how Jeanie felt," Kerry muttered, becoming lost in thought for a moment.
When she realized Kim was still there, waiting for some explanation to her non sequitur, she shook off the memories with a shake of her head. "I-it was a different kind of disclosure, but still one of the bravest things I've ever seen. Actually, I guess Jeanie is one of the things we need to talk about."
"Okay." Kim had her suspicions about the reason, but decided not to pursue it yet.
"But right now, I just feel so..." Kerry dropped her head, struggling for the words to describe her jumbled thoughts and feelings.
When the silence seemed to drag out too long, Kim gently prodded, "What Kerry? What are you feeling, right now? Tell me."
Kerry looked up, half-expecting to see a clinical Kim looking back at her, but all she could see was the woman, the lover. The one she had shared so much, and yet so little, with. She knew she would have to try to answer, for both their sakes. "Angry. Scared. Terrified, really. But relieved too, in a way. Worried about my job. Worried about your job. Worried about what they're all thinking about me now..." Kerry again gestured toward the door. "Take your pick," she shrugged.
Kim smiled and nodded. "That all sounds about right."
"But mostly I just feel so...exposed."
"Is that such a bad thing?"
Kerry studied Kim closely. "Is that the psychiatrist in you or your own self-interest talking?"
Kim's eyes dipped down to look at her own hand, still lying near Kerry's hip, then back up to meet Kerry's. "A little of both, I think."
Kerry nodded. It was close enough to the answer she wanted. "I guess it's good that it's out in the open, now. If I'd had to tell all those people individually..." Kerry shook her head. "But, Kim, I don't... I don't usually talk about myself with people. It's hard for me. And I always feel so..."
"Exposed," Kim filled in.
"Yes." They were silent a moment before Kerry spoke again. "You know what else I feel? Proud."
A smile spread across Kim's face. "You should be."
"Not just that I finally said it out loud. But that I was able to do now what I should have done for you months ago."
Kim sighed. "For what it's worth, Kerry, I didn't need or expect you to come out to the hospital staff back then. What I really needed most at the time was just a little sympathy and support, as a friend, and the same kind of support you'd give any other respected colleague."
"I know. But I let my fear of being exposed paralyze me."
"Yes, but it was an understandable reaction. Though I was too hurt at the time to be very understanding. I... I've been out since I was seventeen, Kerry. It's been a long time since I've let those fears shake me up the way they did then--since I've let them have that kind of power over me. I could so easily see things from Shannon Wallace's point-of-view, but I had a much harder time seeing them from yours. Maybe that was just because I wanted so badly for it to be easier--for both of us. Maybe I was being selfish, expecting too much of you, too soon."
"I don't know, Kim... I just..." Kerry again found herself at a loss for what to say. Kim's words left her torn between hope that they could somehow work things out and worry that it was just way too much to hope for. And her thoughts and emotions were still in too much turmoil from the events of that afternoon for her to be able to sort through it enough to be coherent.
"Kerry?" Kim prodded, after she'd been silent some minutes.
Kerry looked into Kim's eyes again. "Kim. I'm sorry. I just... I think I just need some time to...get myself together."
Kim looked worried. "How much time do you think you'll need?"
"Just...let me get through this shift. And then maybe..."
Kim's relieved, "Oh!" cut her off. "Okay. How 'bout we go somewhere and I buy you a cup of coffee after our shifts? We can take things from there?" Kim's smile seemed open and full of possibility. Kerry hadn't seen that smile in months. It was a beautiful sight.
She grinned in response. "Make it something alcoholic, and you've got a deal. I think I could use a drink, after today."
Kim's smile dimmed only slightly. "Okay. But, we'll both go easy, okay? Just enough to take the edge off. I don't want--"
Kerry held up a hand to cut her off. "That's fine, Kim. I won't need more than that. And, I want to be clear-headed when we talk, too."
"Good. Maybe we should think about dinner, too?" Kim ventured.
"That sounds wonderful, actually." Kerry tried not to read too much into the invitation. She was afraid of hoping for too much.
"Okay." Kim pushed herself up to her full height. "I'll come find you after my shift? Assuming nothing else goes wrong..." Kim's expression dimmed slightly at that thought.
"Fine," Kerry nodded, then spoke again quickly before Kim could turn away, "Kim. I want you to know... I'll fight Romano, no matter what. I won't let you down again."
"I know, Kerry. I do," Kim reassured her. She laid a gentle hand on Kerry's shoulder for a moment. "You'll be fine, Kerry. You have friends here--people who care about you. And Romano's little more than a bully. Bullies usually either need some kind of public support, or quiet complicity for their harassment to succeed. Romano got neither today. I don't think he'll push things much further."
Kerry nodded. "I hope you're right."
Kim nodded and stepped to the door. "I'll see you later, Kerry," she said as she pulled the door open.
"Yeah. I'll look forward to it. Thanks, Kim."
The blonde just nodded and stepped out into the ER, leaving Kerry alone to compose herself before she must do the same. As Kim started to walk away, the sign on the door caught her eye. She looked from it, to Randi, who was standing behind the Admit desk feigning ignorance, and back again. She almost took the sign down before remembering how shaken Kerry still was. Best to leave it up, for now. She mouthed a silent, "Thank you," at Randi, who just nodded. Kim headed for the elevators, hoping there would be no more surprises from Romano today.
Kerry allowed herself only a few more minutes to collect her thoughts. She shoved aside all her hopes and fears about her upcoming dinner with Kim. But she held on to the thought of it, knowing she would have that to look forward to no matter what else happened in the ER that afternoon.
She focused on again becoming Kerry Weaver, alpha-bitch and Chief of County's Emergency Department. It was a role she played well, and one she was much better suited for than the frightened rabbit she had become when she squeaked out such a weak defense of Kim that even Romano had criticized her for it. Telling Romano off had helped her find her fire again, and she was determined to hold onto it, and to do her job the way she always had.
She left the lounge and headed straight for the board, only to spot Malucci heading toward her.
"I was just coming to get you, Chief. We've got a three-car MVA on the way. We're getting six--three of 'em critical."
"Seven to ten minutes on the first unit, with another two units following close behind."
"Okay, people! Let's hustle! Clear Trauma One and Trauma Two, and Curtain One. Abby, get at least eight units of O-neg down here. Carter, Chen, get suited up...." Kerry continued barking orders even as she went through the process of putting on a gown and gloves herself.
Amidst all the preparations for the incoming trauma, Kerry missed seeing Dave sneaking the signs off the lounge doors and slipping them to Randi.
Kerry only had a moment to be thankful--as odd as that seemed--for the interruption. Soon enough, she was just another doctor working with her team to save another patient. And it was all about the work. No time for worry. No time for gossip or speculation. Just doing what had to be done to help the patient.
By the time they had sent two of the criticals up to surgery and stabilized the third, there was little more than an hour left to go on her shift. Things had calmed down considerably in the ER, but the events of that afternoon seemed to have been forgotten. Well, Kerry was sure that no one had actually forgotten her confrontation with Romano, but she also knew that it would be okay. Because the work should, did, and always would come first. That thought comforted her. She grabbed a chart and moved on to her next patient.
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