DISCLAIMER: I don't own 'em. I just like to let them out to play
once in awhile. It's not like TPTB are putting them to good use.
DISCLAIMER 2: I'm not making any money off of them; this is a labor of love. You know-- the obsessive kind that you're slightly embarrassed to admit to in public.
WARNING 1: Contains high sentiment and some warm, fuzzy Weaver. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea. Hell, it's not really even my cup of tea so go figure. Nevertheless, don't say you weren't warned.
WARNING 2: It's an "Oh god, not another Weaver/Legaspi reunification fic. As if THAT would happen in real life!" Don't say you weren't warned.
WARNING 3: I've worked in every romance movie cliché I could think of so-say it with me now-don't say you weren't warned. Still with me? Anyone? Hellooo?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Generic Romance Number 3
Part One--Surprise Meetings
The doors to the psych ward opened with a welcoming whoosh. A tall, slender blonde approached the front desk where a clerk was busily typing at a computer. He looked up as she approached and broke out into a wide grin of recognition.
"Hey, Dr. K! Welcome back. We've missed you around here. How was England?" The desk clerk was unusually chipper for so early in the day but then beautiful women sometimes had that effect on him.
"Hey Derrick. It's good to be back. Although I'm not officially back `til tomorrow," she reminded him. "I just wanted to check in, take care of a few things." She set a large box down on the counter in front of the cheerful clerk as she shrugged out of her coat. "As for England, it was damp. And cold. The food sucked and did I mention the damp and the cold?" She'd spent the past nine months in London working on a psychiatric fellowship at the Royal Academy of Medicine. She discovered that, cultural differences aside, nuts was nuts.
"And the beer?"
Kim's expression grew wistful. "That was great." `Although not as great as the delightful waitress in the local pub,' she thought. "There was a fabulous pub just across from my tiny, cold, damp apartment. They had the best dark ale I've ever tasted, even if I had to drink it warmer than usual." She grinned at the memory.
Derek laughed. "Is that what's in the box?" he asked hopefully. He and Kim had bonded one happy hour over a love of rich, dark microbrews.
"No, that got confiscated at customs," Kim said sadly. She nodded toward the box. "This is tea and candy and all sorts of other goodies." She rummaged through the box and then tossed him a tin of cookies. "I'm just going to stick the rest in the break room for everybody."
She picked the box back up. "Is the boss in yet? I'm supposed to meet her at 8."
"Yeah, she's already in her office," he said as he tore open the tin. "It really is great to have you back Doc," he said around a mouthful of cookie.
Kim smiled and waved as she headed down the hall toward her supervisors office. She made a quick detour to the break room. She hoped her mug was still there. She could really use a cup of coffee. She'd flown home three days ago and she was still fighting jet lag. And she was sick of tea.
Fifteen minutes later, armed with a strong cup of coffee and a fresh legal pad, she knocked on her supervisor's office door.
"Come in," was the muffled response.
Kim pushed her way in through the door. She was eager to get back to work.
Kim's boss, Janet Peterson, was an attractive woman in her late middle age. She had salt and pepper hair that she wore cut very close to her scalp. She'd been a practicing psychiatrist for the better part of forty years and Kim respected her immensely. Janet scooted around the desk and enveloped Kim in a strong hug.
"Kim, it's great to have you back. And not just because we're short handed again," she joked as she sat down again. "And I'm supposed to invite you to dinner tonight so you can tell us all about your travels."
"It wasn't a vacation; I sent you the study results." Kim pursed her lips in mock prissiness.
Janet laughed. "Yeah, I got them but I really haven't had a chance to look at them. But if I know you, you managed a few extra curricular activities."
Kim nodded with a self satisfied smile. She had managed to get out of the hospital on occasion and there was certainly something to be said for the charms of English women.
Janet continued, "Sharon wants an account of your real adventures in bonnie olde England. She said you mentioned a barmaid named Anna in several of your more interesting emails."
Kim liked and respected Janet but she loved Janet's partner Sharon. Sharon was a real estate agent and had taken Kim under her wing when she moved to Minneapolis five years ago. First she helped Kim get a great deal on a fabulous loft apartment; then she proceeded to introduce her to every eligible dyke she knew. It wasn't Sharon's fault that none of the women had proved more than temporary diversions. Still, Sharon and Janet had been together 25 years and their easy, loving partnership gave Kim hope that such things were still possible. With her recent dating history, she could easily doubt it.
"I'd love to come to dinner but a lady doesn't kiss and tell."
"Good thing you're not a lady, then," Janet shot back with a smile. She rummaged around on her desk for a minute looking for the department's monthly schedule. She found it under the third stack of papers she lifted.
They went over Kim's schedule and the current departmental issues. She briefed Kim on the latest crop of medical students and the new first year residents and then they went over the results of Kim's study. After an hour they were ready for a break.
"Okay, we've covered work now tell me what's really been going on since I left. Did Bob's wife leave him when she found out about the affair?" Kim asked curiously.
They spent another half hour gleefully covering office gossip Kim had missed out on while she was gone. There had been 3 births, two separations and one nervous breakdown. "Wow, a lot happened in nine months."
"Yeah, and those are just the high points. We can cover the rest when you come over for dinner. Sharon's making lasagna tonight," Janet said.
Sharon made the best lasagna Kim had ever eaten.
"Great, I'll bring the wine." Kim stood and gathered up her notes and her empty coffee cup. "Anything else I should know about before I head into battle?" She walked toward the door.
"Oh yeah, the board finally selected a new chief of staff. Not that we see much of the powers that be down here."
"It took them long enough. What's he like?"
Kim raised her eyebrows. That was unexpected, great but unexpected.
"She's cute but bossy, verging on bitchy."
Kim laughed. "Just the way you like them."
"Pot, kettle. She does have the most darling toddler. Her name's ..." Just then Janet's phone rang. Janet glanced at the caller id. "I have to take this," she said, with real regret. "We'll finish catching up later," Janet promised as she turned to get the phone.
Kim nodded and waved as she headed out the door. She was ready to get back to work.
Eight hours later, Kim was ready to escape work but she was still trapped at the hospital. Two of her colleagues called in sick and Kim agreed to cover most of their appointments. She was really looking forward to a good dinner and a warm bed. She dropped off some paperwork in personnel and now all she needed was her coat and car keys. She hit the elevator call button and leaned against the wall while she waited for the car to arrive. She didn't even realize she'd closed her eyes until the ding of the elevator startled her awake. She moved away from the wall and watched the doors of the elevator slide open.
Her eyes widened in shock. A familiar middle-aged redhead was leaning on a crutch in front of her. Kim's only consolation was that Kerry looked as shocked as she felt. In fact if Kerry's jaw dropped any lower she'd be in danger of dislocating it. Before either woman could react, the elevator swished shut.
Kim smacked the button again but the elevator had already resumed its ascent. When it finally made its way back down to her floor the car was empty. For a moment, Kim wondered if she'd imagined everything. Fatigue could do strange things. She stepped into the elevator and headed back to the psych ward. `Which could be just where I belong,' she thought pessimistically.
She bypassed her own office and headed straight to Janet's. She knocked forcefully and then popped her head in the door. Janet was standing at her desk shoving papers into folders. Kim knew Sharon had a strict `no work at home' rule so Janet always left her desk organized for the following day's schedule. Of course the organization only lasted about five minutes once she got to work.
Janet glanced up. "You still here?" she asked teasingly. "Seriously, thanks for pitching in today but I thought you were leaving at 3. Jet lag or some lame excuse like that."
Kim nodded pensively and rubbed her right temple. "I got side tracked but I'm heading out soon. Janet?"
Janet took note of the strange expression on Kim's face. She was `green around the gills' as her mother would say. "Kim, are you okay? We can always do dinner another night," she said with real concern.
"Janet, who did they hire for chief of staff?"
"Her name's Weaver. Dr. Kerry Weaver. She's in Emergency Med and was the former chief of staff at "
"County General, in Chicago," Kim finished for her.
Janet appraised Kim carefully. The blonde was pale as a ghost and looked like she might faint. Or vomit. Janet was starting to put two and two together. "That's right, you used to work there. I'd forgotten that. How well did you know her?"
"I'm not sure I knew her at all." Kim hesitated before adding, "Except, of course, in the biblical sense."
" and that's the last time I saw Kerry Weaver," Kim said as she finished telling her rapt audience a highly edited story of her time in Chicago. They had finished dinner and were sitting on the couch in her friends' living room. There was a fire roaring in the fireplace and two empty bottles of wine on the coffee table.
"Wow. No wonder it threw you for a loop to see her again," Sharon said.
Kim rubbed her temple. "Yeah, it was kind of a shock," she admitted. `And the Grand Canyon is kind of a hole,' she thought.
Janet, ever the pragmatist, tried to be reassuring. "Listen, it'll be okay. You're both professionals and it's not like you'll be crossing paths every day. I think Weaver only works a couple of shifts a month in the ER. To keep up her skills. And you manage to avoid most of the upper level staff meetings." That was a point of contention for the two psychiatrists. Janet thought Kim would be a terrific administrator but the younger doctor refused to channel her energies in that direction.
Sharon didn't really see what the big deal was. It was huge hospital, after all. "You probably won't see her more than once a year at the Christmas party," she offered.
Kim nodded, only slightly reassured. "True but you both know how awkward it can be when you bump into an ex."
"You broke up with what's her name Kathy, the surgeon with no sense of humor. And you two still manage to work together," Janet said with irritating reason.
"Oh, and then there was that rad tech," Sharon threw in.
"Yeah, the one with the great tits," Janet said with an unnecessary smirk. "You're still talking to her. Oh and let's not forget "
"Okay, okay!" Kim held up her arms in surrender. "I get your point." She stared down at the carpet for a moment. She didn't know how to explain her seemingly irrational reaction. `Love `em and leave `em' Legaspi didn't have issues with exes but with Kerry she apparently had a lifetime subscription. "Kerry's different," she finally mumbled.
"Yeah, we're getting that," Sharon said, kindly. She scooted closer to Kim on the couch and patted her hand.
Janet leaned over and refilled Kim's wineglass. Now there were three empty bottles on the coffee table. "What we don't know is why?"
"Kerry wasn't some fling. I really thought she might be the one. Then she ruined my life," Kim said with all the petulant self absorption of a brokenhearted teenager. She glared at her friends.
Janet rolled her eyes at Kim's histrionics and decided somebody had to be the voice of reason and since Kim was a friend and not a client she didn't have to mince words. "It's been six years. Your life is great. Your professional reputation is outstanding and you've recovered enough to date many, many accomplished and beautiful women."
Kim nodded. That made her feel a little better. She even managed a small smile.
Encouraged by Kim's reaction, Janet continued her pep talk. "You should both be able to act like the adult professionals you are. You've moved on; she's moved on."
Kim's right eye twitched. "Back to her life," Kim mumbled to herself bitterly. "I guess she did go back to men," she said more loudly.
"Men? No I don't think so." Janet frowned in puzzlement. At least she hadn't heard any rumors of a husband.
"You said she had a toddler," Kim said. She tried to soften her surprisingly accusatory tone. It wasn't Janet's fault that her past was making an unwelcome reappearance.
"You should know that gay doesn't mean infertile," Sharon said, with a laugh. She and Janet had three children. The youngest, Jessie, was just starting her first year at college.
Janet considered her evidence carefully. "I'm pretty sure she's gay," Janet said. "Her bio didn't mention a husband and she is a member of GLMA."
"She's out," Kim exclaimed with an embarrassing squeak. Her left eye twitched.
"Well, she's not exactly broadcasting the news but it's no secret. She even attended the last few meetings of the hospitals GLBT group."
Kim's right eye twitched again. `Damn jetlag!'
Janet looked at her partner, her face dark with worry. She had never seen Kim so stressed. Not even the time she had twelve schizophrenics with assorted voices yelling at her simultaneously.
"If you're that interested, you could just talk to her," Sharon suggested softly.
"I'm not interested," Kim shot back with feigned nonchalance. "I am sooo not interested," she repeated just in case they hadn't heard her the first time. She leaned back on the sofa and took a sip of her wine. She tried to banish all thoughts of short redheads. `A toddler? Out? Kerry Weaver in her hospital . Jesus!'
A short time later, Kim took a cab back to her loft. She swallowed a handful of aspirin, drank a bottle of water and then tumbled into bed. She had a late shift the following day so she knew she could sleep off the effects of the wine. She wasn't so sure she could sleep off the shock of seeing Kerry Weaver again. She fell asleep repeating "I can do this. We're all professionals. We won't cross paths."
Kim woke up late the next morning. A hot shower and another handful of aspirin took care of the remaining headache. She felt pretty good. The extra sleep had done wonders but not as much as the late night realization that she'd seen Dr. Jacobson, the last chief of staff, only a half dozen times in the five years she'd worked at the hospital. And that had been in passing. `There's no reason for that to change,' she thought optimistically.
Kim's optimism lasted until she opened the door to her office and found Kerry Weaver standing in the middle of the room looking like she owned the place. She should have known; Kerry seldom shied away from confrontation. `Except when it really matters, of course,' Kim thought bitterly.
Kerry heard the door open and jumped right in. She lifted her arm pleadingly. "Kim, I know you're busy but I need speak to you for a moment. Please?" Kerry asked.
Kim slammed her professional mask into place. She'd spent years perfecting a look of concerned but emotionally distant interest. Professional. "Of course, Dr. Weaver, what can I do for you?" She couldn't resist adding "And please, make yourself at home in my office." She rolled her eyes. Professional only went so far.
Kerry realized this conversation wasn't going to be easy. `But then when has anything ever been easy between us,' she thought. She'd spent the night convincing herself that they would find a way to work together amicably. They had to. She wasn't going anywhere and she'd do everything she could to see that Kim remained there. She was too good a doctor to lose over some personal friction that happened years ago. `Of course by friction you mean nuclear meltdown, don't you, Weaver,' Kerry's little voice prodded. `Damn, she looks good,' it threw in for good measure.
Kim walked further into her office and closed the door. Shrugging out of her coat, she placed her briefcase on her desk. She used the task of unloading it to disguise her shaking hands.
"Kim," Kerry repeated. "I was as shocked as you were yesterday. I wanted to talk to you then but I was on my way to a meeting with the hospital board. By the time I was free you'd already left."
"What are you doing here, Kerry?" Kim's tone was both hurt and accusatory. `So much for professional.'
"I'm the new chief of staff. I've been here about five months."
"Yes, but why here?"
Kerry understood what Kim was really asking. "Better pay, better hours," she answered glibly.
Kim stared at her in disbelief. She raised an eyebrow eloquently, forcing Kerry to continue.
"Okay, Chicago was just too full of memories. I wanted to start over, start fresh. And I have family in this area. When I heard about this job I jumped on it," Kerry said with exasperation. "Honestly, Kim, I didn't know you worked here when I took this job. I thought you were in San Francisco."
"That was temporary," Kim said. She'd gone to stay with some friends while she sorted everything out. Six weeks later she'd taken this job. "Would it have made any difference had you known?"
"Yes no I don't know," Kerry said sincerely. She rubbed her forehead in confusion. After the alderman fiasco and then Sandy's death and the custody fight, Kerry had just wanted some peace. And she wasn't going to get that at County. It was too full of memories. `And now this,' she thought wryly.
"Kim, I think we can work together. It'll be a little weird but we'll get through it," Kerry said resolutely. "You're in the trenches. I'm in administration. You won't even know that I'm here. We can do this."
Kim's hurt and confusion quickly turned to hostility in the face of Kerry's optimism. "You're right. It's a large hospital," Kim said softly. "Stay out of my way Dr. Weaver and we'll be fine. We're both professionals."
Kerry remembered the first time she heard Kim say that. She hadn't cared for it much then either. She swallowed the knot of anger that was growing in her throat. Kim had a right to some residual resentments but she wasn't the only one who'd been deeply hurt. "That should be easily accomplished, Dr. Legaspi," Kerry said with false calm. "Now if you'll excuse me I'll get back to work." Kerry turned and stormed off down the hallway.
Kim leaned against her desk and watched Kerry walk away. `Damn, she still looks good.'
Kerry did her best to stay out of Kim's path. It was surprisingly easy to do. She had little reason to visit the psych ward and she was careful about scheduling her ER shifts. She knew that at some point they would cross paths but the longer they avoided each other the better.
Her luck ran out about two months after their meeting in Kim's office.
Kim approached the admit desk of the ER. "Hi Terri, did you page me?"
"Bipolar in 3, Solomon," was the clerk's terse response. Terri handed her the patient's chart and went back to the phone.
Kim scanned the chart. She recognized the precise handwriting. "This is Weaver's patient?" Kim had almost forgotten the other woman worked there. If it hadn't been for an irritating number of hospital memos that crossed her desk with disturbing regularity she would never even think of her. At least that's what she told herself.
"Yeah, she's the only attending on `til ten. Flu's going around. She handling an MVA right now but there's an intern in with the patient."
Kim nodded and headed toward the exam room.
Kim was still writing up her notes as she left exam room 3. It hadn't taken long to determine that Mr. Solomon did indeed need to be admitted. She saw Kerry at the admit desk. She was leaning against the counter and making notations on a chart. Kim took a calming breath and then approached the desk. `Professional,' she reminded herself.
"Dr. Weaver, I'm going to admit Mr. Solomon." Kim held out the chart.
Kerry's head shot up so fast Kim was afraid of whiplash. "Kim I thought you worked days this week." Kerry's eyes were wide with dismay.
`That explains why I haven't seen her,' Kim thought. The old avoidance trick. "I'm covering for Dr. Peters. The flu's going around you know," Kim said with a smirk. Somehow Kerry's obvious discomfort made her feel better.
Kerry smiled. "Yeah, I know," she said wryly. She took the chart Kim was holding out. "Thanks, we'll send him up in a few minutes."
Kim stood there a beat longer than necessary. She nodded twice and then turned back toward the elevators. `That went well,' she thought.
Kim had been back on her ward for about half an hour when she got another page from the ER. `Damn, what now?' she thought irritably but she headed right down. She wasn't even on call for the ER. She'd only taken the previous call because her third year resident was home puking his guts out. As she exited the elevator, Kim could see Kerry waiting at the front desk.
"What is it now Dr. Weaver?" Kim asked curtly.
Kerry graciously ignored her tone and handed Kim the chart. "This one's actually yours. Looks like a suicide attempt. He asked for you," Kerry said apologetically.
Kim scanned the chart. "Damn!" Harold was back. Harold was a methamphetamine addict. He'd been in and out of rehab for the past year. The last time Kim had seen him, he'd been clean for two months and was living in a halfway house. He'd gotten a job, been in contact with his family. Things had looked promising. Now this. She sighed.
Kerry watched Kim read the chart. Kim's expression moved from irritation to disbelief to resigned disappointment. Not for the first time, Kerry was glad of the ER's treat `em and street `em policy. It was hard to get attached to someone you only saw for a few minutes.
Kim looked up from the chart. "Where?"
"Thanks, Kerry." She walked briskly to the exam room.
Kerry smiled at Kim's back. Maybe they could do this.
When Kim finally got back to her office her shift was almost over. She couldn't have been happier about it. She was on edge and starving. She debated going to the cafeteria but decided against it. She'd be off in an hour and could get some real food. Still, a snack might be in order. She was rummaging in her desk for change when her pager went off again. "Damn it!" she yelled. It was the ER again. `Kerry what the hell are you doing?'
Kim stormed down to the ER. Kerry was no where to be seen. "Teri, where's Dr. Weaver?"
"Break room, I think," Teri answered. She didn't even bother looking up from her computer.
Kim burst through the door, determined to nip this familiar pattern in the bud. "Dr. Weaver, what the hell's going on?" she asked pointedly.
Kerry, sitting at the table eating, was so startled by Kim's abrupt reappearance that she dropped her sandwich. "What?"
"I'm not on call for the ER. This is the third page today," Kim continued. "What's going on?"
"Kim, I didn't page you," Kerry said, confusion shading into irritation.
"What?" It was Kim's turn to be confused. `Shit!'
"I didn't page you," Kerry repeated slowly. She was beginning to enjoy Kim's predicament. She watched a blush travel up Kim's neck to color her cheeks a most delightful shade of pink. Kerry decided to take pity on her. "I think Dr. Turner is the attending in charge right now," she said evenly.
"Oh, okay." She turned to go but hesitated a moment. "I'm sorry," she said, turning back. "I apologize for flying off the handle like that. Must be low blood sugar. I skipped lunch today," she babbled. She gave a confused little laugh, hoping that didn't sound as lame to Kerry as it did to her.
"It's okay. Hunger always makes you cranky," Kerry said, taking a chance on mentioning the past. She reached in her lunch bag and pulled out a banana. She offered it to Kim carefully. "I know it's not chocolate but it's the best I can do on such short notice."
Kim stared at the banana like she'd never seen one before. A long moment later, Kim smiled and accepted the offering graciously. "Thanks, add a bag of chips and it's a balanced meal."
"Only in your world Legaspi," Kerry teased.
Kim laughed. "I should probably go find my patient," she said waving her banana vaguely in the direction of the exam rooms.
"Thanks for the snack," Kim said. She beat a hasty retreat before the encounter had a chance to deteriorate. `Smooth move, Legaspi.' She shook her head in self disgust.
Kerry could see Kim talking to herself as she pulled the door closed the door behind her. She chuckled and went back to eating her lunch.
Kim didn't see Kerry again for two weeks at which time they passed in the hallway and nodded politely. A week after that, Kim, covering for Janet, sat in on a committee that Kerry chaired. Aside from a brief hello there was no other personal interaction. `This is good,' Kim thought. `Normalization of relations. Maybe we can do this.' And if she noticed how the color of Kerry's suit brought out the color of her eyes, she didn't agonize over it.
A few days later, Kim was in the cafeteria. It was unusually crowded. It looked like several buses full of high school kids had been emptied into the room. She would have taken her tray back to her office but she really didn't have time. Then she noticed Kerry sitting at a table by herself. She was engrossed in a pile of computer printouts. `Why not Legaspi, it's just lunch.' Kim squared her shoulders and walked over.
"Is this seat taken?"
"What?" Kerry asked irritably before looking up. She jumped slightly in her seat when she realized who was asking. Confusion was written all over her face.
"May I join you?" Kim asked. She waved her tray in the general direction of the mob of high school students. "Otherwise I'm going to have to sit with the football team over there and I'm not sure that's a good idea," she joked.
Kerry looked over at the crowded tables. `I'm sure they'd love it,' she thought. Kerry nodded.
"What's going on in here?" Kim scanned the room. She'd never seen it so full. Most of the longtime staff wouldn't be caught dead eating what they served in the cafeteria but Kim had an inexplicable fondness for institutional cooking.
Kerry glanced around. "Field trip," she explained. "Swinson, in community relations, thought it would be a good idea to have local high schools tour the hospital. Then he gives them this lecture about the demand for workers in the healthcare fields. He's an idiot." Kerry felt on the verge of babbling so she finished with, "Let me just move this pile." And then she shut up and shoved some papers out of the way to make room for Kim's tray.
Kim set her tray down and slid in to the seat across from Kerry. She glanced down at the papers strewn across the table. "Why are you working here and not in your office?"
"There was a water leak on the fourth floor. Right above me. Nothing was hurt but maintenance is up there now repairing the pipe and cleaning up the mess." Kerry sighed. Sometimes she felt like Job. She tried to ignore the loud, adolescent voices that threatened to drown out all competing sound.
Kim smiled sympathetically so Kerry continued. "The conference rooms are all booked and the break room tables are too small. So here I am." She stared over at the food fight starting up at the long table in the corner. "In hell."
"Yikes," Kim said. She dug into her lunch. She only had fifteen minutes before her next appointment. "You could always call security; have them tossed out," she said with a grin. "You are the boss after all."
"Nah, they'll be gone soon enough. Besides, I have to leave in half an hour anyway." Kerry hesitated, not sure what Kim's approaching her meant. "I have to pick up my son from daycare."
Kim smiled a tight little smile and uttered a noncommittal, "I see."
Kerry glanced at Kim, her expression growing serious. "Kim can I ask you a question?"
Kim tensed her shoulders automatically but she gave a leery nod.
"Have you seen the budget projections for next quarter? The whole thing is a mess."
With an internal sigh of relief, Kim shook her head. She chuckled at herself and her fears.
Kerry was puzzled. "The budget doesn't usually elicit that response," she said. "I was wondering if you had any suggestions for areas we could cut back or reorganize."
Kerry's pager went off before Kim could reply. Glancing quickly at the number, Kerry said "I've got to go." She drained her coffee cup and started to organize her papers into piles.
"Hey, you!" Kerry yelled at a med student who had the misfortune to pass by the table just then. "Gather up these piles and take them to my office," she ordered. "Room 310. It says chief of staff on the door," she added crankily. "Just leave them with my secretary," she said as she rushed off, leaving a confused student and an amused colleague in her energetic wake.
"I'd do as she said," Kim advised with a grin. She wolfed down her lunch and then rushed back to her office for her 2 o'clock appointment.
An hour later, Kim was writing up her notes when Janet walked into her office.
"Did you hear?" Janet asked as Kim kept writing.
Kim looked up. "Hear what?" She could tell that Janet had something juicy. She clicked her pen closed and leaned back in her chain. "Spill it."
Janet shut the door behind her and pulled a chair up beside Kim's desk. "Well "
"So Stephenson quit?"
"Or was fired. We're not sure which. He was either dipping into the department's funds or sexually harassing another doctor. Probably both," Janet said with undisguised glee. She'd always despised the misogynistic head of the Emergency Department. She'd knocked heads with him for years and though things had improved over the last six months she was still delighted to see him gone. "Weaver's taking over until they can get a replacement."
"Oh," Kim said noncommittally.
Janet reined in her delight at Stephenson's misfortune. "Are you going to be okay with that?"
Kim gave the question serious thought. After a moment, she nodded. "Yeah, I think it'll be okay. We've established some boundaries."
Janet looked at Kim suspiciously. She wasn't sure she bought that statement but she was willing to let it go for now. Denial could be a very useful coping mechanism. She decided to change the subject. "Hey, Sharon's got someone new for you to meet," she said.
Kim laughed. "I don't know. After last time, I'm not sure I trust her judgment."
"What was wrong with Kelly?" Janet asked. "She was cute."
"She was a mime, Janet." Kim said scornfully. "Besides, I'm not interested in relationships at the moment. Maybe never again," she muttered. Kim picked her pen up signaling the end of that conversation.
"Who said anything about a relationship? It's just a date," Janet said undaunted. "Kelly was really a mime? I thought she just liked to wear black. Don't worry, Helen's not a mime." She thought for a minute. "At least I don't think she's a mime. Maybe I'd better call Sharon." Janet laughed and headed for her own office. "But really, how many lesbian mimes could there be in Minneapolis?"
A few hours later Kim was heading for the exit. She needed to drop off a few forms in the ER and then she was on her way home for a hot bath, a stiff drink and Emma Donoghue's latest novel. She approached the admit desk and tossed her charts in the appropriate basket. She turned to go and ran smack into Kerry. She reached out and grabbed the smaller woman before she could hit the floor. Her arms wrapped tightly around the redhead to keep them both upright. In six years she had forgotten how warm Kerry's body always was but the brief contact brought all those sense memories rushing back.
Kim held on for a few moments longer than absolutely necessary. "Jesus, Kerry, I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."
Kerry regained her footing and stabbed at the floor with her crutch. An embarrassed blush spread up her neck. "I'm okay, I'm okay," she muttered as she fussed with her lab coat. Kim dropped her hold and Kerry stepped back from the blonde.
Kim reached down and picked Kerry's stethoscope up off the floor. She handed it to the redhead sheepishly. "I really am sorry."
Kerry looked up at the concerned blonde standing so close. "I'm alright," she assured her. Just then a small voice called out, "Mama, Mama!" And a body came hurtling out of no where and ran right into Kerry, capsizing her for the second time in two minutes.
Kim reached out and steadied the redhead again. She was witness to the joy lighting up Kerry's eyes.
"Henry," Kerry cried with delight as she wrapped her arms around her son. She picked him up and tossed him in the air a little.
Kim was astounded by the carefree display.
A young woman approached the trio. "Sorry Dr. Weaver, he got away from me for a minute," she apologized.
"That's okay, Carol. Thanks for bringing him down for me." Kerry turned to introduce the newcomers to Kim. She didn't even get the introductions started before Kim said hello.
"Dr. Legaspi, how are you?" Carol asked the psychiatrist. "We haven't seen you in the daycare in months."
Kerry noticed that Carol seemed very pleased to see Kim. She was obviously enamored of the blonde. Kerry's first thought was `who wasn't?' Kerry realized there were things she didn't need to know about her employees.
Kim turned to Kerry. "Sometimes the daycare keeps an eye on the kids whose parents are visiting folks in the psych ward. It's a great help," Kim explained. She smiled at Carol warmly.
Carol blushed and said, "I better get back upstairs. We're a little shorthanded this evening. Good night, Dr. Legaspi, Dr. Weaver."
Watching the young woman depart, Kim felt the weight of a stare. She turned to face Kerry and unexpectedly found herself staring into a set of beautiful, dark brown eyes. Eyes that beamed suspicion and worry, she realized. She smiled at the little boy but he wasn't giving an inch. Kerry's eyes, on the other hand, crinkled in amusement and she looked like she was holding back a grin. "She seems like a nice girl," Kerry remarked with deceptive disinterest.
Kim nodded noncommittally and Kerry turned her attentions back to the toddler now squirming in her arms.
"Kim, this is my son, Henry. Henry this is Dr. Kim." Kerry made the introductions proudly. She clearly adored the boy. "Say hello Henry," she suggested gently.
Kim turned on the charm. "Hi, Henry. It's nice to meet you." She reached out slowly and touched his hand.
Henry turned away from Kim and buried his head in the crook of Kerry's neck. He tightened his hold on his mother.
"He's a little shy," Kerry apologized. "He's also a little tired. I'm late but we're finally on our way home. Aren't we Henry?"
Henry nodded but he didn't look up.
"Me too. Walk you out?" Kim offered.
"Thanks but I've got to get my coat." Kerry sniffed the air delicately. "And probably change a diaper," she added as she started down the hall.
"I heard about Stephenson," Kim admitted as she followed Kerry down the hall. `It's on my way,' she told herself.
"Which version did you hear? I'm sure there's half a dozen by now," Kerry said wryly as she turned toward the doctor's lounge. "Is that going to be problematic?"
At Kim's confused look Kerry added, "Me. Covering the ER more often for a while?"
Kim considered it for a moment. "I think we'll manage," Kim said as she opened the door to the lounge. She waved mother and son through while she stopped in the doorway. "I'll see you on Monday, Dr. Weaver. Good night Henry," she said with a warm smile.
Henry glared at her over his mother's shoulder.
Kim waited until she was seated in her car before making the call. "Sharon? Hi, it's Kim. Janet told me you had a hot prospect lined up for me."
"Are you going to countermand my orders?" Kim asked belligerently. She and Kerry had spent the last five minutes discussing, loudly, the merits of a single admit. It was their third such run in this week.
Kim's question drew Kerry up short. She looked up at the other doctor. Kim's brow was furrowed in irritation and she was pugnaciously invading more than a little bit of Kerry's personal space.
"Of course not. I'm not sure of your diagnosis but you are the psychiatrist here." Kerry signed off on the transfer without another thought and headed back to the desk to pick up another chart. She didn't have time to second guess her more experienced staff members. It had taken her a while but her final years at County had taught her the benefits of delegation and trust. Still, she could certainly appreciate the fire in Kim's eyes when she was forced to defend her position.
Kim muttered something about tight assed administrators, grabbed a passing orderly and accompanied her new patient upstairs to the relative safety of the psych ward. She was still mumbling when she ran into Janet in the hallway.
"Kim, I was looking for you. Can you serve on the selection committee for the new Emergency department head?"
Kim rolled her eyes. "I really don't think I'm the best choice. Besides, I'm up to my eyeballs in work."
Janet listened carefully and nodded sympathetically as Kim listed more reasons for not serving on the committee. When Kim slowed down, Janet handed her a sheaf of papers. "Great, thanks. I knew I could count on you. The committee's meeting Wednesday, at 9." She rushed off down the hall before Kim could start sputtering.
"Shit!" Kim stormed into her office and slammed the door. She took a few deep breaths. `Okay Kimmie, be reasonable. Maybe this won't be so bad," Kim said as she threw herself into her chair. `Besides, the sooner we find a replacement, the sooner Kerry can get back upstairs where she won't be so distracting." Kim took a deep breath and picked up her pencil. `Wait distracting?' Kim shook her head vigorously to clear out of thoughts of feisty redheads. She attacked a stack of charts that she'd been avoiding for most of the morning.
Kerry must have been off the next couple of days. Not that Kim was looking for the redhead every time she was called down to the ER. At least that's what she told herself. Oh well, she knew she'd see Kerry at the selection committee meeting on Wednesday. She couldn't tell if she was dreading it or just the opposite.
Kim rushed to work on Wednesday morning. She wanted to get to the conference room early. Before all the good donuts were gone, she told herself. She walked into the conference room and glanced around. She nodded at the familiar faces. There were several doctors from the ER as well as a representative from each of the major departments. But there was no sign of Kerry.
Kim grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut and sat down near the head of the table to wait. Kerry, her assistant in tow, came in a few minutes later. "Just put those down there, John. Thanks."
John set a stack of folders down on the table and then quickly made his escape.
Kerry looked around at the gathered group of doctors. She startled slightly when she saw Kim but she got right down to business. "Thanks for coming in this morning. This is the first batch of CVs for the position. I'd like the committee to take a look at them and weed it out to about ten candidates. When you're done leave the potentials with John. Any questions?"
"Aren't you going to participate?" Dr. Parker from the ER asked.
"No, right now I'd like you to determine the candidate pool." Kerry looked at the assembled doctors. There were no more questions. She nodded and then tapped the pile of applications. "Have fun," she said with an evil smirk as she turned to leave the room.
Four hours later, the donuts and coffee were gone but the committee had worked through the stack. Kim offered to take the results to Weaver. The other doctors were only too willing to let her.
Kim put the most promising candidates on the top of the pile and then headed to Kerry's office. John was on the phone when Kim entered but he saw the folders and nodded his head at Kerry's office. Kim went in. To her surprise and, she had to admit, disappointment, the office was empty. As she put the stack of folders down on Kerry's desk she noticed a framed photograph. The picture was of Kerry, Henry and a beautiful Hispanic woman.
Kim picked up the picture to look more closely. She couldn't help herself. Henry obviously had his mother's eyes. They looked so happy.
Kim jumped as John cleared his throat behind her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snoop. They just looked so happy," she said lamely.
John looked at her oddly. "Yeah, they do. I think Dr. Weaver must have loved her very much."
"They aren't still together?" Kim asked. She'd asked Janet about Kerry's current domestic arrangements but she didn't have any information. Even out of the closet Kerry was still as private as before.
John looked quickly at the door. He didn't want his boss to come in and find him gossiping about her. He glanced at Kim and apparently decided she could be trusted.
"She was killed in a fire. She was a fireman. That's all I know. Dr. Weaver doesn't talk much about her private life. And she wouldn't appreciate any gossip about it either," he added pointedly as he left the office.
Kim smiled sadly. "Believe me, I know." She set the photo down and turned to leave.
Kerry came in just as Kim reached the door. "Dr. Weaver, I left the folders on your desk."
"Thanks, Kim. Anyone look promising?" Kerry asked.
Kim nodded. "There were a couple that looked very good." She laughed, "Of course you can't really get a sense of them just from their CVs."
"Yeah, and we wouldn't want anymore tight assed administrator types around here." Kerry's sly grin took the sting out of her words. She looked at Kim appraisingly for a moment.
"Kim, would you " Kerry hesitated and then forged ahead. "Would you sit in on the interviews? I know Peterson's your department head but I'd really like your input. You do a lot more work in the ER, you know the personalities down there and you're terrific at reading people."
Kim was surprised and inordinately pleased by Kerry's assessment. That's probably why she agreed so quickly to do it. "Sure, I'd be happy too." She smiled down at Kerry.
"Thanks, that'd be a big help. I'll let you know the details when they're finalized," Kerry said, effectively dismissing her.
Kim nodded. "Great. I'll see you later."
Kim smiled. "Downstairs," she explained.
"Oh, right. The ER."
From the back of the small lecture hall, Kim watched as Kerry entered. It was the monthly meeting of the hospital's GLBT support group and she was there to support a friend. Kerry nodded at a few people as she made her way over to the ubiquitous coffee urn set up on one side of the room. She added a tray of something to the selection of sweet offerings and then poured herself a cup of coffee. Kim saw her take a deep breath and then make her way slowly over to the group at the front of the room.
"Dr. Weaver, hi. I'm glad you could make it," Dr. Henderson, the group's chair, greeted her warmly. Henderson was a surgeon and from what Kerry could tell, she was heavily involved in gay politics throughout the city. Henderson made a few introductions and then suggested they get started.
Kerry found a seat a few rows back from the podium and settled in to listen to the guest speaker, an aids healthcare worker in the local community. Kerry tried to make at least one meeting a quarter. The importance of community involvement was something she'd learned from Sandy. Her partner had been active in both the Latino and Gay communities. "Sending a check is great but it won't ever replace the need for bodies on the street," she used to say. "Besides, they're great places to meet chicks," she'd always teased.
"If I'd known you were coming I'd have saved you a seat," Kim said as she slid into the seat beside Kerry.
Kerry glanced over and smiled politely but she didn't say anything.
"You should try the brownies," Kim said as she bit into her second brownie of the evening.
"I made the brownies," Kerry whispered. "Now shush, I'm trying to listen."
Kim laughed but did as directed. The speaker, Jennifer, was an old friend of hers and she was there to provide a friendly face. She settled into her chair and pretended to focus on the lecture.
After the question and answer session everyone moved over to the snack table. Kerry stood and stretched. She looked at her watch. If she hurried she'd have time to run by the market before she had to be home.
Kim, armed with a fresh cup of coffee, came back over to Kerry. She knew she didn't have a handle on her feelings. There were so many conflicting impulses to sort out. Overriding them all was a sudden desire to talk to Kerry. Seriously talk, without the distractions of work. . "So it's true. You're out," Kim said. Her voice wavered a bit with hurt and an underlying anger. She hadn't really believed it before now, despite the evidence of Henry and his mother.
"Yes, I'm out," Kerry replied. There was no way that those simple words could possibly convey the years of struggle and pain that Kerry had gone through to make them true. `But then,' she thought, `that's probably true for everyone.'
"Kim, I haven't seen you at one of these before," Kerry said, pointedly changing the subject.
"I've been busy," she said tersely. She wasn't going to let herself get side tracked. "How long?"
"How long have you been out?"
"About 5 years. More or less," Kerry replied. "Not that it's any of your business."
Kim nodded several times. Despite the rebuke, she was satisfied with that answer. Her expression softened and she reached out for Kerry's arm. "Was it difficult?" she asked gently.
"Difficult?" Kerry snorted in disbelief. Which part? "It was manageable," Kerry finally replied, a grim set to her mouth.
Kim knew there was more to it than that. Suddenly she wanted to hear the whole story. She needed to know how Kerry evolved in to the self-confident dyke standing in front of her. Kim ran her hand gently up Kerry's coat sleeve. "Would you like to go get a drink somewhere and talk about it?"
Kerry laughed outright at that. Kim always did have balls. She jerked her arm away from Kim. "No, I don't want to talk about it," she said harshly. She was doing her best to stay out of Kim's way and keep things professional and now Kim wanted to talk? Damn it, Kim always did send mixed messages. Unlike Sandy. Sandy was always direct. You knew what she felt, you knew what she expected. Kerry loved that about her.
Kim was startled by Kerry's vehemence and her eyes widened in dismay.
Kerry realized she'd been unnecessarily abrupt. To soften the rejection, she added, "I have to get home. I've only got the sitter `til 8." That wasn't exactly true but it did provide a plausible escape.
Kim nodded again and Kerry realized what an irritating earnestness Kim sometimes displayed. Kerry pointed across the room to the woman who had given the presentation. She was obviously watching Kim. "I bet you could persuade her to go for drinks," she said with a forced grin. "She's been eyeing you all night."
Kim turned around casually. Jennifer was waving to her from the other side of the room. "Why not?" she said with insouciance she didn't really feel. But she was trying to salvage a modicum of pride. "I'll see you at work," she said as she started toward the apparently hopeful woman. She didn't look back; she didn't want to watch Kerry walk away.
"Kim, some of us are going out for drinks," Jennifer said. "Want to come?"
"Sure, that'd be great." Kim hadn't come to these meetings in a long time but not so long that she didn't remember the drinking and camaraderie afterwards. She knew she needed some time to sort out her feelings about Kerry's new status as an out lesbian. She was all kinds of ambivalent about it. But mostly she felt raw.
"So Kim, who's the redhead you were chatting up?" Jennifer asked as she poured Kim another beer.
"That was my boss, actually," Kim said. She reached for the bowl of pretzels.
"She's the new chief of staff at the hospital," Dr. Henderson said. "I think she'll work out well. And she's a hell of a lot better looking than Jacobson," she added with an appreciative grin. "More backbone, too."
"She does have that `don't fuck with me' attitude down pat. Kim always did have a thing for authority figures," Sarah teased.
"This from a woman married to a cop," Kim retorted.
"But in my case it's not authority," Jennifer said. "It's uniforms," she added with a snicker. "Police, soldiers, postmen."
"UPS drivers," Kim added helpfully.
"Airline pilots," was Dr. Henderson's contribution.
"Meter maids," an OB nurse threw in. Soon the whole table was laughing.
"So what is it about take charge women that we all find so attractive?" Jennifer asked, trying to get the conversation back on track.
`What indeed,' Kim wondered. She realized she still found Kerry quite attractive, desirable even. The spark in her eyes when she'd summarily declined Kim's offer of drinks was a significant reminder of why. Still, nothing said she had to act on the attraction, right? Wasn't she always telling her clients that impulses didn't have to be acted on? Impulses should be acknowledged and dealt with, sure. But nothing said you actually had to beat your spouse to death with a tire iron, just because he left the top off the toothpaste again. And nothing said that just because you still found someone appealing you had to follow up on it. Lots of people are appealing. `Many people at this table, in fact, and I don't feel the need to get closer to any of them,' Kim thought reasonably. `Yep, impulse control is the way to go.'
Kim got in to work early the next morning. She knew that Kerry was scheduled for days this week and for the first time in a long time she was looking forward to working with the irascible redhead. Or at least she wasn't dreading it. Once she'd admitted to the attraction and decided not to act on it, everything else fell into place. She and Kerry would be friendly colleagues. Finally. Nothing more, nothing less. She was practically whistling as she walked to her office.
She didn't see Kerry for the next three days. She was getting a little pissed about it. She was anxious to try her new policy of admission and restraint. What good is it to have a policy if I don't get to test it, she thought.
Kim wasn't on call for the ER the rest of that week but she did make a few unnecessary trips through the area. She even made a trek up to the third floor where all the administration offices were. Sure she had some forms that needed to go through Accounting but interoffice mail would have worked just as well. She took the long way back to her ward. She told herself she needed to stretch after sitting all day. If the long way went right past Kerry's, office that was neither here nor there.
The door to Kerry's office suite was closed. For one brief moment she thought about knocking and running away. Luckily she remembered she was an adult, not a fifth grader and walked on by.
The ride in the elevator was interminable. Kim had to face the truth. Some how, some way Kerry had wormed her way back into Kim's interest. Back in her office she plopped in her chair and sighed dejectedly. `Damn. And denial had been working so well.' She ran through her personal arsenal of avoidance techniques. `Okay, let's try distraction.' She grabbed her organizer and scanned the listings. After a minute deciphering her coded notes, she picked up the phone. "Hi Cynthia, it's Kim. Kim Legaspi "
"Well, that was the last one," Kerry said. She looked around at the assembled group of doctors and could almost hear a collective groan of relief.
"Anyone have any immediate recommendations?" They were finishing up the interviews for the new ED chief. They'd only had two in house candidates and neither of them had the experience that Kerry would have preferred. Still, she didn't want to dismiss them out of hand. The assembled group looked shell shocked. They'd interviewed six candidates in ten hours and the last one had been a doozy. He looked great on paper but he had the people skills of a gnat.
"Okay, go home, think it over and give me your recommendations by Friday, please."
The small group of doctors rose from their chairs and filed out quickly before Weaver could change her mind.
Kim stayed in her seat waiting for the crowd to clear the door. She watched Kerry, two seats over, gather up her notes. "Jesus, Kerry did you have to schedule them all in one day?" she asked. "I don't think Miller's worked a ten hour shift in ten years. And on a Saturday!"
Kerry laughed and walked over to where Kim was still sitting. "I thought he was going to bolt when I told him we had two more. But I wanted to do it while most of the candidates were in town for the conference." She was referring to an emergency medical conference that just happened to be taking place in town that weekend.
"That way their travel expenses were already covered. It saved the hospital thousands," Kerry gloated.
"Some things never change," Kim said, shaking her head in mock sadness. She stood up to leave. Kerry reached out and lightly touched her arm, stopping her.
"But some things do," Kerry said seriously. She pulled her hand back slowly. "I want to tell you that I'm really glad we're able to work together. It means a lot to me that we can be friendly colleagues."
Kim leaned against the conference table and looked at Kerry. "It means a lot to me too," she admitted. Kim decided to take a chance. "But I'd like to be more than colleagues."
Kerry was shocked and confused. What did that mean exactly? "Kim, I don't know .I'm not ready I can't " she sputtered to halt. She wasn't ready for this; whatever this was. She took a step back, putting some physical distance between herself and the blonde.
Kim realized she hadn't lost her knack for surprising Kerry. "Kerry, I'd like to be friends. Just friends," she clarified. "If you want to, that is."
Kerry stared at her measuringly. She was reminded of a similar moment in a diner, years ago. Then, Kerry had asked Kim for her trust. Now Kim was asking for the same consideration. She had no choice. Kerry smiled and said, "Friends. I'd like that very much."
"Great, I'll even let you buy me dinner," Kim said as she scooped up her papers.
"Let me?" Kerry asked skeptically.
"I figure you owe me that much," Kim said.
"You did make me work ten hours on a Saturday. Dinner is the least you can do."
"Should I invite Dr. Miller?" Kerry asked sarcastically.
"Let him find his own friends," Kim said with a chuckle as she ushered Kerry out of the conference room door.
Kerry let Kim choose the restaurant. Her only stipulation was that they not stray to far from the hospital. They ended up at a small, nearby pizza place. While Kim placed the order Kerry wandered back to the quiet of the restrooms to call her babysitter. After assuring herself that everything was fine at home, she walked back to the table. Kim had already helped herself to the all you can eat salad bar and was digging in to a small mountain of vegetables smothered in salad dressing. Kerry smiled fondly and scooted into her seat without comment.
"I didn't know what you wanted to drink so I ordered coke. Is that okay? I can get you a beer if you'd prefer," Kim offered.
"No, a soft drink is fine. I don't drink much these days. It's hard enough to keep up with a toddler without slowing down my reflexes," she explained.
"Henry seems like a quiet little boy," Kim offered. "How old is he?"
"Ah the terrible twos," Kim said, like she knew what she was talking about. She'd had the requisite training in child development and she could do a competent clinical assessment but it really wasn't her field. She just wasn't that interested in small children.
"Kim do you even know anything about kids?" Kerry asked. She could usually tell when Kim was bluffing.
Kim laughed and shook her head. "Is it that obvious?" At Kerry's nod, she added "just don't leave us alone together and we'll be fine."
"I'll keep that in mind," Kerry said wryly. Just then the pizza arrived and the conversation turned to other things.
"So what did you think of the candidates today?" Kerry asked. "I think Sarah Dyson is a strong contender." Dyson had ten years experience as an ER attending. Two of those years were as assistant chief at a hospital in Philadelphia.
"Dyson? You wouldn't just be looking for another lesbian to add to your staff would you, Kerry," Kim teased.
"Dyson's a lesbian? How do you know?" Kerry sounded slightly scandalized. She had no clue. Of course, Sandy had always teased her about her lack of Gaydar.
Kim scoffed. "How could you not? She was giving you the eye during the entire interview," she complained. And it was true. And when she wasn't ogling Kerry, she'd been avidly watching Kim. There was no way she was getting Kim's recommendation.
They discussed the rest of the candidates as they finished off their pizza. Walking back to the hospital after dinner, Kim realized they had spent almost two hours essentially talking about work. "We should do this again," she hinted. "And next time, no shop talk."
Kerry laughed and agreed. It had been great to have someone just to talk to again. An adult conversation. She hadn't realized how much she missed that. "How about the movies next Saturday?" she asked quickly before she could talk herself out of it.
Kim was thrilled. She knew there was a Hitchcock retrospective scheduled for next weekend. "I'd love to. What do you want to see?"
"There's a new Pooh movie. Henry and I are checking it out."
"Pooh? As in Winnie the?" Okay, she was less thrilled. But still game, she realized. "Shall I meet you there?"
Saturday morning, Kim woke up in a strange bed with a strange blonde and a headache; she couldn't remember the name of the woman lying next to her. She stared at the clock. She knew she had something to do but she couldn't remember what.
The blonde rolled over and slung an arm around Kim's naked waist and she pushed up to give Kim a kiss. It would have been rude to refuse so Kim kissed her back.
"Mmmmm. Morning Tiger," the woman purred as she kissed her way over to Kim's ear.
`Tiger . Tigger .Pooh!' Kim shot up in bed, dumping off the other blonde in the process. She glanced at the clock again. "Shit," she muttered feeling around for her clothes. "I'm really sorry but I've got to go. I've got an appointment." Kim jumped out of bed and slipped her slacks on. She leaned over and kissed the now bemused blonde again. "I had a great time last night, thanks." She shoved her bra and socks in her pocket and slipped into her shirt. She looked around wildly.
"Your shoes and jacket are in the living room," the blonde said, pulling the covers over her head. "Pull the door closed when you leave." She knew a one night stand when she had one.
Kim raced home. She rushed inside and saw the light on her answering machine flashing. The first message was left last night; Kerry called to remind her about the movie. The second message was from this morning. It was also from Kerry. She left the time and theater information and said "hope to see you there but if you can't make it, don't worry about it. I'll tell you all about the Heffalumps on Monday." She sounded amused.
Kim looked at the clock and realized she had an hour to shower, dress and drive to the theater. She'd just have to go with her hair wet. She rushed into her bathroom. Fifteen minutes later she rushed back out, freshly showered and with toothbrush in hand. She threw open her closet doors and stared at the jumble for minute while she brushed.
What does one wear on a date with a mother and child anyway? `Wait, this isn't a date. We're friends. Henry will be there. This isn't a date' she reminded herself. Still it somehow felt like a date. Kim pulled some jeans on and grabbed a sweater. Ten minutes later she was in her car headed for the theater.
She felt a little out of place standing alone in line with all the family groups. She hadn't seen so many small children in one place since she stumbled into the Santa line at a mall last Christmas. She tried to look as if she was attached to one group or another. Finally it was her turn at the window.
"One for Winnie the Pooh," she requested softly as she slid her money through the hole in the window.
"Which film?" was the garbled response.
"The Heffalump movie," she clarified quietly.
The clerk pointed to the speaker and then to his ear
"I want to see Winnie the Pooh, damn it!" There was a gasp of horror from behind her. Kim winced. She grabbed her ticket and her change and then turned around to apologize. The young mother standing behind her grabbed her little girl protectively. "I'm sorry," Kim said to the mother.
"You shouldn't use bad words," she said to the child. She turned around and headed into the theater.
"Jesus Christ," she mumbled under her breath as she looked out over a sea of shorter beings. She felt like a giant. Thankfully, she spotted Kerry in line at the concession stand. She rushed over. She slowed down before she reached them. `First rule of non-dating, you don't want to appear too anxious.' She reached out and touched Kerry lightly on the shoulder. "Hi," she said softly.
Kerry turned. "Hey, you made it. We were beginning to think we'd been stood up."
`We? Oh that's right. Henry.' Kim looked down at the boy, waiting patiently by his mother's side. She waved. "Hi Henry."
The little boy gazed at her suspiciously and tightened his grip on his mother's hand. They finally reached the counter. As always, Kim was awed by the selection of movie candies. "What would you two like?" she asked.
Kerry ordered a cup of coffee for herself and some juice for Henry. Kim got a hotdog, some nachos and a blueberry slurpee. "Oh, and a box of Raisinettes," she added at the last minute. Forty-two dollars later, the trio was entering the theater surrounded by dozens of children and their parents.
Kim hoped that wasn't gum she just stepped in. They found seats and settled in. Kim was sitting on one side of Henry, Kerry on the other. He was looking around solemnly, taking it all in. Kim wondered if he ever smiled.
Kim unwrapped her hot dog and took a bite. Mmmmmm, that was good. Just the right balance of ketchup and mustard. She glanced over at Kerry. She was watching Kim with an expression of bemused horror. Kim looked down at Henry. He was staring up at her hotdog with interest. She stopped with the dog halfway to her mouth. "Want a bite?"
Kerry shuddered and shook her head. Henry, however, nodded. Kim smiled and looked over at Kerry for permission. Kerry nodded warily so Kim held out her dog. Henry leaned in and took a delicate bite. He chewed for a minute and then decided he liked it. Kim laughed and offered him another bite. He reached out and grabbed the whole thing. Kim was shocked but amused, particularly by Kerry's expression as her son devoured the dog like he'd never had anything so good in his life. `Which, given Kerry's penchant for wheat grass, might be true,' Kim mused. The theater lights dimmed as she dug into her nachos. Mmmmmmmm.
Kim got home two hours later. She had a large blue slurpee stain down the front of her sweater, ketchup smeared on her pants and she was desperately afraid she had nacho cheese in her hair since she couldn't shake the smell. After the hot dog, Henry apparently decided that Kim's snacks were much better than the box of raisins his mother handed him. He didn't like the corn chips but he kept dipping his finger in the cheese when Kim wasn't looking. And once he tried her slurpee he wouldn't give it back. They'd been wrestling with it when the lid came off and Kim got splashed with neon blue slush. She popped the lid back on and surrendered the remaining drink to Henry. Kim decided to leave her Raisinettes in her pocket for later.
Back at home, Kim walked into the bathroom for the second shower of the day. `Next time the kid's getting his own snacks,' she thought grumpily. Still, the movie had been pretty good. It provided a sweet lesson in tolerance and the under five crowd seemed to love it. `And,' she reminded herself, `you got to sit next to an attractive redhead so it wasn't a complete waste.' When Henry crawled into Kerry's lap halfway through the movie, Kim moved over into his seat. And right into a puddle of spilled juice. At least she hoped it was juice.
"Kerry, is Henry's " she hesitated. She couldn't say ass. She finally settled on bottom. "Is his bottom wet?" Kim asked in a horrified whisper.
"Because this seat was," Kim said with a longsuffering sigh. Kerry started to giggle annoyingly. So much for suave dyke about town, Kim just hoped she didn't run into anybody she knew on the way out of the theater.
When the trio exited the building into the sunlight, Kerry asked Kim if she wanted to join them for lunch. Kim looked down at her chest and shook her head sadly. "No, I'm going to go home and shower." She sighed and before she could censor herself she added, "I've got a date tonight and I don't think she'd appreciate this particular look."
Kerry looked her up and down and then grinned. "At least the blue brings out the color in your eyes. Besides, you'd look good in sack cloth and ashes," she said breezily.
Kim blushed. "Thanks," she said shyly. "Can I get a rain check on lunch?"
"Absolutely." They started walking toward the parking lot. Kim felt something pulling at her fingertips. She looked down and Henry was carefully touching her fingers. She smiled down at him and held out her hand. He took it gingerly and hand in hand the trio walked over to Kerry's car.
Kim noticed the rainbow flag on the rear window of the automobile and smiled. "A minivan, Kerry? Planning on being a soccer mom?" Kim teased.
She wasn't expecting a serious response. "We'd planned on more than one. After Henry, Sandy said she wanted a whole baseball team." Kerry said sadly.
Kim nodded in silent acknowledgment of her loss. `Great, Legaspi, just bring up the heroically dead wife and completely kill the mood.' She reached out and squeezed Kerry's hand comfortingly. "I'd like to hear about her sometime." She knew they'd have to talk about Sandy sooner or later. But not today. She wasn't at her best today.
Kerry unlocked the van and Kim slid the side door open. She lifted Henry into his car seat. She looked at the tangle of buckles. "I think maybe you should do this part," she suggested.
Kerry chuckled and without waiting for Kim to move leaned into the doorway. As she fiddled with the buckles, Kim took note of every time Kerry's arm or thigh brushed hers. All too quickly, Kerry popped back out of the van.
"Piece of cake," Kerry crowed. "Can we give you a lift to your car?" she asked as she shut the passenger door.
Kim looked around. "Thanks, but I'm just two rows over."
"Okay, I'll see you at work next week. Thanks for coming with us," Kerry said. "I hope it wasn't too hideous for you," she teased. She touched Kim lightly on the arm.
"I could have done without the wet seat but everything else was fun," Kim lied with a smile. "See ya at work." She waved through the window at Henry and then, anxious to get out of her damp and sticky clothes, she headed quickly for her car.
Kim didn't see either Weaver again for four days. This time she was deliberately avoiding Kerry. The movie experience had scared her. Not because she had a bad time but because she hadn't. Despite the mess and the spills she knew she'd happily go again if Kerry asked.
That's how she knew she was in trouble. It terrified her so much that she had spent a good part of the previous Sunday morning over at Sharon and Janet's trying to talk herself out of it; or into it. She couldn't decide.
After listening to Kim go back and forth for an hour, Janet had had enough. Her exasperation was almost palpable. "Look Kim, obviously you're still attracted to her. Whatever horrible experiences you had the first time `round didn't manage to kill that interest. Now you can either see where it leads or, for all our sakes, end it now."
Sharon was a little less abrupt. "What's keeping you from pursuing Weaver? Whom I have yet to meet," she added pointedly. She was more than a little curious about this woman who had her young friend tied up in emotional knots.
"She hurt me so much. And, to be fair, I hurt her too. Deliberately," she admitted with more than a little bit of shame. "She abandoned me; I abandoned her. I just don't know if it's possible to get passed all that." Kim rubbed her eyes. She was so tired of going round and round with this. "I can't just decide to be okay with everything and have it be true. Can I?" she asked somewhat desperately.
"Why not? When did forgiveness become a terrible thing?" Sharon asked seriously.
"It can be the greatest gift you can receive," Janet said more to herself than to anyone at the table.
"Or give," Sharon added with a meaningful look.
Kim wondered what prompted such a statement but she realized that whatever it was, it was none of her business.
Janet noticed Kim observing her closely. She smiled but it was tinged with regret. "Let's just say that I did something incredibly stupid a few years ago but Sharon had the grace to forgive me."
"After I made her suffer a bit," Sharon said with a laugh. She got up and walked over to the coffeemaker. On the way back to the table she rested her hand on Janet's shoulder. "It was rough for a while but we got through it." She refilled everyone's coffee cup and then headed over to the oven.
"Kim, I don't think Weaver's glibly romantic. I suspect she falls hard so, if you're just looking for a fling you should probably look elsewhere," Janet said. She didn't want to sound harsh but Kim had a lousy track record with relationships and this one had the potential to make things difficult at work. "And if you're looking for more than a fling .take it slow."
Sharon came back to the table carrying a basket of warm biscuits. "Of course, you may be overlooking something. What if Weaver isn't interested?"
Thus Kim had spent most of the week avoiding Kerry like the plague while trying to figure out what she really wanted. Not that Kerry had tried to track her down, she realized. `And it's not like I'm not findable. Maybe Kerry isn't interested,' she thought with an internal groan.
By Thursday, she'd had enough navel gazing. She was really more of an action over introspection kind of girl anyway. She would talk to Kerry and proceed from there. And that's why she was skulking around outside Kerry's office at five o'clock.
After a deep breath, Kim entered the office suite and looked around. John's desk was unoccupied. He must have already gone home. That made things easier. She approached Kerry's door. Suddenly, she heard giggling from the inner office. `Giggling?' She took a moment to gather her courage and then knocked.
Kerry yelled "Come in."
Kim yanked open the door. If she said what she wanted to say quickly, there'd be less chance of her chickening out. She stepped into the room and opened her mouth. She shut it again quickly when she realized Kerry wasn't alone. Henry was sitting in Kerry's lap and it looked like they were coloring in a coloring book.
"Hi Kim. Come to play?" Kerry smiled at her; her son frowned.
"Hi, are you guys coloring?" Kim asked inanely. It was pretty obvious what they were doing.
"Yes. Henry loves to color. And I've found it surprisingly relaxing," Kerry admitted.
"In or out?" Kim asked, fascinated by the sight.
"In or out of the lines?"
Kerry laughed. "Well, Henry likes bold splashes of color all over the page." She held up a page covered with purple and yellow scribbles. "While I, not surprisingly, like a more controlled canvas," she said holding up a neatly colored picture of Sponge Bob. "Want to join us?"
Kerry held out a bright red crayon. She grinned and waved it teasingly.
Kim walked over and sat down opposite the Weavers. "Sure, why not?" She took the proffered crayon and Kerry slid another coloring book toward her. Dora the Explorer? Kim looked at the pictures and had a wild idea for a paper--Protofeminist Images in Television Cartoons and the Formation of the Lesbian Identity. At least the research would be fun.
The trio colored in silence for a few minutes. Kim had a hard time staying in the lines.
"Is there a blue crayon?" Kim asked, concentrating on her picture.
Henry handed her the blue. Kim looked up at him and smiled. "Thank you, Henry."
He stared back solemnly. They both jumped when the telephone rang. Kerry reached around her son and picked up the receiver. "Weaver," she barked. She gently turned the page in the coloring book.
"No .no." She clinched her jaw. "No .Da..aarn it," she said catching herself. "I'll be right down," she added threateningly. She wanted to slam the phone down but she didn't want to scare her son. She looked up. Both Kim and Henry were watching her with fascinated interest. Kerry picked Henry up off her lap and scooted from behind her desk.
Kim stood up to leave too. This didn't look like a promising time to talk. Maybe next week would be better. She reached the door first and opened it for Kerry.
Kerry turned toward the gallant blonde and leaned in just a bit. "Thank you."
For a breathless moment, Kim thought that Kerry might kiss her. "Anytime," she said smiling down at the redhead. She leaned just a bit closer but instead of a warm redhead she found her arms full of an equally surprised toddler.
"Could you watch him? I need to run to personnel for two minutes. I'll be right back." Kerry handed off her child without a second thought and then rushed out the door. Kim looked down at the horrified expression of the two year old that she was suddenly and unexpectedly holding. His startled outrage would have been funny but she suspected her expression matched his. She, however, didn't break out into howling cries the next minute, although she very much wanted to.
She dangled the screaming child in front of her. She didn't have much experience with young children but how hard could it be? She pulled his small body closer and balanced him on her hip. So far, so good. She made some ineffectual shushing noises. "Don't cry Henry; Mommy will be right back."
He wasn't the least bit reassured. He buried his face in Kim's neck and cried harder. She was sure his howls had pierced one of her eardrums and she could feel his tears soaking into the shoulder of her blouse. Her expensive, new, linen blouse that brought out the blue in her eyes. Not that she'd worn it for that reason, she reminded herself. She wondered if baby snot was hard to get out. `Kerry is sooo getting the bill for the dry cleaning!'
Kim began pacing around the room. She adjusted her hold on the boy and tried rubbing his back gently. She spoke in the soft, reassuring tones that worked well on some of her patients. Henry's howls inched up a decibel in response. `Great, another high strung Weaver!' She looked at the wall clock desperately. It must have stopped. She was sure Kerry had been gone longer than two minutes.
She tried bouncing him gently in her arms. His tears slowed and he lifted his head from her shoulder. She didn't know if that meant he was empty or just gearing up for round two. When he started to scrunch up his little face, she took preemptive action. "If you stop crying I'll buy you a toy," she bargained. He looked interested for just a moment. Then he started wailing again and crying for his mother. He also started squirming.
Kim felt like screaming too. Instead she tightened her hold on the slippery child and decided to beg. "Please Henry, stop crying. Your momma will be right back. I promise. She's going to think I'm killing you in here if you don't quite crying."
Kim jumped in surprise. She looked down. "What?"
"Down," Henry demanded as he pushed away. "Down, down, down!" His sobs turned to demands.
It was like trying to hold on to a cat threatened with bath time but at least he'd stopped crying. Kim was feeling a little better about this impromptu babysitting session. She knelt down and carefully set the toddler on his feet. She held on to him until he found his balance then she stood up.
Henry stood there staring up at the big lady. She followed directions pretty well and she did have delicious snacks. "Cookie?"
Kim stared down at Henry's tear stained face for a moment. Talk about non sequitur. He sniffed once and then smiled up at her. "Cookie?" he repeated.
Kim smiled down at him and nodded. Cookies she understood. "Okay." She knew there were chocolate chip cookies in the vending machine on the third floor and Fig Newtons on the fifth and she thought there might be some Oreos on eight. At last her passion for junk food was paying off. She stooped down to pick him.
Henry backed away quickly. "Me!"
"You want to walk by yourself," Kim clarified. She didn't want to do anything to trigger the crying response again.
"Okay, let's go get some cookies," Kim said cheerfully. She walked toward the door and Henry took off after her. She opened the outer office door and stepped through. She looked back to check the boy's progress. He stopped at the threshold and looked around the hallway suspiciously. There were lots of big people he didn't know and no sight of his Mama. He held out his hand to Kim.
Kim held her breath and reached out for his tiny hand. She felt a strange flutter in her chest as he took it without hesitation. `I'm sure it's crying induced stress.' He pulled on her hand impatiently and they started down the hallway. It took a minute for them to find the right pace. One of Kim's steps was equal to three of his but they finally found the right rhythm. Within minutes they were both inspecting the vending machine offerings in the third floor break room. Kim picked him up so he could see all the choices. He banged his little fist on the glass which Kim interpreted as a vote for chocolate chip.
Balancing Henry on her hip Kim dug in her pocket for change. She came up with a handful of quarters and was sliding the first one in the slot when Henry yelled, "me!"
Kim held the quarter up in the air. "You want to do this?"
Henry nodded and reached out his hand expectantly.
Kim handed him the quarter and watched as he carefully slid it into the slot. The tinkle of the coin sliding down the chute made him laugh.
"I think you've been here before," Kim said suspiciously as she handed him another quarter.
Soon they were settled at a table in the break room. Kim opened the bag of cookies and handed it to Henry. He reached in happily as she headed across the room to the drink machine. Soon they were both eating cookies and smiling shyly at each other. Kim built a small tower out of her cookies and Henry thought that was grand. He thought it was even better when he toppled the stack. He started to giggle. Kim thought it was a charming sound.
"Corrupting my son with refined sugar?" asked a voice from behind them.
Henry whirled in his seat. "Mama!" He scrambled down from the chair and flung himself in Kerry's direction. She scooped him up in her arms and brought him back to the table. "At least you bought him milk and not soda," Weaver said wryly.
"Hey, the cookies were his idea, not mine," Kim said in protest.
Kerry laughed. "Yeah, but last time I checked, Henry didn't have any quarters," she said with infuriating logic. Henry laid his head on his mother's shoulder and glared at Kim for ratting on him. Kerry sat down in Henry's chair and picked up a cookie. "I always go to the machine on eight. Oreos," she said as if that was explanation enough. Strangely enough, it was.
"Sorry I was gone so long but it did give you two a chance to get acquainted," Kerry said with a smile. She handed Henry the cookie. "So what did you want to talk to me about earlier?"
Kim looked over at Kerry cradling her now peaceful son and realized that dating one meant seeing the other. She wasn't sure she was ready for that. She knew she wasn't ready for that. `Thank god I haven't said anything.' She gave an embarrassed little laugh and said, "In all the excitement, I've forgotten."
Kerry looked at Kim appraisingly. "Uh huh. Well call me if you remember." Kerry ran her fingers softly through Henry's dark curls and then kissed the top of his head gently. "I'd better go. It's time for someone's dinner," she explained. Henry squirmed out of her embrace but he didn't go far. Kerry stood up and held out her hand. Henry took it without hesitation.
"Thanks again for watching Henry. I'll see you tomorrow," Kerry said as they started toward the door.
Kim watched them make their way slowly across the room. Henry didn't pull at Kerry's hand impatiently the way he had at hers and their gaits were oddly complimentary. For some reason, that made her want to cry. Henry looked back. He stopped for a moment and waved at Kim with his free hand. She smiled and waved back.
"So I've decided to take your advice and take it slow," Kim said to Janet. They were on their way back from a meeting. "If it happens, it happens. Otherwise we'll just be friends," Kim rationalized.
Janet nodded without saying anything. She tried very hard not to analyze anyone who wasn't actually paying her to do so. "Sharon wants me to invite Weaver to the barbeque this weekend. She wants to get a good look at her," she grinned. Her partner was an inveterate match maker. With decidedly mixed results, Janet thought with a grin.
"That's fine," Kim said quickly. "Friendly," she added unnecessarily.
"So you're okay with it?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be? I doubt she'll come though. She's not much for socializing."
"But we'll see you there?" Janet clarified.
"Free food and a backyard full of dykes? I'll be there," Kim said with a grin.
Kim had some trouble finding a parking spot on Sunday. She was late and Sharon's barbeques were legendary. She pulled to a stop a few houses down and grabbed some wine bottles off the passenger seat. She found herself looking for Kerry's van as she walked up to the house. It was no where to be seen. She sighed as she rang the bell. She wasn't sure if it was relief or regret.
Janet opened the door smiling. She smiled even wider when Kim handed her the wine bottles. "I'll put these in the kitchen, go on out back. The food's not quite ready. Want something to drink?"
Kim nodded. "Is there any coffee?"
"In this house? Always. I'll bring you some."
Kim wandered toward the French doors that opened on to the stone patio out back. Kim stood there for a moment just looking at the various women that filled the back yard. There were probably twenty women out there. Most of them she knew. Most of them came in pairs. More than a few had children with them. Sometimes she felt like she was the last single lesbian in Minnesota. Usually it didn't bother her. If she were honest, she reveled in it. But just lately she'd been wondering what, if anything, she was missing.
Janet walked up behind her. "Not much of a turnout but it's early in the season," she said. She held out a mug full of coffee which Kim took gratefully.
"I need to go check on the grill. The brisket should be just about done. Shall we?" Janet held the door open and waved Kim through.
Kim walked out onto the patio and was immediately greeted by half a dozen women. She was quickly drawn into a heated discussion about the most recent episode of the `L Word.' Kim wasn't a fan, she saw enough dyke drama in her life and practice. Still, she recognized the importance of having lesbian images on TV. Especially hot ones.
And speaking of hot, she noticed a seemingly unattached brunette near the food laden picnic tables. An attractive brunette. Near the food. She excused herself from the group and headed over to introduce herself.
"Hi, I'm Kim," she said, holding out her hand.
The brunette smiled and shook Kim's hand. "I'm Sally. I was just trying to decide what to try first." Kim grabbed a plate and started filling it with appetizers.
"First rule of thumb at these things--don't be shy, take what you want." She handed the full plate to the brunette with a flirtatious smile. She grabbed another plate for herself.
Sally, it turned out, was single and new to the city. She'd just taken a job at the university.
"Let me guess, Sharon's your realtor?"
Sally nodded. "How did you know?"
Kim laughed and explained and then offered to show her around the city sometime.
"That would be great," Sally said with a meaningful glance. "Let me give you my number." She pulled out her wallet and extracted a business card. "Give me a call," she said as she stepped closer and handed it to Kim.
Kim smiled and slid the number into her pocket carefully. She leaned a hip against the picnic table. "What would you like to see first?" she asked flirtatiously.
Sally smiled and then frowned.
Kim felt something tugging on her pants leg. She looked down.
"Henry?" She smiled at the little boy. He smiled back and Kim felt like she'd won the lottery. She knelt down beside him.
He immediately eyed her plate full of appetizers. Kim laughed. `I guess it's true about a man's heart', she thought. She held out her plate, the other brunette completely forgotten. Henry grabbed a piece of bread.
"Where's your mom, Henry?" Kim scanned the crowd. Kerry was talking to Sharon but she had both eyes on her son. Kim waved and stood up. She turned to Sally who was looking slightly confused and said "That's my boss. I need to go say hello. It was nice meeting you."
She held out her hand to the boy. Henry lifted both arms in the universal "carry me" sign. Kim laughed; she put down her plate and picked Henry up. She headed over to say hello.
"Hi, Kerry," she said shyly.
"Kim why didn't you tell me Kerry was in the market for a house?" Sharon asked.
Kim looked from Kerry to Sharon and back to Kerry. "Because I didn't know. I just assumed she had one."
"I'm renting an apartment at the moment. I didn't want to buy without doing some first hand research," Kerry explained. "I also wanted to see how the job went," she added wryly.
"And what's your decision?" Sharon asked pointedly. It hadn't escaped her notice how comfortable Kim was with Weaver's son and vice versa.
Kerry looked at Kim and then at Sharon. "It's going okay. I think I'm ready to look at places."
Sharon practically rubbed her hands in glee. She loved her job. Finding just the right house for a person was so satisfying. "Did Kim mention I'm a buyer's agent?"
Kerry shook her head.
"Well I am, and I will find you the perfect place. Let's go inside for a moment. There's this five bedroom with a huge back yard, two car garage. Built around the turn of the century. It needs some work but the price is fabulous. There's also a great three bedroom that's move in ready. Not as nice but you won't even need to paint. Both are in great school districts."
Sharon practically dragged Kerry into her kitchen. Kim followed along curious to see what she had in mind.
Sharon blocked Kim at the doorway. She wanted some time alone with Dr. Kerry Weaver. "Kim, why don't you take Henry to the swings while I show Kerry a few listings." It wasn't a request. She turned to Kerry, "just preliminary looks," she assured her.
Effectively banished, Kim did as she was told. One corner of the yard had a great wooden swing set/jungle gym and a large sandbox. Both play areas were already occupied with various small life forms. Kim set Henry down. "So, swings or sand?"
"Swing," he yelled, running toward the swings. Kim followed him quickly. She grabbed him just before he ran in front of one that was in use.
"Whoa, that was close!" She lifted him into a vacant seat and made sure he was holding on before she stepped behind him. His little legs dangled a foot off the ground. "Now hold on tight," she reminded him as she gave him a small push. He laughed with delight and pumped his little feet in the air. Soon the occupants of the other two swings were begging for a push. Before she knew it, Kim had three swings in the air and was starting to work up a sweat.
Luckily, fifteen minutes later Henry was tired of the swings. He demanded to get down and Kim happily obliged him. She waved in apology at the little girls still on the swings. Henry ran over to join some other kids in the sandbox. Kim sat down on a bench in some nearby shade. She was watching Henry and another child do the toddler equivalent of the meet and greet when someone sat down beside her.
"Which one's yours?" asked the newcomer.
Kim looked over at the woman. She was an attractive woman that Kim didn't recognize. "None of them actually," she said with an inviting smile.
The woman looked at her suspiciously so Kim quickly offered "But I'm watching him," she pointed at Henry, "for a friend at the moment. Which one's yours?"
The brunette pointed to a little redhead with pigtails. "Julie, she's three. Julie, why don't you build a sand castle," her mother yelled in suggestion. Without taking a breath, the woman started in with a long list of little Julie's recent accomplishments. Apparently you could teach three year olds to read these days.
Kim idly wondered how long it'd be before little Julie was in therapy. Kim looked over at Henry. He seemed pretty happy just pouring sand from one bucket into another. He looked over at her and waved. She waved back with a goofy smile.
"Here's the list," Sharon said, handing Kerry several sheets of real estate listings. "Let me know which ones you want to look at. And I'll pick you up tomorrow at two to go look at the first two, right?" They walked toward the patio.
"Great," Kerry said. She'd loved the specs on one listing that Sharon had shown her. They were going to look at it tomorrow but she didn't want to make a hasty choice so she was going to look at a few other places too. "Now I think I should probably rescue Kim. Henry can be quite a handful."
Sharon glanced out the windows and saw Kim sitting in the sandbox with Henry. "I think she's okay. Let's get you a drink and talk for a minute. How do you like Minneapolis?" she asked leading Kerry into the kitchen.
Half an hour later, Janet rang a bell signaling it was time to eat. She carried a huge platter of brisket and ribs over to a long picnic table. Various women headed to the kitchen to get the pots of potato salad and beans and other side dishes. It wasn't long before the table was swarmed by the hungry crowd.
Kerry came out of the kitchen carrying a sippy cup of juice for her son. She didn't see him in the crowd. She didn't see Kim at first either. She looked around the yard and finally found them sitting in a lawn chair sharing a heaping plate of food. Kim looked up as Kerry approached. Henry waved a rib bone at her and then went back to gnawing on it.
"You better grab some food before it's all gone," Kim warned.
"Are you kidding, there's enough food there to feed half the city," Kerry said. She handed Henry his cup.
"Yeah, but we're almost ready for seconds," Kim said pointing at Henry and then herself.
"Here, you sit down with Henry and I'll fix you a plate." Kim hopped up and dashed back to the food. She was standing in line waiting for a shot at the potato salad when she heard familiar voices talking about her.
"Did you see her? I would never have believed it. The great Legaspi humbled by a two year old."
"It probably helps that his mother's attractive and available."
"I heard the mother was her boss. Wonder if she's aware of Kim's penchant for short term affection."
Kim sighed. The lesbian grapevine-she'd always hated it. And the last few years she'd really given it a work out. She wondered if all gay communities were like small towns.
Sharon approached her at the table. She took one look at the heaping plate in Kim's hand and said, "You can take some home with you, you don't have to eat it all here."
Kim laughed at the familiar teasing. "This is for Kerry. Well, except for the shortcake." She indicated a second plate she was filling up. "That's mine," she admitted. "Did you find her a house?" She turned back to the table and scooped up some short cake for Henry. She needed enough to share.
Sharon leaned back against the table and surveyed the back yard. Everyone seemed to have what they needed for the moment. She turned back to Kim. "We're looking at a few places tomorrow. She has very definite opinions about what she's looking for."
"Kerry has very definite opinions about everything," Kim said wryly. "So what do you think of her?" she asked casually.
"Based on her housing preferences?"
"Based on the forty minute conversation you had while I was designated babysitter," Kim said sharply.
Sharon laughed. "I never expected to see you in the sandbox. That kid must have some charm."
Kim snorted. "Charm? He was about to eat dirt. I had to intervene."
"It's amazing what kids will put in their mouths. When she was two, Jessie swallowed one of my diamond earrings. Janet was on diaper watch for a week." Sharon shook her head at the memory.
"Stop torturing me. What do you think about Kerry?" Kim was getting exasperated.
Sharon took pity on her. She shrugged. "I like her so far. She seems smart and funny and very level headed," she said matter of factly.
Kim's smile lit up her whole face.
`And you, my friend, are a goner," Sharon thought. "How are you coming?"
"What?" Kim was confused with the conversation shift.
"With Kerry. How's that going? Working together, getting along?"
"Fine, good actually. She's a great doctor, tremendous clinical skills. It's a shame to see her stuck in administration. But she is good with numbers, better than with underlings actually."
Sharon sighed. It was like pulling teeth. She always expected psychiatrists to have more self awareness than the average Joe. Of course, twenty years with Janet should have disabused her of that notion, she thought. "And personally," Sharon prodded, "how's that going?"
"Personally?" Kim wrinkled her brow. "We're okay. Friendly."
"Friendly." Her tone indicated her general dissatisfaction with Kim's sudden reserve. She raised a skeptical eyebrow. "So you've decided not to pursue anything more?"
"No, I don't think that's a good idea right now. We're just becoming friends again. That's a lot. Hell a year ago I wouldn't have thought that was even possible," Kim admitted. "And then there's Henry. You know I don't like kids. And we work together so that's a huge complication. No, I think we're better off being friends. Definitely."
"It sounds like you've given it some thought," Sharon said. "I'm not sure you can rationalize away attraction, but if you're certain you're not interested "
Kim nodded decisively.
" I know someone who's perfect for her." Sharon walked away, chuckling internally at Kim's flummoxed expression. `Friends, my ass.'
Kim looked over to where Kerry and Henry were sitting. Julie, from the sandbox, and Julie's mom had joined them. As had several other adults with children. `Great. It's turning into the parent's corner.' She decided to deliver the food and then head over to where the single women were congregating. Of course, she'd dated several of them so maybe that wasn't such a good idea either.
Kim walked over and handed Kerry her plate. Kerry looked up and smiled at Kim. "Thanks," she said shyly.
Before she could stop herself, Kim plopped down on the grass beside Kerry's chair. Henry came over to investigate what Kim had on her plate. He stuck his finger in the whipped cream and then licked it clean. He crawled into her lap without even waiting for an invitation. The battle for the strawberry shortcake began; it kept Kim occupied all through the discussion about teething, daycare and the risk/benefits of childhood vaccinations. But when the topic turned to potty training, she'd had enough.
Kim gently lifted Henry from her lap. Kerry, who'd been keeping an eye on the dueling spoons, opened her arms and Kim passed the boy to his mother. She stood up and stretched her legs then started for the kitchen in search of coffee. She found Janet making a fresh pot.
"Make it strong," Kim advised, leaning against the counter near the sink. She rubbed her head like she had a headache. There was a window that afforded her a view of most of the yard. She stared out the window pensively watching as Kerry rocked an obviously tired Henry.
Janet laughed. "Is there any other way to make coffee?" she asked as she heaped spoonfuls of coffee grounds into the machine. She added the water to the pot and flipped the switch. Then she walked over to join Kim at the window.
"The food was great. As always," Kim said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Janet watched the women mingling in the back yard. "You are surprised she came."
Kim didn't need to ask which `she' Janet was referring to. "Yes. Before .when I knew her before she was so closed off. She was terrified of being exposed. And I don't just mean as a lesbian. She was the most self contained, self-sufficient person I'd ever met but she was scared to let anyone too close. Compartmentalized."
Janet looked at Kerry appraisingly. "I think she still is."
Kim nodded. "Yes, of course but she's learned to let people in, at least a little. She's integrating different aspects of her life. "
"And isn't that a good thing?" Janet asked seriously. "Haven't we built our careers on the idea that people can change?"
"Professionally, as a psychiatrist, I think it's a very good thing. Healthy." Kim nodded again.
"And personally?" Janet prodded.
Kim turned to face Janet head on. "I'm ashamed that I abandoned her to that struggle alone. I thought that she'd never be able to come to terms with it." Kim held up her hand to stop the next question. "With being gay, with loving me. So I ran away, figuratively and then literally," she finished. "I regret that."
"So she abandoned you; you abandoned her," Janet clarified. "Have you forgiven her?"
Kim looked puzzled and Janet didn't have time for the niceties. She continued with rapid fire questions. "Does it hurt to look at her; can you converse without recriminations; do you see her and only remember the betrayal; does the thought of her fill you with unease or dread; do you still want to hurt her?" She paused and asked again with emphasis, "Have you forgiven her?"
Kim nodded. "Apparently so."
Janet smiled. "Well done, grasshopper," she teased then added seriously, "now you just have to forgive yourself."
Kim gave a half grin and then said sarcastically, "You know, you should get paid for this."
Janet laughed and said, "I think the coffee's ready."
"Thanks, but I think I'm going to head home. I've got some thinking to do." Kim tilted her head in the direction of the backyard. "I'm just going to go say goodbye to Sharon."
Kim walked back to the patio in search of her hostess. She found her over by the swings talking to a group of parents. Kim sat down in an empty swing to wait her turn.
Henry looked over and saw her sitting there. He climbed out of his mother's lap and made his way over to the blonde. He raised his arms.
Kim lifted him onto her lap. He put his legs around her waist and rested his head on her chest. "Swing," he mumbled with a yawn.
"What is it with you Weavers and ordering people around?" Despite her protest, Kim started to swing gently. Before she knew it, Henry was asleep. She felt something damp on her chest. She looked down and sighed. `Oh great, now he's drooling. Kids are so gross."
Sharon looked over and smiled. Kim waved her over. "I need to head home soon. I just wanted to thank you for inviting me. Then I got waylaid by the great dribbler here," Kim said.
"You seem to have found another admirer," Sharon said.
"Yeah, just what I need," Kim rolled her eyes eloquently.
Sharon reached out and ran her fingers gently through Henry's curls. Children were also so appealing when they were asleep. "Is it really so bad," she asked.
Kim glanced down at Henry nestled peacefully in her arms. `No, not really,' she thought. She tightened her hold slightly. She said, "He's drooling, Sharon. There is drool running down my chest. And not in a good way."
"Want me to round up his mom," Sharon offered with a chuckle.
"I'm right here," Kerry said walking up quietly beside Sharon. "I think I should take Mr. Sleepyhead home. Thank you for the barbeque. It was wonderful."
Sharon took Kerry's hand briefly. "It was lovely to meet you, Kerry. I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
Kerry nodded. "Two o'clock."
Sharon turned to Kim, "I'll talk to you later missy. Can you show Kerry out?" She patted Kim's shoulder as she walked away. `You can thank me later.'
Kim stood up. Henry didn't even open his eyes.
Kerry opened her arms. "I'll take him. I think I can find the front door by myself," she said wryly.
"I was heading out anyway. I'll take him to your car," Kim offered, starting for the door. Kerry followed along looking slightly bewildered.
"I'm parked over here. About half a block down." Kerry pointed to the left. They strolled over to the van in silence and Kerry opened the door. Kim stepped inside and gently deposited Henry into his car seat. He whimpered once and then went right back to sleep. She snapped the restraints in place quickly and ducked back out the door.
Kerry was standing there watching the whole procedure with a strange look on her face. "Thanks but you really didn't have to go out of your way."
Kim stepped closer. "It wasn't any trouble and I've wanted to talk to you all day." She took a deep breath and reached out. She ran her hand over Kerry's shoulder. "I'd like to see you again."
Kerry shook her head slightly. "I'll see you at work tomorrow," she said.
"No. I'd like to see you, Kerry." She stared at Kerry willing her to understand.
It slowly dawned on Kerry what Kim meant. She gulped. "You mean like a date?"
Kim nodded hopefully. "Exactly like a date."
"Are you insane? Kim, we practically destroyed each other the first time and you want to try again?" If Kerry's voice got any higher she'd alarm the neighborhood dogs.
Kim wasn't surprised by Kerry's reaction. She couldn't quite believe what she was suggesting herself. "Kerry, I know this is probably a shock and I'm not assuming anything or pressuring you for an answer right now. Just just think about it," she requested. She leaned in and kissed Kerry softly. She pulled back just as Kerry started to respond. It was one of the hardest things she'd ever done. "Please, just think about it," she whispered. Then she turned and quickly walked away from the dazed redhead.
Kerry stood there gaping. Once again she'd been the unwitting victim of a Kim Legaspi drive by kissing incident. Of all the things she thought might happen at the barbeque, she'd never even considered that possibility. But then Kim had always been full of surprises.
Kerry was surprised that Kim would even talk to her beyond the minimum required at work. Her offer of friendship pleased but stunned the redhead and she had found comfort in the absolute certainty that Kim was off limits. She always worked better within known parameters. Slumped against the side of her car, she ran her index finger across her lips. They were still tingling from the brief contact. `Damn her!'
Kerry stood up. She glanced over to check on her son. Thankfully, he'd managed to sleep through all the drama. She needed to get him home and in bed. He was her first priority and his life had been disrupted enough. She shook her head clear of all thoughts of soft, warm lips and slammed the door shut. She climbed in the driver's seat, started up her engine and headed home. She'd worry about Kim tomorrow.
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