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.
A Friend in Need
By Susan P
"Randi! Get yer ass over here, girl."
Randi spotted her friend in the crowd and headed toward her. "Heey Sylvia. Long time, no see."
"No kidding. Wow, I like the hair! It looks good on you."
"Thanks." She ran a hand through her now-blonde tresses. "I needed a change. Where are Roberta and Denise? They better show up, this was their idea!"
"Don't worry. They're already here. You're the one that's late. Bert had to hit the ladies', and Denise is at the bar grabbing a pitcher."
"Oh, okay." Randi looked over toward the bar and spotted her friend. As she turned back toward Sylvia, she caught sight of a familiar shock of auburn hair, and did a quick double take.
Sylvia caught the look and asked, "What's up, Ran?"
"Hang on, hang on..." Randi waved a hand back at her friend while she continued to study the woman at the bar. She could only see the back of her head, really, and she had all but convinced herself that it couldn't possibly be who she thought it was until the crowd parted just enough that she caught a glimpse of the aluminum crutch at the woman's side.
"I'll be damned," she muttered.
"Hey, Randi! You made it," Denise called out as she walked up with the pitcher and four mugs.
"Hi, Denise," Randi replied distractedly, still staring toward the bar.
"What's up with her?" Denise leaned in to ask Sylvia.
"Hell if I know!"
Randi overheard, barely, and turned toward them for a second. "Um... Look, guys, excuse me a minute, okay? I think I see someone I know. I'll be back."
Randi didn't wait for them to reply, and barely took the time to notice and acknowledge Roberta's approach. "Hey, Bert. Be back in a sec." She continued to shoulder her way through the crowd until she was standing just behind...her boss. Her boss who just slammed back a shot like it was water. Her boss who probably didn't want to see anyone she knew in a place like this. Her boss who looked...smaller, somehow. Her boss who could maybe use a friend right now. She just hoped that Dr. Weaver would accept her extended hand, and not bite it off...
"Doc--" No, definitely the wrong approach. She placed a tentative hand on Weaver's back, half-expecting it to be shrugged off. "Um... Kerry?"
Randi had never actually seen a deer caught in headlights, but she figured Kerry was doing a remarkable impression of one. But it only lasted a moment before her face crumpled in on itself and she turned away, dropping her forehead onto the edge of the bar.
"Oh, no." Kerry's mumble was just barely distinguishable from the noise of the crowd.
"Nice to see you, too," Randi mumbled in return, letting her hand fall away.
All Kerry heard was the sarcasm in that statement and she whipped around to counterattack, "Yes. I know. I'm a bitch. Nobody likes me. Now, why don't you go back to...whatever it was you were doing. I'd like to be alone."
Kerry had already turned back to signal the bartender for another drink, but Randi's retort made her look back and challenge, "What?"
"You're wrong on both counts. If you really wanted to be alone, you would be. You may be here 'alone,' but you wanted to be around people, or you wouldn't have come to a bar full of them. It's a subtle difference, but still. You may blow me off, you may not say a word to anyone else here--except the bartender--but part of you is looking for some kind of connection, even if you don't want to admit it. Now, maybe you picked a gay bar because you thought you'd be safe. Maybe you picked a place where you wouldn't have to deal with sleazy men coming on to you. Maybe you came here thinking you wouldn't have to hear anyone call you a 'dyke.'"
Randi stared into Kerry's eyes, communicating the rest without words. She expected Kerry to yell at her, tell her it was none of her business, tell her to get lost, or maybe she would just walk away. Kerry did none of those. She simply gulped down the drink the bartender had discreetly left a moment before. "I came here to forget about work, Randi," she spoke quietly.
"Can't say I blame you there. I came here wanting to forget it, too. What he said. It was directed at you, but it got to me, too. You hear it enough, it takes some of the sting out. But it still stings, especially when it comes from someone you know. It helps sometimes, coming to places like this, leaving the hateful crap you get out there at the door. You keep drinking like that, though, and you'll forget the way home."
"Hah! Just as well. The way Malucci tells it, work is my home. Maybe I should forget the way there. I've all but handed my career to Romano as it is."
"Screw Malucci and Romano! Well...eeew, not really. You just can't worry too much about jerks like them. For what it's worth, Doc--" she broke off, frustrated. "Kerry?"
Weaver nodded. "Kerry."
"Kerry. Malucci was pissed off, and he reached for the most offensive, hurtful thing he could think of. I don't think he really knew... What he was saying."
"But you knew?"
"I didn't know. I suspected. Dr. Legaspi. You both...left about the same time. I thought there might be a connection. Plus, you've been a little off your game since you came back. And she didn't."
"Yeah." Kerry managed to look relieved and worried at the same time.
"Your secret's safe with me, Kerry."
"Thanks." Kerry downed yet another drink. "Doesn't matter, though. They wanna hate me, the'll find a reason. 'm still a pariah in my own damn ER." The alcohol was starting to catch up to Kerry; she'd begun to slur her words a little. Randi caught the bartender's eye and made a motion behind Kerry's back that it was time to cut her off.
"Kerry. Look at me. See. That's the other thing you're wrong about. Yeah, you can be hard to work with sometimes, and you can get a little bitchy once in awhile. I was bitching about you earlier today myself, because you were overreacting and taking it out on the department. But not everybody there hates you. Greene and Corday have been down on you since that evaluation thing, but every time something goes wrong for him, he acts like a total ass and takes it out on the department. And it was even worse after his operation, so he shouldn't be pointing fingers, if you ask me. Carter was a whiny little twerp most of last year, but he seems like he may be getting past it. He respects you, and I think he likes you, too. Hell, even Malucci doesn't hate you; he's just too pissed off right now to know that. It may have been a little sudden, but I don't think you did anything wrong where he's concerned."
Kerry seemed almost amused at her little outburst. "Gee, Randi, don't hold back. Tell us how you really feel."
She knew it was meant to be a joke, but she was getting tired of watching Kerry beat herself up. Tired of watching her take crap from those people with little or no protest. "Fine. I will." She held Kerry's eyes with her own. "I. Like. You. And, even if I bitch about you sometimes at work, that doesn't change. I still like you, and I respect you. You're a good doctor, Kerry--not just the way you treat patients medically, but because of how you treat them as people. You're a good Chief, too. That ER runs better with you around than without you, and anyone who can't see that is just blind or stupid. I, for one, was glad when you came back from Africa. It wasn't the same without you."
Kerry just stared at her, disbelief, gratitude, and something Randi couldn't quite identify written across her features. She kept staring, apparently unable or unwilling to respond, and Randi noticed that her eyes were starting to get that glazed look.
Kerry started to shake her head, felt a little dizzy from the motion, just for a second, and that made her rethink her initial response. "Um. Yeah. You may be right."
Randi smirked. "Of course I'm right. Now, settle your tab, and I'll take you home."
"I've got my car."
"Well, there's no way in hell I'm gonna let you drive it tonight. If you don't want to leave your car in this neighborhood, I'll leave mine here and we'll take yours. But you've only got two choices: I drive you, or I send you home in a cab."
"There's an El station..."
"Uh-uh. Not good enough. Not in your condition."
Randi cut her off before she could build up a full head of steam. "Your pupils are dilated, your speech is a little slurred, your reflexes are no doubt affected by now... Crutch or no crutch, are you sure you'll be steady on your feet? Or that you'll be able to take care of yourself if something happens? I wanna make sure you get home safe."
Kerry was surprised to see the genuine concern in Randi's eyes. "Okay, okay. My car. But," she held up a finger, "you hurt it, I'll hurt you."
Randi just smiled at the threat. That was more like the Chief. "Got it."
Kerry paid the bill, grimacing when she realized exactly how many drinks she'd had. After dropping her wallet back into her purse, she dug her keys out and dutifully dropped them into Randi's outstretched palm. She slid off the bar stool and reached for her crutch, only to find that Randi had already retrieved it and was holding it ready for her. She met the young woman's eyes for a moment, then slid her arm through the cuff and grabbed the handgrip. "Okay."
They headed for the door, moving at a relatively slow pace, due to the crowd and the extra caution Kerry took with each step. Randi walked close by her left side, ready to lend a guiding, or a steadying, hand, if needed. They were still a few feet from the door when someone called out, "Hey, Randi! Where ya goin'?"
"Oh, crap. I almost forgot," Randi muttered, looking over to see Roberta heading toward them. As the other woman came closer, Randi spoke to her. "I'm sorry, Bert. Apologize to Denise and Syl for me, will ya? I gotta go."
"Everything okay, Ran?" Roberta asked, her tone somewhere between concern and amusement. It wouldn't be the first time Randi had picked up someone when they went out, but she wasn't the type to blow off her friends entirely for the sake of someone she barely knew. Usually, she would at least hang out for a while before taking off.
Randi could guess what Bert was thinking from the way she was looking at Kerry, and she tried to correct that assumption before her friend could say something that would embarrass Kerry.
"Everything's fine, Bert. Just helping a friend in need. Bert, um, Roberta, this is Kerry." The other two women nodded politely to each other and Randi continued, "She's, umm... She's had a little too much." Too much to drink, too much to deal with the past few months, too much crap dumped on her the past week... "I just want to make sure she gets home safe. Rain check?"
"Sure thing. Hey, drop by around dinnertime tomorrow, if you can. If not, we can try this again next week..."
"That sounds great, Bert. I'll definitely see you and D. soon."
Roberta smiled, "Great! And, Kerry, it was nice to meet you. Maybe we'll see you again, sometime."
Kerry's response surprised Randi. "Maybe. Nice meeting you, too." Maybe the Chief was just being polite, but Randi appreciated the gesture anyway.
They were about to turn away again when Randi remembered something. "Hey, Bert, could you do me a favor and drop my car off at my place? I'll just take the El home after I get Kerry to her place." She fished around in her jeans pocket for her keys.
"Yeah, D. and I will take care of that for you." She took the keys from Randi, "Stash these in the usual spot?"
"Please." Randi leaned over to give her friend a one-armed hug and a peck on the cheek. "Sorry about skipping out on you guys tonight."
"S'okay. See you later."
Randi again took up her place beside Kerry and guided her toward the exit.
"She seemed nice."
"She's a good friend."
"Did you... Were you two ever...?" Kerry faltered, not sure she should continue, or even why she wanted to know.
"Together?" Randi finished for her. "Nah. She and Denise have been together for years. Since before I met them." Then Randi answered the question she thought Kerry might want to ask, but be afraid to. "Sylvia and I dated for a while, but we're just friends, now."
Kerry was silent a minute, as they stepped outside. She pointed toward where she'd left her car, and they headed that way, Randi still hovering close by.
"Do all... Is that fairly common? For exes to remain friends and continue socializing?" It was a conversation she and Kim had only barely touched on, and Kerry still wasn't sure she understood the dynamic.
"Well... It usually depends on how bitter the breakup was, and sometimes on how much time has passed since and whether the wounds have healed in the meantime. But, yeah. I think it's more common for gay or bi- women than it is for gay men or straight couples. I hang out with more of my ex-girlfriends than ex-boyfriends, anyway."
Kerry said nothing, and remained fairly silent, other than pointing out her car, until Randi slipped behind the wheel after helping her into the passenger seat.
Randi was about to start the car when Kerry asked, "Roberta thought that we were...dating?"
Randi looked over to see Kerry's blue eyes fixed on her. "Um, well, she might've assumed I was picking you up, yeah..."
"You do that a lot?"
Kerry didn't seem to be judging her, but Randi felt the need to defend herself a little, anyway. "Not a lot. But I do, sometimes. And Bert knows that I'm not dating anyone seriously right now, so she might've figured I got lucky, or was about to." Randi shrugged.
"So you told her I was a friend, so she wouldn't assume I was something else."
"Pretty much. I was afraid she might say something that would offend you, or something."
"Thank you. For giving a damn about my feelings."
That last had been spoken so softly Randi was certain she'd been the first person in a long time who'd seemed to care about what was going on inside Kerry Weaver. It made her want to reach out to Kerry, and soothe some of those old wounds. She wasn't sure how Kerry would take it, though, so she just put her hand on Kerry's shoulder a moment and said, "You're Welcome." Then, she started the car.
Before she could ask directions, or even put the car in gear, Kerry's next question stopped her. "Randi. Are we...?"
Kerry didn't continue, and Randi wasn't going to take the chance of assuming anything, so she looked over and asked, "Are we what?"
"You told Roberta I was a friend. Are we? Friends?"
Randi spotted what looked like hope in Kerry's eyes and smiled. "We definitely could be, if you give it half a chance."
Kerry's smile lit up the darkness. "I think I can do that."
Randi smiled in return. "Good. Now, let's get you home."
Randi tried to keep Kerry talking, asking questions whenever the silence seemed to go on too long--partly to keep her distracted, and partly to keep her from dozing. Weaver must have been drunk, or desperate for someone to talk to, because Randi got more information out of Kerry than she would have thought possible.
Yes, it was Kerry's first foray into a gay bar. No, it was nowhere near her neighborhood. Randi guessed that the Chief had researched enough to know where most, if not all, of the bars were in the Chicago area, so she suspected Kerry's choice had been deliberately out of the way. That told her a lot about where Kerry still was, but she was kind enough not to point it out. A step out was a step out, after all, and people took them in their own time.
She took a chance and asked if Kerry knew where Dr. Legaspi had gone. Instead of telling her where to get off, Kerry just said, "Your guess is as good as mine," and left it at that. That meant things had ended--and badly.
"She was your first, huh?"
Again, Kerry surprised Randi by answering. "Yeah."
"Whoa. I've been on both sides of that. It rarely works out."
"Why is that?"
"Well, it's different for different people. Some people can sleep with someone of their own sex and it's just about sex--they wall it up from the rest of their lives and never really even think about what it means to who they are. But, if you come out and admit that you're gay or bi- or anything other than straight, which is what the whole damned world tells you you're supposed to be... Even if you have a pretty easy time of it--if the people around you are supportive, and you don't have too much hateful garbage of your own to get past--it changes how you look at yourself. So, when you're just coming out and are in your first relationship, you're going through a lot of stuff, and that's on top of the stuff you go through just being in a new relationship. If you've been out a while and hook up with someone who's just going through it, you remember how it was for you, you try to be sensitive to what the other person's going through, but their issues are not your issues anymore. It just...makes things even more complicated than they usually are. Too complicated, sometimes."
Kerry said nothing, but seemed to be thinking it over. Randi let the silence stretch out a few minutes, then decided to take one last shot, knowing she might not ever get the chance again.
"It's not my business, really, but... How long were you and Legaspi together?"
"Um...just a couple of months, maybe three."
That explains the twenty-questions bit, Randi thought. She managed to keep from laughing, but couldn't quite keep the smirk off her face. Too bad Kerry happened to be watching her.
Shit. Busted. Randi glanced over at Kerry a second. "Um... I was just thinking that kind of explained why you were asking me this stuff. You, uh... If you two were only together a couple months, chances are you spent more time in bed, um, being gay than you did talking about it."
Randi wasn't sure how she expected Kerry to react, but laughter definitely wasn't on the list.
Once Kerry caught her breath, she turned to look at Randi, still smiling. "That was you trying to be subtle, right?"
Randi caught the spirit and joked back, "Well, yeah! You already fired one person today, I don't wanna be next on the list."
Kerry managed to hang on to her humor and not let the joke get to her. The laughter had done wonders for her disposition. She looked up and noticed, for the first time, how close to home they were. "Oh, take the second right. It's six houses up on the right, but just park wherever you can."
They actually caught a break and got a spot, just after someone pulled out, a few feet up the street from Kerry's. Randi got out, went around to the passenger side in case Kerry needed a hand. Kerry didn't ask for any, but Randi noticed that she seemed to be moving more slowly than usual. She followed close behind Kerry.
Kerry noticed and called over her shoulder, "I'm fine, Randi!"
"I know. Humor me." She handed the keys back to Kerry at the foot of her steps, then stopped on the middle step, watching while Kerry unlocked the door.
Kerry pushed her door open and turned back to face Randi. "Look, why don't you come in? The least I can do, after ruining your evening, is pay for a cab to take you home."
"I'm okay with just taking the El, Kerry."
"I know," Kerry smirked. "Humor me."
Randi couldn't decide if Kerry was just being polite, or if she wanted company. Either way, she had nothing better to do for the next hour or so.
"Okay, Chief. And, for the record, you may have caused me to change my plans, but you didn't ruin my night. This has been kinda cool, actually. I was thinking maybe I should take you out and get you drunk sometime. You're a lot more fun when you've had a few." Randi winked at Kerry and patted her on the shoulder as she slipped past her and into the front hallway.
"Thanks. I think." Kerry locked the door behind them and asked Randi, "Have you eaten? Can I get you something?"
"Um, maybe. Where's the kitchen?" Randi was more concerned about Kerry than herself, though. She headed off in the direction Kerry indicated. By the time Kerry stepped into the kitchen, Randi had already found a couple of glasses and filled them with water. She set one on the counter in front of Kerry.
"Drink that down, and at least one more. Last thing I need at work tomorrow is a hungover Weaver. You should probably try to eat a little something, too. Now, where do you keep the aspirin?"
Kerry's head was spinning, though not from the alcohol. "Um, back to the hall, second door to the left, in the medicine cabinet."
"Cool. Uh, how's the hip? Could you maybe use something for that?" She hoped Kerry wouldn't take that the wrong way. No such luck.
Kerry seemed more embarrassed by the question than Randi did. She studied her shoes for a moment, then replied quietly, "Prescription-strength ibuprofen, also in the cabinet, just one."
"Hey, Kerry. I didn't mean anything by that. I'm just trying to look out for you. When's the last time somebody did that?"
Kerry nodded, and Randi headed to the bathroom. She got as far as the hallway before she realized what she'd just said. There could be only one right answer to that question, and it would only remind Kerry of what she no longer had. Damn it.
When Randi walked back into the kitchen, Kerry was perched on a stool at the center island, her glass of water untouched, looking like someone had just kicked her puppy. Randi wanted to kick herself. She stepped over to the redhead, dropped two aspirin and the ibuprofen on the counter in front of Kerry. "Here. Take those."
Kerry complied without really looking at Randi.
Randi pointed to the glass in Kerry's hand. "Finish that." Kerry did, and Randi took the glass and refilled it, putting it back on the counter by Kerry, who didn't touch it.
Kerry finally looked at Randi, looking almost as bad as she had earlier at the bar. "Kim and I... It was all my fault. She needed me, and I... I failed her. I..."
Randi put a hand on the redhead's shoulder. "Kerry. I don't know what you did, or didn't do, but it doesn't sound like the kind of thing you can go back and fix, or you would have already. There's not much point in beating yourself up over it now. The only way to make up for something like that is to just try and do better the next time, and the next."
Kerry looked a little better, but she still sounded pretty bitter when she replied. "Yeah. Well, I tried that, but it didn't seem to work out."
"Maybe it just didn't work out the way you would have liked. That doesn't mean it wasn't worth it. You tried. That's all you can do."
Kerry nodded, wondering at the fact that she was sitting here in her kitchen, taking advice from Randi. She didn't say anything else.
Finally, Randi got tired of sitting there, staring at each other. "You miss her, don't you?"
"Yeah. I do. But it's more than that." Kerry looked more lost than Randi had ever seen her. It was almost scary.
"I just... I don't know who I am anymore, Randi."
Randi couldn't just stand back and watch this any more. She stepped closer to Kerry. "C'mere. Just let me do this." She pulled Kerry into an embrace, moving between Kerry's legs as they fell open, pulling the other woman even closer.
Kerry didn't resist. In fact, she snuggled into Randi's arms like she'd found the thing she'd been looking for all night. Randi had one arm wrapped firmly around Kerry's waist, and she used the other to rub in soothing motions along Kerry's back.
Randi spoke quietly, but clearly. "You're Kerry Weaver. You've been through some stuff in your life, but you've gotten through it. You're a survivor. You're one of the best doctors County General has got. You can be tough, when you wanna be, but you can also be kind, compassionate, and loving, I'll bet. Most of the time, you don't give a damn what other people think of you, because you're not trying to measure up to anyone's standards but your own. You just found out something about yourself that you didn't know, or didn't let yourself know 'til now. You may not be sure what it all means just yet, but you can figure it all out. You may be feeling a little lost right now, but you will find your way, eventually. It doesn't all have to happen at once, you know."
Kerry was silent a moment, before asking, "Randi?"
Kerry's voice was small, "I'm still not sure why you're being so nice to me, but... Thank You."
"Yeah, well. Welcome to the softer side of Randi. Don't tell anyone though, I've got a rep of my own to maintain." Randi smiled at her own joke when she felt Kerry shaking with quiet laughter in her arms. After a moment, she pulled back a little and peered into Kerry's eyes.
"As for why I'm being nice to you: what part of 'I like you' didn't you understand. I do like you. You looked like you could use a friend tonight. And, you know what? I'd like to be that friend, I think. Excuse me for saying so, but if Dave was right about anything today, it's that you need something in your life besides work. So, if you wanna hang out sometime, or if you need a kind of queer, 'Dear Abby' to offer you advice, or whatever, you can call on me, if you want."
"Thanks, Randi. For everything."
They were still holding each other, but more loosely, now. "You're welcome, Kerry, but you can stop thanking me anytime now. I should thank you."
"For what?" Kerry sounded skeptical.
"For letting me see you. I think I like the view."
Kerry nodded. "I could say the same." She pulled back, leaving one hand against Randi's hip, and grabbing her glass with the other. She downed about half of it, then said, "Why don't you just stay here tonight?"
Randi took a step back, shaking her head slightly. "Not that you're not attractive, or anything like that, Kerry, but I kinda have this rule about not going to bed with drunk women. Whatever you're going through, whatever you think you need, a cheap one- night stand isn't it. You're better than that, and so am I. Besides, I don't really want to be the one you turn to on the rebound, or the 'gee, if I can sleep with another woman and like it, I really must be gay' transition girl."
Kerry tried to keep from smiling too broadly at Randi's response. "Um, Randi. I'm... Well, I'm not sure whether I should be flattered by that or not, but I just meant... It's late, we both have early shifts tomorrow, I've enjoyed your company and wouldn't mind having someone around tonight. You're welcome to sleep in my bed, of course, but I didn't mean... I wasn't propositioning you."
Randi looked embarrassed. "Oh. Yeah. I knew that." She rolled her eyes, for effect. "Hey, waitaminute. Why not proposition me? What the hell's wrong with me?" Randi teased, trying to defuse the tension.
Kerry held up her hands in surrender. "Oh, no. There's no way I can win with that conversation."
Randi smirked, "Yeah, you're probably right, there."
"So, would you be okay with sharing the bed, or should I make up the couch?"
Randi thought about a second, then asked, "How comfortable would you be, really, with me in your bed?"
"I..." Kerry hesitated just long enough to make Randi's choice clear.
"Uh-huh. Couch it is. But just give me a blanket and a pillow and I'll be fine, really."
Kerry nodded. "Okay."
"You know, I am kinda hungry. You got stuff to make sandwiches?"
"Yeah. That sounds like a good idea, actually."
Kerry slid off the stool and went to the refrigerator. She started handing off various items to Randi, who laid them out on the counter.
As they set about making their late-night snack, Kerry asked, "So, tell me more about your friends..."
Return to ER Fiction
Return to Main Page